Published: June 14, 2011
Updated: June 15, 2011
By Lucie Knapp, LCSW, and Kathy Murray, LCSW
If someone gave a speech about your life, what would they say? If time and money were not an issue, what would you do in your life?
If you cannot answer these questions, you’re not alone.
Each day, from the time we wake up until we go to sleep, we make decisions about what to do, what to eat, and with whom to interact. However, most of us are so busy with day-to-day activities and other distractions that we make many decisions mindlessly.
As a result, we may lose our focus on what is truly important in life, as well as vital goals such as regular physical activity for our health. That loss of focus can come at a high price.
When our values are out of sync with how we lead our lives, it may result in our feeling out of sorts, unhappy, anxious, or depressed. We may even turn to food as a coping mechanism to deal with these feelings.
According to an evidence-based behavioral health approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), clarifying values or “chosen life directions” is an essential part of creating a meaningful and healthy life. Research has shown that applying ACT can yield positive results for smoking cessation and stress management.
Once you identify and prioritize your values, it becomes easier to set specific goals.
For example, if you identify health as one of your most important values, you can ask yourself if your current life activities are in line with this, and make adjustments if necessary.
Keep in mind: If you don’t focus on the goals that are truly important to you, they may fade away, and you may later wonder what happened to them.
For help in clarifying your own values, you may want to try some of these exercises:
By focusing on your values and peak experiences, you can train your brain to be more resilient and positive.
Brain research expert Rick Hansen, PhD, author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, proposes that our brains were programmed by evolution to focus on avoiding danger. In today’s world, however, that focus is not conducive to living a fulfilling and value-congruent life.
Instead, purposefully focusing on positive experiences and savoring pleasant moments and feelings can fill a place that food cannot.
To help Duke Diet & Fitness Center clients clarify their values and learn to savor positive experiences, the DFC's behavioral health and lifestyle coaching components now offers several new, experiential classes that can help increase your motivation toward reaching your wellness goals.
Lucie Knapp, LCSW, and Kathy Murray, LCSW, are licensed clinical social workers who offer care at Duke Diet & Fitness Center.