In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have struggled to cope with uncertainty about our future, as well as the lack of face-to-face contact with family, friends and colleagues. In part I of this blog series, we described how cognitive defusion can be used to lessen the impact of unhelpful thoughts about the current pandemic and minimize emotional suffering. Here, we will briefly examine how connecting with your values despite limitations imposed by physical distancing and related safety guidelines can empower you to thrive during this challenging time.
What is Value-Based Living?
Living in accordance with your personal core values is an important principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a research-supported treatment approach used by many of the skilled therapists at The Mindful Living Centre. In this context, values can describe the qualities you most wish to see in your actions, such as resilience, productivity, and creativity. They can also refer to how you want to be towards yourself and others in your life, such as kind, caring, generous and fun-loving. We might choose to think of our values as a life “compass”, which can provide a greater sense of direction, purpose and meaning.
It is important to understand the difference between values and goals. A goal usually refers to something tangible you are trying to achieve, like earning a degree, getting a promotion at work, running a mile in eight minutes, or getting married. In contrast, values refer to qualities such as being persistent, hardworking, and loving, as one pursues their goals. The distinction here is that a goal can be accomplished one day or set aside for other goals, whereas a value can be pursued constantly through our choices. For example, you may be feeling connected to a value of self-care by reading this article on how to live better during the COVID-19 pandemic!
How Can Value-Based Living Help Me?
In stressful circumstances, such as living through a pandemic, it is common to lose touch with our core values as we focus on trying to cope with hardships. Becoming disconnected from our values usually leads to even more stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits that only offer temporary relief, such as being sedentary and using excessive distraction (e.g., Netflix binges), emotional eating, substance use, and social isolation. If we find ourselves falling into this trap, it can be helpful to clarify and reflect on our values, as we might discover new ways to live a rich and meaningful life while still dealing with stressful life events.
How Can I Engage in Value-Based Living?
First, it is important to clarify what areas of life are most important to you. Valued domains are broad categories or life areas that people consider more or less important. Below is a list of valued domains; take a look to identify three or four that you consider to be most important in your life:
- Family (e.g. marriage and parenting)
- Relationships and social life (e.g. partners and friends)
- Education / learning
- Recreation and fun
- Community involvement
- Self-care (e.g. exercise, nutrition, sleep, mental health)
- The environment
Of course, physical distancing during the pandemic has presented challenges in engaging in many of these valued domains, most notably in the areas of family, social life, work, education and recreation. However, this does not mean we must lose touch with these values completely. With a bit of creativity, we can still pursue our entire range of values in safe and practical ways.
Second, now that you have identified three or four of your most valued life domains, take a moment to consider the following for each:
- What would I like to ideally stand for in this area of my life?
- What kind of person do I want to be in this context?
- How do I want to be able to say I conducted myself in this area when reflecting back on my life in the future?
To help you clarify your values and intentions, below is a list of common ones:
- To be caring
- To be disciplined
- To be supportive
- To be fun-loving
- To be patient
- To be persistent
- To be courageous
- To be knowledgeable
- To be generous
Third, after clarifying your values and intentions, ask yourself: “What is a small step I can take to act out these values in my most important life domains?”
Different values may be more relevant to different life domains, so take some time to brainstorm. You may send a supportive message to a family member or friend. You could enrol in an online class or webinar. You might devote some time to learning a new recipe. You could set aside some time to try out a new hobby, or re-kindle on old one. Be creative and flexible with it!
As you can see, values can be enacted in any number of ways to make your life richer and more meaningful, even when facing challenges that the current pandemic has created.
If you would like to learn more about how to engage in values-based living or talk about other strategies to cope with the pandemic, our team of professionals at The Mindful Living Centre can help. Contact us today for more information!
Please note: this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for therapy or advice from a qualified professional.