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Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Prioritizing values can benefit health

Posted January 16, 2012

When our values are out of sync with how we lead our lives, it may result in our feeling out of sorts, unhappy, anxious, or depressed. We may even turn to food as a coping mechanism to deal with these feelings.

According to an evidence-based behavioral health approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), clarifying values or “chosen life directions” is an essential part of creating a meaningful and healthy life. Research has shown that applying ACT can yield positive results for smoking cessation and stress management.

For help in clarifying your own values, you may want to try some of these exercises, write Lucie Knapp and Kathy Murray, licensed clinical social workers who offer care at Duke Diet & Fitness Center.

  • Review personal value cards. Cut out a set of 50 personal values cards you can find for free online by doing a Web search for “values card sort PDF.” Sort them into piles of “Important to Me,” “Very Important to Me,” and “Not Important to Me.” Then narrow down the “Very Important to Me” pile into your top six values.
  • Identify a peak experience in your life. Focus on a time when you felt most alive, joyful, peaceful, loving, and intuned with yourself. You may be amazed to realize that this experience did not include food! Think about what aspects of the experience you found most pleasant and rewarding.
  • Create a list of what really matters to you. Next to each value, note ways you are currently living (or not living) according to that value. So, if friendship is important to you, have your actions been in line with the type of friend you’d like to be?
  • Set goals around your top values. For instance, if physical health and adventure are your top values, you could set a goal of trying one new exercise class or piece of equipment each week.

For more on the topic, read the full post on Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health information and tips every Tuesday.


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