I first covered DBT’s Mindfulness practice in a previous post. It’s such a critical component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy the topic deserves some more coverage.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to notice your thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses without judging yourself or trying to change anything.
When you’re mindful, you can access a part of your brain that is able to witness what’s happening in the present moment.
If you’re not familiar with this inner witness, it can seem like a strange concept.
But with practice, you can become familiar with this part of yourself.
Why mindfulness matters
If you struggle with your emotions or compulsive behaviors, being mindful can help you feel more in control.
Without this awareness, you’re much more likely to do things habitually or impulsively.
Mindfulness helps you slow down and focus on one thing at a time, allowing you to be more in control of your emotions and your actions.
Case example: mindfulness and self-judgment
If you have a lot of judgmental thoughts about yourself, mindfulness helps you notice these judgmental thoughts and separate them from what is actually happening in the moment.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you are late for work one day and you start judging yourself harshly, thinking thoughts like:
- I’m such a loser
- I can’t do anything right
- What’s wrong with me?
With thoughts like these, it’s not surprising if you start to feel bad about yourself.
But this is also an example of mistaking your judgmental thoughts for the truth about who you are. If you believe these thoughts are true, it will affect your feelings and behavior.
For example, if you believe that you’re actually a loser or you can’t do anything right, you may find yourself:
- Feeling ashamed
- Avoiding people
- Not taking risks, like speaking up
- Not noticing when you do something well
Mindfulness helps you step back and notice what your brain is doing: it’s having judgmental thoughts.
But you are not those thoughts. You can label these thoughts as just thoughts.
When you do this, those thoughts lose much of their power – they’re not facts anymore.
Mindfulness also opens up the possibility to think differently about the situation of being late for work.
If you’re able to notice your self-judgments and label thoughts as ‘just thoughts,’ this can help you access your wise mind – an important concept in DBT.
Your wise mind may say that everyone is late for work once in awhile and it’s not the end of the world. Your wise mind may also help you figure out what you need to do to avoid being late again.
The practice of mindfulness
One of the most important things to remember about mindfulness is that it is a practice.
You do not need to strive for perfection.
The practice is to bring your focus back to your witnessing self, to the part of you that can step outside of your immediate experience and just notice the present moment without judgment, over and over again.
For more on DBT’s Mindfulness practice, read these posts:
Curious about how DBT can help you?
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