Mental Health

Exploring Values as an ACT Strategy

Exploring values: kindness, curiosity, open-mindedness, respect, honest, and empathy

Values: we’ve all got them, but how often do we think about them?  It’s worth checking in with ourselves every so often as to what our values are, and how consistent our behaviour is with those values.  Unlike goals, values are not an endpoint, but rather a guiding direction.  Acceptance and commitment therapy offers some assistance in this values clarification process, and there are some useful worksheets here.

Some of the values that I’ve identified:

  • kindness
  • compassion
  • empathy
  • staying true to myself
  • keeping an open mind
  • curiosity and ongoing learning
  • exposing myself to new things/cultures/places
  • independence, autonomy, and freedom of choice
  • being able to express myself
  • having a sense of meaning and purpose
  • respect
  • helping others
  • honesty
  • authenticity
  • challenging stigma
  • being a good furbaby mama
  • working towards wellness, taking care of myself
  • fairness, justice

One thing I’m working on clarifying for myself is whether the importance I place on fairness and justice is purely a value or whether there’s an element of cognitive distortion (the fallacy of fairness) muddying the water.  Also, I used to have certain work ethic beliefs that have unfortunately not served me well, but they get tied in with my sense of integrity and so I get a sense of dissonance when I go against them.  I used to value helping my coworkers and was happy to inconvenience myself to some extent in order to support my teammates, but as it’s become clear that no one was willing to do the same for me, I’ve chosen to be selfish and only look out for myself.  It’s necessary, but still not really congruent with my values.

Aside from those muddy bits, my values have remained pretty much constant over my adult life, although over time the level of priority I place on each has probably shifted.  I think it was helpful that my mental illness didn’t begin until I was already an adult and had a clear idea of who I was and what I valued.  Because of that, I’m pretty confident that the values I hold now come from me and not from my illness.

Values can also be used as the the basis for actions that promote greater joy, including acting out kindness and compassion. This serves as a much more solid foundation for wellbeing that striving for transient emotions like happiness.

Do you ever reflect on your values?  Are there things that you struggle with?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Fundamentals mini-ebook

The ACT Fundamentals mini-ebook/workbook provides an introduction to acceptance and commitment therapy.  It’s also available as part of the Therapy Mini-Ebook Collection.

Embrace Acceptance guided journal from Mental Health @ Home

Embrace Acceptance: A Guided Journal draws on concepts from acceptance and commitment therapy to help you move towards a place of greater acceptance.  It’s available FREE from the MH@H Store.

17 thoughts on “Exploring Values as an ACT Strategy”

  1. Being vegetarian is important to me, but I have struggled with it. I had a carnivorous relapse that lasted a couple of years. It coincided with depression. The depression made me not care enough to live up to my beliefs if that makes any sense.

  2. I often reflect on my values and have discovered a pathway to living my best possible life. I may have an alternative lifestyle but I am still that friend who is there for others. I always treat others like I would like to be treated and have learnt to assert myself (quietly but with force.)

    Respecting myself and others, opening up to love on so many levels and accepting that I’m different and wonderful are some of the ways I try to live my life.

    As a result life is great, better than it has been in…well, my whole adult life I would think.

  3. Thats a great set of values, and I’m glad you can recognise them in yourself. Personally I struggled to really understand myself and my identity at all – I don’t feel as though I’ve ever really known who I am and what I believe (I probably have, it’s just so easy to forget what it’s like NOT being depressed!) I’m only just now starting to see myself as a person with values and beliefs. Being vegan is very important to me, and trying to minimise my impact on the environment. Hopefully as I continue with therapy I’ll find some more!

  4. I disagree with you. “I used to value helping my coworkers and was happy to inconvenience myself to some extent in order to support my teammates, but as it’s become clear that no one was willing to do the same for me, I’ve chosen to be selfish and only look out for myself.” But see, they’re being paid to do their whole job themselves, and they’re taking advantage of you. Bad coworkers!! You aren’t being selfish!! You’re being strong enough to not be used. Good for you! I’d call that value… uh… looking out for yourself, I guess. Keep up the good work!!

    1. I was thinking more along the lines of working extra time (and getting paid for it) so a colleague wouldn’t be stuck working a double shift or end up missing an important personal engagement. And at one point people used to do the same for me. Now I say fuck it, I’m just doing what I want to do:)

  5. I very much value each person having the right to their own opinion and being open-minded, but I also struggle with acceptance that valuing this means confronting the idea that people are going to disagree (uncomfortable!) and that I am going to have to find a way to accept and tolerate opinions that I find reprehensible (e.g. negative stances towards gay marriage). It’s hard to separate the belief that everyone has the right to a opinion with the feelings I get when another person’s opinion is hateful. I try to avoid judgement, but this is a work in progress

  6. I do think about my values a lot, especially regarding dating.
    I also think values need to be prioritised, because sometimes they clash. You need to know what your top three values are.

  7. funn you are talking about values. i just did a major piece of work for one of my modules on the ILS course on values! I enjoyed reflecting on mine! some of mine are independence, adventre, family, friendship, belonging, etc.

  8. I’ve always had a strong work ethic and values. But, there was a time when my values were shattered, and that was when I was drinking and self-medicating to escape my reality. My values were compromised. Thank goodness, I don’t struggle with addiction anymore.

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