If you’ve been looking for an entry point into mindfulness, I got you!
You’ve probably heard the word “mindfulness,” but do you know how to actually incorporate it into your day-to-day life?
Savvy Psychologist is hosted by Dr. Monica Johnson. A transcript is available at Simplecast.
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Mindfulness is a common word for all of us now, but what does it mean and how do you do it? If I were to ask you, what would you say? Most of the time when I ask folks, they freeze for a second and then will ramble off something about being in the present moment or paying attention. Which isn’t wrong, but then how do you go about doing that? That answer is a lot harder. If you’ve been looking for an entry point into mindfulness, I got you!
Welcome back to Savvy Psychologist. I'm your host, Dr. Monica Johnson. Every week on this show, I'll help you face life's challenges with evidence-based approaches, a sympathetic ear, and zero judgment.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that I specialize in as a psychologist. Mindfulness is one of the core components of DBT and is often practiced through six mindfulness skills. In this episode, I will discuss the six mindfulness skills of DBT in detail, including what they are, how to practice them, and their benefits.
The first mindfulness skill in DBT is observe, which means paying attention to your environment and your internal experiences without judgment. Another way we describe it is as wordless watching. This skill involves being fully present in the moment, observing your thoughts and feelings as they come and go, and noticing the world around you without trying to change it. To practice observe, you can use your five senses to focus on the present moment, and simply notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. This can be done anytime, anywhere, and is particularly helpful in stressful or overwhelming situations. At this stage of the game, you’re not labeling, but simply observing what you are taking in through your senses.
The benefits of observe are that it helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, which can help you to better understand yourself and your reactions to situations. You’re never going to figure yourself out if you won’t sit with your inner experiences in their entirety and the observe skill allows you to do that. It can also help you to stay grounded and present in the moment, which can be useful in reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of calmness. You can use the observe skill to be more aware of your outer surroundings as well.
The second mindfulness skill in DBT is describe, which involves putting your observations into words. This skill is about describing your experiences objectively, without adding your own interpretations or judgments. To practice describe, you can use simple and factual language to describe what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. For example, instead of saying "this situation is terrible," you could say "I am feeling anxious right now because the driver in front of me swerved."
The benefits of describe are that it helps you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, and to communicate them more effectively to others. It can also help you to develop a more objective and balanced perspective on situations, which can be helpful in reducing emotional reactivity. I also find when we are able to effectively pair observe and describe, we become better problem solvers.
The third mindfulness skill in DBT is participate, which involves being fully present and engaged in the present moment. This skill is about letting go of distractions and focusing on the task at hand, whether that be work, hobbies, or relationships. To practice participate, you can immerse yourself in the present moment, and fully engage in whatever you are doing. This can be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction.
The benefits of participate are that it helps you to be more fully engaged in your life, and to find enjoyment and meaning in your daily activities. It can also help you to reduce feelings of boredom and emptiness, which can be common in individuals with depression or other mood disorders. I tell myself and my patients that if you marinate in the now, you won’t always be looking toward the future for more or to the past for why you have less than what you think you should.
The fourth mindfulness skill in DBT is a non-judgmental stance, which involves accepting yourself and others without judgment. This skill is about letting go of inner monologue, distorted interpretations, and instead practicing self-compassion and understanding. To practice a non-judgmental stance, you can cultivate an attitude of acceptance and openness towards yourself and others, and let go of the evaluative judgments that we often make.
The benefits of a non-judgmental stance are that it helps you to reduce feelings of self-criticism and shame, and to develop a more positive and compassionate relationship with yourself. It can also improve your relationships with others, as it can lead to increased empathy and understanding. The important thing to remember is that being non-judgmental isn’t about being unrealistically positive or optimistic. In fact—whether it’s negative or positive it can still be deemed judgmental. For example, let’s say my child hit someone else at school. My first thought could be, “Not my kid, my kids perfect, they would never do that!” That’s a positive judgment about my child. Whereas non-judgmental thinking might be, “I am surprised that my child hit someone, I should get more information about what occurred so we can find a solution.”
The fifth mindfulness skill in DBT is one-mindfully, which involves focusing on one moment, task, or thought at a time. This skill is about letting go of distractions and multitasking, and instead focusing your attention on the present moment. To practice one-mindfully, you can prioritize your tasks and focus on one at a time, giving it your full attention and effort. For instance, if you are washing the dishes, simply focus on that task without bringing in all the mind clutter from other aspects of your day. This can be helpful in reducing feelings of overwhelm and increasing productivity.
The benefits of one-mindfully are that it helps you to be more efficient and effective in your work and personal life, and to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It can also improve your ability to stay focused and attentive, which can be helpful in improving your overall quality of life.
The sixth mindfulness skill in DBT is effectiveness, which involves focusing on what works in a given situation, rather than what is "right" or "wrong." This skill is about letting go of rigid thinking and embracing a more flexible and adaptive mindset. To practice effectiveness, you can focus on the outcomes you want to achieve, and explore different ways of achieving them, even if they are different from your usual approach. If you’re truly being effective, it’s about doing what works and not necessarily what you prefer.
The benefits of effectiveness are that it helps you to be more adaptive and flexible in your thinking and problem-solving, and to achieve your desired outcomes more effectively. It can also improve your ability to handle difficult situations and adapt to changes in your environment.
Overall, the six mindfulness skills in DBT are important tools for improving emotional regulation, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction in life. By practicing these skills regularly, folks can learn to be more present in the moment, cultivate a more positive and compassionate relationship with themselves and others, and develop a more flexible and adaptive mindset. We often miscategorize mindfulness as simply meditation, but the goal is to live mindfully 24/7, not just when we find the time. These 6 basic skills will go a long way in building a foundation for your life worth living.
Which one of these have you been struggling with the most? Let me know on Instagram @kindmindpsych. You can also reach out to me via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a voicemail at (929) 256-2191.