On exercises for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)


|via Sarah Wilson|

Whilst decluttering and packing, I came across some exercises I’ve used in various group therapies as well as in my Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) training and thought it might be nice to share.

ACT is based on mindfulness and values  – these words are interchangeable with ‘self-awareness’ and ‘knowing what you stand for’ respectively. Knowing who you are and what your values are is essential to navigating your life towards achieving a full, meaningful life. ACT means knowing and accepting who you are and taking committed action towards living by your values. If you want to read more about it – or are generally interested in living a full, rich life – I strongly recommend starting with The Happiness Trap pocketbook before proceeding to more advanced writing on mindfulness by Russ Harris and Jon Kabat-Zinn (who incidentally is speaking at The School of Life in London on May 2nd).

In the meantime, you can try some exercises.

It’s important to remember that a value is a verb and begins with  ‘to’.


Positivity is not a value. To look on the bright side of difficult situations is.

Happiness is not a value. To pursue interests [hobbies, spending time with loved ones] that bring joy to my life is.

Wealth is not a value. To be grateful and appreciate the abundance in my life is.

Ambition is not a value. To continue to learn and develop expertise in my field is.

Relationships is not a value. To treat myself and others with respect is.

Health is not a value. To take care of my body is.

So if someone asks you why are you running 1k each day, you can say ‘it’s because I value taking care of my body. So even if something happens to my health, I know that the action I take will be based around my value to take care of my body.’

The exercises below will help you discover yourself and your values. Here’s to you fellow soul-searchers out there. Go wild.


  • Identify your values. Your life is split into four quartiles: Work, Relationships, Personal Growth, and Free Time, as below – it would be great if you could print out this image for this exercise. For each area, identify your top three values (these often change depending on where you are in your life). Then, if the bullseye is YES 100% and the outermost outline of the target is HELL NO, mark where you think you are in terms of living your life according to your values. Then write down one thing you could do that would bring you closer to the bullseye and do that thing. This is a good exercise to do regularly – quarterly or even yearly.


  • Write yourself a small postcard. On the one side, write what you want your life to be about – what you want your ONE HOLY GUIDING VALUE to be. On the other side write the obstacles – DEMONS –  in your life that prevent you from doing so. Keep it in your wallet indefinitely. It serves as a reminder that you can live with both your ONE HOLY GUIDING VALUE as well as your DEMONS at the same time. Stay the course.
  • Mind-reading. Pick two people that you trust and know you well. Imagine you know what they are thinking. Write down how you think they would answer the following questions about you. Then actually ask them. Compare your answers.
    • What do you think of me?
    • What are my values? (What kind of person am I?)
    • What are my positive qualities?
    • What am I to you?
    • What role do I play in your life?
  • Write a fairy tale. Fill in the blanks below:
    • Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away. Describe the kingdom.
    • There lived a king. Describe him.
    • And his queen. Describe her.
    • They had a child. Describe the child.
    • But the kingdom had an enemy. Describe the enemy.
    • After the king’s and queen’s child grew up, they asked the child to help overcome the enemy. How did the child respond?
    • And so the child begins their long journey to find the enemy. The child travelled for many days and nights, eventually growing weary and stopping to rest under a tree. A creature of the earth bursts from the tree! What is it?
    • It shook and some part of itself and out came a gift that would help the child face the enemy. What is the gift?
    • And then says: ?
    • The child continues to journey through the kingdom for more days and nights searching for the enemy and starts to get thirsty. The child stops at a river to drink some water and a creature of the water appears! What is the creature?
    • It shakes it’s [?] and gives the child a gift to help face the enemy.What is the gift?
    • And it says: ?
    • Once the child’s thirst is quenched, the child takes the gifts and continues searching for the enemy. After several days and nights, the child reaches a clearing and creature of the sky appears. What is the creature?
    • It shakes it’s [?] and gives the child a gift that will help the child face the enemy. What is the gift?
    • And it says: ?
    • With all three gifts in tow, the child continues the journey and after searching for so long, is suddenly facing the enemy. How does the child use the gifts?
    • And then what does the child do?
    • What happens after the enemy is faced? How does the story end?

Refer to the end of this post to see what your answers mean.

