ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) teaches people to accept rather than struggle or feel guilty about their thoughts and feelings and take valued action so that they can live meaningful lives. Studies have shown that ACT delivers clinically effective results.
Anyone who is interested can learn ACT through books. I think one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me was reading ACT books. These books gave me tremendous resources to handle pain and deal with adversity.
Here are the best ACT books to deal with depression and emotional pain. These books are written in an easy-to-understand style so that laymen can understand complex theoretical concepts of ACT without any confusion or difficulty.
1. The Happiness Trap
Author: Russ Harris
Average Goodreads ratings:4/5
This book is suitable for people who have little or no knowledge of ACT.
The Happiness Trap begins by acknowledging that painful events — including thoughts and feelings — are a natural part of life and that striving to exclude them is impossible. In addition, the book explains how to use ACT's six basic principles so that you may 1) successfully deal with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, and 2) live a rich and meaningful life. However, this book does not focus on a specific issue (such as anxiety, depression, or rage), but rather provides a way for the readers to apply ACT principles to their unique circumstances—assuming that we all have unpleasant experiences in life.
By reading this book, you'll learn new ways to deal with painful thoughts and feelings, get in touch with the present (instead of focusing on the past or future), connect with what is important in your life, and discover how to act more effectively in pursuing what matters to you.
In addition to its casual tone and abundance of case studies to illustrate people's difficulties, this book offers a wide range of simple techniques that readers can effectively use to reduce the unhelpful impact of their difficult experiences. This makes The Happiness Trap an excellent introduction to ACT and a useful tool in everyday life. The author encourages and prompts the readers to try out the strategies as they read the chapters, which helps them take the initial steps in applying ACT to their lives.
This book has significantly improved my motivation and overall quality of life. It's been a long time since I read it, yet its message continues to help me every day. After reading this book, I stopped wasting my energy in useless psychological battles and started to use it in a much more productive way. Despite my mental pain, I was able to do what I needed to do. This book is a lifesaver.
2. Get out of Your Mind and into your life
Author: Steven Hayes
Average Goodreads ratings:4/5
The author, Professor Steven Hayes is the father of ACT therapy. This book is an excellent primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
This book will take you through the basics of ACT and teach you how to accept your feelings rather than acting in self-destructive or harmful ways. Dr. Hayes argues that mental anguish is unavoidable, and that attempting to eliminate it simply adds to our misery. The language we use can lead to experiential avoidance, which is “the process of trying to avoid your own experiences (thoughts, feelings, memories, bodily sensations, behavioral predispositions) even when doing so causes long-term behavioral difficulties.”
The book advocates being willing to experience and accept whatever is going on in your life right now. One of my favorite aspects of ACT is that readiness and acceptance are both active rather than passive positions. Acceptance does not imply a disinclination to change, and willingness does not imply a desire for an experience.
While there is a lot of text in the book, it is meant to be used as a workbook, with activities to complete and room to jot down answers and observations. There are several cognitive defusion and mindfulness activities to choose from. Even if you don't like meditation, the mindfulness activities are still useful. It’s not so much mindfulness for the sake of mindfulness but rather accepting your present moment experience and the need to be aware of it.
The book is extensive, yet it is presented in easy-to-understand language and would be appropriate for those who are new to ACT. It would be beneficial for self-help as well as determining whether or not ACT with a therapist would be suitable for you.
3. The Liberated Mind
Author: Steven Hayes
Average Goodreads ratings:4.3/5
Within every one of us is a Dictator. We are all plagued by negative ideas. We try not to think about pink elephants, traumatic memories, or messages that tell us bad things about ourselves or make us anxious. We attempt to reason with those ideas, ignore them, or get rid of them, and we frequently get stuck in rigid ruts that we can't get out of. At the very least, we suffer from a lack of mental tranquility. At worst, these patterns of thinking stifle our ability to live and establish deep connections.
Dr. Hayes, the pioneer of ACT, advocates for a completely different approach. He outlines a method that begins with accepting our thoughts. He claims that one way to reduce the power of our ideas is to stop trying to get rid of them and simply notice them. The key to relieving our pain is to “let go of finding a route out and instead pivot toward finding a way in” to whatever is bothering us.
It may seem paradoxical – after all, who in their right mind would wish to continue to suffer? – yet despite this, traditional wisdom and psychology both indicate leaning in and recognizing our pain as the most efficient method to deal with it.
In A Liberated Mind, Dr.Hayes shares personal experiences and insights on how he learned to manage his anxiety, as well as practical advice on how we may utilize evidence-based strategies to address problems like eating disorders, stress, depression, anxiety, abuse, chronic pain and procrastination etc. There is a lot of wisdom and insight here to solve many of life’s difficult problems.
