In a previous post, I describe the concept of values in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Our values serve as a helpful compass that points us in the direction of the person we want to be. If values are aspirational in nature, then living by those values requires some additional direct effort on your part. In another post, I describe how to set effective goals for yourself for longer-term behavioral change.
This post is focused on a particular technique (a simple one!) for applying your values directly to your day. This idea comes from Dr. Russ Harris, one of my personal favorite ACT practitioners. It is called Flavor and Savor. Here is how it works:
Flavor and Savor Technique
Each morning when you get out of bed, you choose two values that you want to act on that day. For example, someone might choose Creativity and Connectedness. Then like an expert chef flavoring a meal, you look for opportunities to “sprinkle” those values into whatever you are doing or saying that day. By doing so, you give your behavior the flavor of those chosen values.
For the value of Creativity for example, someone might choose to sit down at the piano and play around with melodies and chords, not thinking about anything else – about the chores that need to be done or their work, but just getting lost in the experience of playing. And then they might have an unexpected phone call from their friend, and realized that this is a good opportunity to flavor the day with the value of Connectedness. They may do so by really paying close attention to what their friend is telling them, offering empathy and a nice listening ear. Maybe later when their cat comes and sits on their lap, they focus only on petting it, not looking at their phone or watching TV.
The savoring part comes from a mindful awareness of acting on the values instead of just rushing past them. So, during and after these experiences, you take a moment to appreciate the experience itself. Appreciate what it is like to be acting on your values in that moment. This appreciation actually then helps cement our motivation infrastructure in our brains for increasingly acting on our values over time.
That’s it! That’s all it involves. This therapy tool is very simple and effective at expanding the degree to which our actions line up with our values. In practicing this and other therapeutic techniques, it is of course beneficial to have the help of a licensed therapist that understands values (and in particular, an ACT therapist). If you live in Seattle or the greater Washington area, and are interested in working on this via telehealth, please feel free to contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation today or learn more about my approach on my website.