The 3 Pillars of Wellbeing – Being Open, Aware and Active - dummies

The 3 Pillars of Wellbeing – Being Open, Aware and Active

By Freddy Jackson Brown, Duncan Gillard, Steven C. Hayes

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) aims to increase your psychological flexibility so that you can improve your wellbeing and live a more meaningful and vital life. Psychological flexibility involves being open to and aware of all your experiences so that you can move your life forward in valued life directions.

ACT helps you to develop three core skills:

  • Being open involves welcoming and accepting life as it is, without trying to change or alter it.

  • Being aware means noticing all your experiences, including your thoughts, feelings and memories.

  • Being active concerns doing the things that matter to you and behaving in ways that are informed by and consistent with your values.

You can think of these skills as three columns that maintain and support your psychological wellbeing. All three columns are necessary and the absence of any one of them will undermine your psychological wellbeing. For this reason, ACT provides exercises to help you develop and maintain each of these core skills.

While all three skills are important, awareness is perhaps the most critical as it provides a platform to explore the other two skills. Being aware enables you to open up to all your experiences as you engage with your value-based goals.

Mindfulness is central to ACT because it develops your awareness. Being in the present moment means you’re better able to defuse from your thoughts (step back from their literal content) and thus be a little less dominated and controlled by them. Defusion creates space for you to think about your values and the types of things you want to be doing in life so that you can actively pursue goals based on them.

When you’re open, aware and active, you increase the likelihood of being able to do the things that matter to you – which is the key to living a fulfilled and meaningful life. When you behave consistently with your values, you can end each day with a sense of peace.

It doesn’t follow that everything will always work out or that life will be free from difficulties and distress, because that’s impossible. What it does mean, however, is that you live according to what truly matters to you and do the things that give your life meaning and purpose.