Any of the ACT models, starting with the original ACT model, the Hexaflex to the 3 Pillars of ACT, the Triflex, and the ACT Matrix have at their very centre Noticing (the observer-self noticing in the present moment, i.e.: being mindful) as an essential skill.
The newer models evolved out of the Hexaflex based on the 2 identified sides of the Hexaflex that gave the therapy its name: Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.
The two mid-range processes (Present Moment Contact and Self as Context (or Observer Self)) belong to both sides. The two sides of the Hexaflex are:
- The Mindfulness and Acceptance Processes
- Commitment and Behaviour Processes
The ACT Matrix looks different, but it also has the mid-range
The mid-range can be seen like a hinge for all the ACT processes in all ACT models:
Observing in the present moment = noticing
Why is noticing important?
The part of us that can notice without judgment, and without being pulled into self-stories or fear, this part that engages with the present moment with curiosity and openness enables us to make choices
Hinges are essential. They allow a door to open or close. Thus they enable us to let a friend in or to maintain a comfortable level of warmth in the room or to keep noise out so the baby can sleep. Being able to open or close a door gives us often essential choices.
Like a hinge, noticing gives us the choice to open or close our mind to possibly difficult choices.
Without the ability to take a step back from our constant mind chatter and our feelings, without the ability to notice and take stock of our inner world, our choices might be made out of habit or because we fear difficult feelings and think that feeling good is a “must”.
Noticing allows real choice; it puts us back in control of our own actions.
It allows us to select walking the path not yet explored. Noticing holds potential and promise. It enables us to become adventures of life again.
How do we step back from the rule of the mind and just notice?
Notice with your senses, not with judgment: here are some tips:
- Slow down: do any action in slow motion and notice what you are doing as you are doing it.
- Take a few deep breaths and breathe out very slowly: notice what you are doing as you are doing it.
- Gently and with compassion take stock of how you are: any tension, pain in your body? Do slow and soft movements improve it? Notice the difference.
- Check what you are doing, how you are sitting or standing, how are you holding your hands? (no need to change, just notice!).
- If you can: stand on one leg and notice how you are adjusting your balance with miniscule movements.
- Go for a walk in a park. Notice your surroundings, bird song, leaves rustling, dogs running, other people, no judging, only noticing, observing with curiosity.
- Can you make out any sounds? Just notice them as if you had heard them for the first time.
- Have a cup of tea or coffee and sip the hot fluid slowly, noticing the aroma and the colour, noticing the taste, noticing the warmth of the cup in your hand, noticing as you swallow and how the warm fluid flows down your oesophagus.
- Do any activity (like brushing your teeth or washing your hands) by focussing on this particular activity. Just for a minute or two…
- Engage in a new activity, something unfamiliar… if you knit, select a difficult pattern, we all need to focus when we do new things.
If you find that you get caught up in mind chatter and lose focus: Never mind, that’s normal! Bring your focus gently back to noticing. Do this often in small amounts. You will get better at noticing!