Flexibility, Acceptance, and Commitment: Three behaviors for the new year
Welcome to the new year – 2019!
Welcome to the new year – 2019! Given all the national political unrest, stress, lies, and deceit, we need to aim to be more accepting. Given that it is difficult at this time to accept all the national issues, we need to focus in on our own life satisfaction and happiness. In order to do that we need to be even more accepting of our thoughts and feelings and committed to facing our own problems head-on. Instead of avoiding our problems, we need to commit to actions that will help ourselves stop struggling against the inevitable and facilitate thriving instead. Such action demands flexibility. What if we could accept ourselves to feel what we feel, even if it’s negative? What would happen if we let ourselves experience it all, be flexible instead of focusing all our effort on evading any potentially difficult problems?
In psychology, acceptance occurs when a situation is acknowledged and accepted by an individual. It is typically used in reference to the acknowledgement of a negative situation. Instead of avoiding our problems, we need to commit to actions that will help us stop struggling against the inevitable and facilitate thriving instead. What if we could accept ourselves to feel what we feel, even if it’s negative? In addition, what would happen if we let ourselves just experience thoughts, feelings, and experiences, instead of focusing all our efforts on evading any potential problems? Acceptance is an alternative to the instinct to avoid negative, or potentially negative, experiences. It is the active choice to be aware of and allow these types of experiences without trying to avoid or change them. Clearly, the emphasis is on acceptance and allowing instead of avoiding.
Have you ever regretted not doing something because you psyched yourself out? Whether it be asking someone out on a date, confronting a family member, or asking someone to do something for you? Many times we tend to overestimate how bad the consequences really are. In other words, we “think too much” about what could happen and convince ourselves that these actions are not worth the trouble.
However, we are much more mentally resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Self-affirmations are statements that we tell ourselves in order to spark self-change (Steele, 1988). They are designed to alter our beliefs about ourselves such that they are more positive. Generally speaking, self-affirmations serve as part of the psychological immune system. For example, when your wife or significant other harshly critiques you, we need to give ourselves positive reminders like “it’s going to be okay” to help cope with the situation. Although we use self-affirmations as a coping mechanism, they can also motivate us. Quite simply, when we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to take action. So when we tell ourselves that “I love to go for a walk”, we feel good about going for a walk. If we smile while we are walking, our bodies feel better. A simple mechanism of flexibility and acceptance of the action facilitates commitment. In contrast, researchers have shown that when we feel bad about ourselves we become complacent, depressed, and are at a greater risk for health problems.
Affirmations are more than just self-help statements to make ourselves feel better. They can have a significant impact on our overall quality of life. Regular affirmations allow us to become more in tune with our thoughts and the way we think about our self in general. When we are conscious and more accepting of our attitudes towards ourselves, we can make an effort and commitment to eliminate negative thoughts. When we become more aware and accepting of ourselves, we are able to become more flexible and mindful of surrounding ourselves with positive things. Therefore the more we practice and make a commitment to accepting ourselves the more we notice what aspects of our lives are most important to us, as well as those things that may be impeding on our happiness.