  • The Straw Basket. Imagine that you have a straw basket. Think about all of your problems – imagine placing them in that straw basket and put it somewhere safe in your head. Your problems won’t disappear, but this way they don’t consume your mind.
  • Draw a picture. Put yourself in the middle of the picture, and in each quartile (as above) draw a picture of your RESOURCES and the things you are grateful for. Take your time and enjoy it.
  • Funeral Speech. Imagine you are at your funeral, and someone is reading a speech about you. Write down what you would want them to say.
  • Some extra guiding questions:
    • How do I want to develop?
    • What personal characteristics and qualities do I want to cultivate?
    • How do I want to behave?
    • How do I want to treat myself?
    • What kind of relationships do I want to build?
    • How do I want to treat others in my relationships?
    • What do I want to believe in?
    • When there is a crisis and I am being challenged, what do I want to champion?
    • What areas of my life are most important?
    • What is really, truly, most important  and meaningful to me?



Fairy tale interpretations:

  • Kingdom = my ideal place
  • King = ideal father figure
  • Queen = ideal mother figure
  • Child = inner child
  • Enemy = inner demon
  • How the child responds about having to face the enemy = how you respond to those you are closest to
  • Creature of the earth  = your relationship to material things
  • Creature of the water = your relationship to your emotions
  • Creature of the air = your relationship to your values and your spirituality
  • How you face the enemy = how you face life

On sunny days like today

It is glorious today. Girls in little white dresses, pretty ballerinas, floaty skirts. Men lighting up joints and laughing. Singing. Sunshine on my face as my head and neck were soothed by chicken noodle soup. I wish sunny days like this would last forever. Or at least until next winter. Last Wednesday it snowed in Greece and on Friday everyone was at the beach. Apparently it was the same in the Czech Republic. I daydream about what I would wear. I daydream the sun was stroking my skin, penetrating through my black trench. I think about how good it would feel to be skinny and to have a nice ass and how nice that traveller girl’s ass was in those jeans and I wish I had it. I think about a dance routine and then I think if the apocalypse came, I would not try to survive it, I would simply surrender and walk straight into it because that is what we all end up doing anyway, whether we fight it or not. I think about writing an article on the situation in Greece and I become afraid of troll criticism regarding the gaps in my knowledge, because there are gaps in my knowledge, and then I wonder why is news news and when did we all become experts. I wonder why writing an article implies expertise. Let’s not report, let’s have a conversation.


Back at work, my colleague walks in. “It’s a beautiful day today.”


“Yeah”, I say.

On democratic sunsets


I would consider myself a generous person. If I had blueberries, and you wanted said blueberries, I would happily give you half of mine. I think my friends would agree. What may be less commonly known is: I hate sharing. Vehemently. You may be thinking well what’s the bloody difference. The difference is that I am giving you half of my blueberries, and as far as I’m concerned, that half is no longer mine. This way, there’s  no confusion: what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. I would never share the pot itself. Unless I’m done with it or never intend to use it, in which case you can have it. Then, it’s yours not mine. It will never be OURS.

It’s a good thing I’m generous. It’s widely interpreted as a willingness to share. Lacking both the sharing gene and generosity would probably make for a very lonely life.

I can make an exception for sunsets. They’re for everyone. 

On looking back + looking forward

This year has been a roller coaster. With the passing of my birthday this week, I’ve decided to take stock of my present by looking back at what I’ve learned this year and looking forward towards manifesting my ideal future.

Looking back

| PostSecret |

There is no God.  It was aggravating to realise that I don’t believe in a higher power, as I’ve always felt spiritual. Once I overcame my doubts, it became clear: there is an explanation for everything, whether humanity has discovered it yet or not – but there is no grand design, and definitely no one ruler above all. Letting go of the idea of God is terrifying, as it means that when the shit hits the fan, you have no one to blame but yourself. And when you’re struggling, you don’t have a higher resource to turn to for help. Yet somehow letting go of this concept, I am finding a strange kind of fulfilment.


Success is personally defined. Work cannot be your everything (and busyness is overrated). I read somewhere once that you are the smartest you are ever going to be at 32.  So I’ve reached my peak intelligence. This is the smartest I am ever going to be. And at this point I’ve learnt to measure my success in a way that is meaningful TO ME, that exhaustion is not a status symbol, and that slow and steady wins the race, especially when you are swimming upstream.


Art by Duy Huynh | This is colossal

After 30, media gives up on you. There are no lists. No ‘Things to learn by the time you are 30’. No ‘Life experiences you should have (and learn from ) in your 20s – or else’. It’s as though global media is saying: we have taught you. We have given you EVERYTHING. You have all the tools now, so…. you’re on your own. Good luck with that.

unnamed (1)

#tooyoungtodie. Despite media attention on the 20-somethings, I’m still young! OK, so I am technically an adult, but when and why did I fucking did I start living like an old woman who has given up on life? There are still good times to be had, and there are still reckless behaviours to be celebrated. More importantly, you are never old if you are young at heart! It’s true at 68 and it’s true at 32.