This book is very detailed and is not suitable for beginners of ACT.
4. How to Be Nice to Yourself: The Everyday Guide to Self-Compassion
Author: Laura Silberstein-Tirch
Average Goodreads ratings:3.7/5
Self-compassion is an important component of the ACT. This book is a step-by-step guide for people to reduce self-criticism and promote self-love. The book is divided into three main parts. Compassion for your thoughts, compassion for your feelings and compassion for your actions. This book teaches you how to take better care of yourself. How to be compassionate towards yourself which is very important for alleviating emotional or psychological pain.
5. The Reality Slap
Author: Russ Harris
Average Goodreads ratings:4/5
Life-altering crises can put our well-being in jeopardy and can strike without warning. We need to feel a sense of stability and eventually growth.
The Reality Slap is based on the idea that when life hurts People are frequently confronted with a disparity between their current dismal reality and the reality they desire. The text's principal goal is to aid individuals in navigating this difficult chasm. Harris takes an unusual viewpoint, claiming that the capability to deal with sorrow and misery in life is necessary for fulfillment. Throughout different pages of the book, the author points out quite a few times that it isn't only the simple act of 'positive thinking' that helps us to achieve contentment in life, but of being at peace with our unpleasant feelings. The book teaches us not to battle with our negative feelings but allow them space. This is accomplished via the use of several specific mindfulness techniques explained in the book.
To illustrate the concepts of ACT, the author offers real-world examples from his personal life and those of his clients. He explains how this treatment approach differs from others in that it rejects traditional concepts of replacing, altering, or battling undesirable thoughts and sensations in favor of learning to sit with suffering in a way that promotes growth. In addition, the appendices include useful resources for those who want to set long-term objectives and practice mindfulness through particular exercises to achieve more meaning and satisfaction in their lives. The Reality Slap is a practical method for dealing with a wide range of unpleasant life situations and our reactions to them. Individuals seeking therapy are taught principles of acceptance, commitment, fulfillment, and meaning-making with ease. Furthermore, those who are eager to study and apply these principles may readily adapt and employ them. The general population will benefit much from the book.
6. Healing through dark emotions
Author: Miriam Greenspan
Average Goodreads ratings: 4.17/5
Grief, fear, and despair are the set of painful emotions that affect us all at some point in our lives. While the conventional western way of thinking cautions us about the dangers of "negative" emotions, this groundbreaking book presents a more optimistic view: our worst emotions have a redeeming potential. "Alchemical change" occurs when we notice and embrace the feelings of sadness fear and despair. Miriam Greenspan, a seasoned psychotherapist, says that psychological illnesses such as depression, anxiety, addiction, psychic numbness, and senseless violence are caused by the avoidance and denial of negative emotions. Emotional detachment is dangerous. A psychopath becomes cruel because he is emotionally detached. She also teaches us how to rely on the dark emotions' knowledge to lead, heal, and alter our lives and our planet. Greenspan teaches the art of emotional alchemy by using motivating anecdotes from her psychotherapy work and personal life, as well as a full series of emotional exercises.
After reading this book you will never suppress, avoid or minimize your emotions. You will accept your emotions as a blessing that they are.
This book does not claim to teach you ACT but the underlying idea is the same. You will become more accepting of your emotional states.
7. The Courage Habit: How to Accept Your Fears, Release the Past, and Live Your Courageous Life
Author: Kate Swoboda
Average Goodreads ratings: 3.8/5
In The Courage Habit, Kate Swoboda, a licensed life coach, provides a unique approach based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy to help you act courageously in the face of fear. You will be able to make courage a daily habit by understanding your fear triggers, letting go of your past experiences, and acting on what you deeply value.
By using a practical four-part approach that the author introduces in the book, you’ll learn to recognize the emotions that arise when fears are triggered, as well as how to pause and assess your emotional state before acting. In addition, you will learn, how to listen to your inner critic's self-defeating messages without becoming attached to them, how to understand the critic's role, and how to set appropriate boundaries so that your inner critic no longer dictates your behavior. You'll reassess self-limiting life narratives that can control your day-to-day decisions without your conscious awareness. Finally, to find support and reinforce the life changes you're making, you'll cultivate more genuine connections with family, friends, and community. If you have a sneaking suspicion that something is holding you back from moving to a new city, landing your dream job, having a fulfilling love relationship, or simply taking advantage of everything life has to offer—then this unique guide will show you how to finally break free from self-doubt and start living your best life. The Courage Habit is a great book for anyone who wants to learn how to live more courageously every day.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.