The Happiness Trap - How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will create a different sort of happiness - Exisle Publishing
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There’s no single path to creating a mentally healthier life. That’s why for the month of October, Mental Health Awareness Month, we here at Exisle are dedicating a series to positive mental health exercises and awareness found within a selection of our books to help you find your own path to positive wellbeing

The Happiness Trap - How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will create a different sort of happiness



What if almost everything you believed about finding happiness turned out to be inaccurate, misleading or false?

This is the basic premise of ‘The Happiness Trap’

This life-changing book is based on a revolutionary new approach in western psychology, known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT.

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Sure, we’re all supposed to believe that happiness is the natural state for healthy humans. But ACT rests on a very different assumption: that life is often painful, and people naturally suffer.

After all, we will all experience rejection, hurt, illness, failure, frightening situations, and difficult challenges in life. And this, naturally, gives rise to painful thoughts and feelings.

Another misleading idea is that happiness is just a matter of ‘feeling good’. If this was true, then drug addicts and gamblers would be the happiest people on the planet. But the fact is, many things that make us feel good in the short term, reduce our quality of life in the long term. Think of ice-cream, pizza and chocolate. Short term: mmmmm, delicious, more please! Long term: fat, unfit, and miserable!

In contrast, often the things we do to improve our life, do not feel good in the short term.

If we go for an important job interview, or we ask someone out on a date, most of us will feel pretty anxious. In ACT, instead of trying to avoid or get rid of unpleasant feelings, you learn how to make room for them, and allow them to come and go without a struggle.

We don’t need to get rid of the negative thoughts that make us anxious and depressed, we just don’t need to take them too seriously.

 Learn to simply step back from your thoughts; to let them come and go, without being bothered by them. Here’s an example of how to do that:

Step One

Bring to mind a nasty, self-judgmental thought, and put it into the form ‘I am X’. For example, ‘I am inadequate’ or ‘I am  unattractive’.

Step Two

Now for ten seconds, play that thought in your head, believe it as much as possible, and notice how you feel.

Step Three

Now take that thought, and play it again – but this time, put this little phrase in front of it: ‘I’m having the thought that …’  For example, ‘I’m having the thought that I am stupid.’ Say it to yourself silently, and notice how you feel this time round.

Step Four

Now play that thought in your head yet again, but this time put a longer phrase before it: ‘I notice I’m having the thought that …’ For example, ‘I notice I’m having the thought that I am a loser.’


So what happened?

Most people experience an increasing sense of distance from the thought – and it bothers them much less.

You haven’t tried to get rid of the thought, or avoid it, or replace it with a happy one. You have simply learned to step back and see it for what it is:

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Nothing more than a bunch of words in your head.

So, let go of the struggle with your thoughts and feelings! You’ll start to use your time and energy more effectively; to do the things that matter, deep in your heart.  Instead of trying to ‘feel good’, you learn to ‘live good’.

This gives rise to a different sort of happiness: a rich, full and meaningful life, in which we make room for the full range of human thoughts feelings.

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