Looking forward

More creativity.  More writing – I have so many ideas for this. More singing. Loudly. More connecting with art and going to exhibitions. It’s no coincidence that that first exhibition I attended was Waking Up. *On for one more day!!!* If you are in London and looking for something fresh, vibrant, and inspiring, go check out this amazing installation/exhibit by S Psarros at the Old Truman Brewery. You will not regret it.

More movement. If I knew I was going to lose my legs, would I spend my last day with them lying in bed lamenting their impending loss? Or would I spend my last day running and doing scissor kicks in the air? From what I know about death, I know that when I look back over my life, I will see how short it was. I will see that it flew by in a flash, it may as well have been only a day. If time is subjective, I may as well be losing my legs tomorrow, I may as well be losing my life tomorrow. So I will jump and run and move in celebration of this home I have been given on my time here on earth. And when I can’t do that any more, I shall use it for gentler tasks, like planting flowers or knitting or baking. It shouldn’t be so hard to learn to live in our bodies, but for some of us, it is.

More positivity. Influenced not only by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but by the many wonderful bloggers I follow and friends who bring joy into my life, I am on a positivity quest this year.  I need to get out of my own way. I’ve given my negative thoughts a bit too much air time and the fuckers are little saboteurs. I need to apply the mindfulness tricks I’ve learned over my trainings and apply as many great ideas as possible.

More bravery. Fear and ambition are inextricably linked. It’s really hard to let go of expectations because of the panic that induces, but that’s what bravery is, and that is where beauty is born – amongst the chaos. The best idea I’ve heard for this is to write down and then burn a fear every morning. As a late teen, I would burn my diaries and my angry letters – it was extremely satisfying, and there is no good reason why I can’t incorporate this practice to my adult life.

More talking. I seem to have forgotten that people exist outside of the realm of ‘me’, apparently. I have lost my curiosity in others and have replaced it with a curiosity of what others think of me, rather than treating them as wonderful beings that exist independently of me. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is hard to make friends as an adult. So in an effort to have better relationships with people, I will make it my purpose to ask others about their lives. I don’t think I’m as bad as I’m making myself out to be to be honest, but there’s nothing wrong with making a bit of extra effort with people you care about.

More sacredness. Despite what I said above, I do not in any way deny the fact that we exist in an interconnected narrative ecosystem.  As a result, I want to build an altar that reminds me to take a moment to connect with my values. I have always considered myself a spiritual person and I am wise enough to know that I alone can’t control everything that happens in life. It’s not explained by God but by lots of smaller often opposing everyday magics. Like daffodils.


On my mind 09.03.15

The man in ecstasy and the man drowning – both throw up their arms.

| Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks


 Barfastic (I’m such a proud big sister)| Scribol

+ “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever.” | Oliver Sacks

+ My hobby is (to?) sonder.

+ “…she got me thinking about how self-awareness, useful as it is, isn’t enough. For self-awareness to become self-improvement, it must be paired with change.” | Positively Present YES. I say this all the time! I also say this all the time. And this.

+ Turning 30 described with graphs, although an equally accurate title would be ‘BEING 30 described with graphs’.

+ Don’t feel bad if you’re struggling to figure out your feelings. Science can’t do it either. There’s no need to force a smile.

+ A lifetime of learning

+ Fashion-forward indigenous people

“People lead all kinds of interesting and fulfilling lives, but they all end. My task is investigating the deeds, characteristics, occupations, and commitments, all that he or she made of their ‘one wild and precious life,’ as poet Mary Oliver has called it.” | The surprising joys of being an obituary writer (insert death obsession here)


Cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Photo credit | Messy Nessy Chic

+ The next party I throw will have a kaftan and daytime drinking theme on a kaleidoscopic floor.

+ In defense of men.

+ So. You wanna lose weight. Imagine you had a twin that exercised.

+ This story moved me: finding love after a heart transplant. I can’t wait to watch Being Mortal to get a medical perspective.

+ Build your best spring wardrobe.

+ How to be a ‘bad girl’ in India.

All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name. | Andre Breton

On effortlessness

Between watching Scrubs in a so-called effort to learn about the medical profession by watching its most accurate portrayal on TV and writing a coursework on dichotic listening, I have been enjoying what feels like longer days and dreaming of summer.


