IS YOUR mind constantly chattering? Does it produce an endless stream of comments, judgements and observations as you go through your day? If it is then you have a perfectly normal mind. This is what our minds do. If you were able to write down every thought that you had during any one day then sometimes you would find the 'chatter' to be helpful and problem-solving, but more often than not it will be fairly unhelpful. When people are anxious or depressed then this is particularly true. For example, people who worry too much will have many thoughts about all the worst things that could potentially happen, the vast majority of which will never come true. People who are depressed will also have many thoughts that are gloomy and excessively self-critical. These thoughts can 'trap' people and prevent them from living a fulfilling life.
One recent type of psychological therapy, (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT for short), aims to help us by not taking these thoughts too seriously.
The approach here is to view our thoughts as random 'chatter' – it is just the brain doing its job (or maybe 'overdoing' its job). Rather than asking whether these thoughts are 'true or false', a more important question is whether they are helpful or unhelpful. This therapy suggests that it isn't 'thoughts' that are the problem – it is how we respond to them. As Russ Harris says in his excellent introduction to ACT, The Reality Trap: "We can learn to separate from our thoughts; to 'detach' or 'unhook' ourselves from them.
"We can learn to let them come and go, as if they are cars driving past our house."
■ For more information about ACT and Outlook South West's NHS-funded therapy for stress, anxiety or depression, phone 01208 871905 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .