Practice the Mindfulness DBT HOW skills

DBT’s Mindfulness Skill: HOW Part 1

The Mindfulness skills of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teach you how to be present in each moment, with awareness and without judgment.

Mindfulness skills are broken up into 2 sets:

DBT WHAT skills:

What you do to practice mindfulness. These skills are practiced one at a time:

DBT HOW skills:

How you practice the WHAT skills. These skills are practiced at the same time:
• Nonjudgmentally
• One-Mindfully
• Effectively

Let’s look at the first of the DBT HOW skills


When you practice mindfulness, you let go of judgments.
You notice and release judgments you may have about yourself (e.g. “I’m not doing this right!”), others (e.g. “She’s not doing it right”), your experience or anything else.

If you find yourself judging (which you probably will) don’t judge your judging.

Why let go of judgments?

Most of us judge automatically, habitually and continuously. Judging becomes such a part of our internal dialogue that we don’t notice how:

• Judgments increase emotional pain
• Judgments damage relationships

For example
Imagine your partner is late coming home and hasn’t called.
You might think, “They’re so selfish. Here I am waiting for them to come home and they don’t even respect me enough to call me to tell me they’re going to be late. I don’t think this relationship is going to work.”

Can you see how judgments here make you feel worse and might hurt your relationship?

Being nonjudgmental doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge your feelings, desires and preferences.

To rephrase your reaction to the above example nonjudgmentally, stick to the facts.

This might sound like, “I’m upset that they’re not home when they said they would be and haven’t called. It makes me worry that they don’t care about me (or that they got hurt, or whatever you worry about). I really prefer if they call when they’re going to be late.”

Can you see how removing judgments here takes the charge out of the situation?

And when the emotional charge of a situation isn’t heightened, it’s easier to find solutions.
Focusing out what causes a problem (so you can figure out how to solve it) is much more effective than judging.

How to let go of judgments

Let go of thinking in terms of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong.

Stick to the facts when describing something. Just the who, what, where and when. We often embellish the facts with judgments – and then mistake those judgments for the truth of what is actually happening.

The goal isn’t to replace negative judgments with positive ones, although positive judgments don’t cause the same kind of emotional pain.

The problem with positive judgments is that they can quickly turn into negative judgments.

For example
If you judge your best friend as the most wonderful person in the world, when they do something that upsets you (which happens at some point in ALL relationships), then the positive judgment can turn on its head, making you think your best friend is the worst person in the world.

Let go of thinking that you should be different than you are

The most painful form of judgment is self-judgment.

You may habitually think that there’s something wrong with you. Or that you’re stupid. Or lazy. Or some other harsh indictment of your character.

Practicing nonjudgmentally means you stop fighting who you are and accept yourself exactly as you are in this moment.

But this doesn’t mean that we let go of the desire to make changes.

For example
If there’s something you’d like to change about yourself, state the facts of your wishes or feelings, without judgments.

Example: Replace
• “I’m lazy” with “ Sometimes it’s hard for me to get motivated.”
• “I’m a bad person” with “Sometimes I do things I’m not proud of.”

Reducing judgments takes practice

Be gentle with yourself as you work on noticing your judgments and replacing them with nonjudgmental statements of what actually IS.

Read Part 2 of the Mindfulness DBT HOW Skills.

Need help with judgments?

Call (415) 310-5142 to set up an appointment to see how DBT can help you.