Bag | Jasmine | Shoes

I have many things to be grateful for today: Long walks along the river. Picture perfect skies. Daffodils. My nephews. The awe I feel every time I use Skype or my phone. Being a woman.

My overall mood has been uplifted since I took steps this week to regain control of certain aspects of my life, and I find that reassuring. It means I enjoy the good things more than I would otherwise. It makes feeling grateful effortless.

On Call Your Girlfriend


After Serial, I went nuts trying to find an equally scintillating podcast I could listen to on the way home from work. Instead, I found Call Your Girlfriend. What it lacks in suspense, it makes up for with girlie, culturally-specific (read: American) discourse by two whipsmart besties, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (whose blogs I’ve now started following). As someone who doesn’t know how to be a low-key fan, as well as someone who would love to participate in their conversations, I’ve taken to writing down my favorite parts of some of their discussions as I’ve been listening. Here are my thoughts on their first ten episodes. Even if you don’t read this, if you consider yourself a feminist or like hanging out with your best friends or laughing or Broad City or US pop culture, check it out!

Episode 1 – Straight Shame

  • Their voices remind me of the chicks on Broad City. I love their Call your Girlfriend theme song by Robyn, she is so fucking cool.
  • I love how they love the internet. (me too!)

Episode 2 – Wedding Season

  • Finding a work uniform is so important. I’m still working on mine. Labels have nothing to do with it. I wish I could wear jeans to work….
  • I can’t believe there isn’t an emoji for sofas either! It’s on my list of missing emojis, which also includes cowboys and related items, open arms, a facial expression for awe, frappe (aka cold coffee), and the Acropolis/greek temple.
  • If you’re looking for cheap framing, check out Photobox.

Episode 3 – Independant Ladies

Episode 4 – BreakupTime

Episode 5 – Hey, Budtender!

  • I can’t believe serving weed at a wedding is now a thing.
  • Based on the study citing that the only people that like and pursue diversity in the workplace are light-coloured men, I wonder if that is because of ‘queen bee’ syndrome. One woman in the workplace means that she doesn’t have to compete with other women, she can be the ‘queen bee’, i.e., the ONLY woman, and the thing that makes her stand out IS the fact that she is a woman. Likewise for any other ‘diverse’ employees, it doesn’t necessarily apply to women only.
  • SHINE THEORY – philosophy for female friendships everywhere: I don’t shine if you don’t shine. It’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. Why has no one told me this before??? It’s completely revised my attitude to and expectations within friendships.
  • Aminatou is KILLING it with the quotes this episode:
    • I don’t share men. I don’t share dessert. I don’t share credit.
    • I tell people it’s lonely at the top so that they don’t come here.

Episode 6 – You Know White People

  • Beyonce is amazing live, Ann you must see her in concert.
  • I agree that it takes effort to make friends – thank you for addressing this in this episode. Sharing links is part of burgeoning friendships. Being the first to call is great advice for not dying alone.

Episode 7 – Follow Your Arrow

  • No, it’s not just a DC problem, argumentative people are everywhere.
  • I’m unclear about your advice re blog versus work. Do you think it’s ok to blog about work?
  • I like the advice to follow your arrow. It’s true: there’s no power in trying to be what you think other people want you to be.
  • I hate text read receipts. It sounds like something someone powerless would use. I’m laissez-faire about texts. But NOT for emails. I don’t request read receipts, but I expect prompt responses within 24 hours. So there… you’ve witnessed the birth of a double standard.
  • I like your advice on dressing slightly better than the woman on top of you.
    • Dress for success, prep for success. You’re gonna get there.

Episode 8 – Emotional Detox

  • Like Angelenos, Athenians also apologise for rain.
  • Journalists are conduits for other people’s stories.

Episode 9 – Body Talk

  • If you’re unsure/on the fence about having children, you should come to terms with the fact that you probably don’t want to.
  • Women’s studies sound awful. Although it reminds me of my favorite feminist quote of all time: Of course I’m a feminist. Why wouldn’t you be PRO your gender?

Episode 10 – Strings Attached

  • The person who allegedly made removing tampons sexy was Christian Grey from 50 Shades, NOT Jack Kerouac. Don’t ask me how I know, I refuse to read that book.
  • Friendship is an exercise in how to love people.
  • Categories in high school don’t exist any more. There are no jocks, goths, nerds, etc. Talking about such categories is the mark of an old person.