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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Haws

Mindfulness According to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Updated: Apr 9

Mindfulness, a concept deeply rooted in ancient Buddhist philosophy, has found its way into modern therapeutic practices, particularly in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach designed primarily for individuals with borderline personality disorder. However, its principles, especially mindfulness, have proven beneficial for a range of emotional and behavioural challenges.

What is Mindfulness?

At its core, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, without judgment. It's about experiencing the world directly, without being entangled in thoughts about the past or anxieties about the future. Mindfulness encourages a heightened awareness of the current moment, our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the environment around us.

Why is Mindfulness Important in DBT?

DBT views mindfulness as a foundational skill, essential for achieving emotional balance and overall well-being. The practice helps individuals:

  • Reduce Reactivity: By being present, individuals can observe their thoughts and feelings without immediately reacting to them. This pause allows for more thoughtful responses rather than impulsive actions.

  • Increase Emotional Regulation: Recognizing and accepting emotions without judgment can reduce the intensity and duration of emotional episodes.

  • Enhance Self-awareness: Regular mindfulness practice can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself, one's triggers, and patterns of behaviour.

How to Practice Mindfulness in DBT:

DBT breaks down mindfulness into two sets of skills: "What" skills and "How" skills.

1. "What" Skills:

  • Observe: Notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without getting caught up in them. It's like watching clouds pass by in the sky.

  • Describe: Put words to the experience. For instance, instead of saying "I'm anxious," you might say, "I'm noticing a feeling of tightness in my chest."

  • Participate: Engage fully in the current activity. If you're eating, focus solely on the taste, texture, and experience of eating.

2. "How" Skills:

  • Non-judgmentally: Experience the moment without labelling it as good or bad. Accept things as they are.

  • One-mindfully: Do one thing at a time. If you're reading, just read. If you're walking, just walk.

  • Effectively: Do what works. Focus on what's needed in the moment, not on what you think should be happening.

Tips for Practicing Mindfulness:

  • Start Small: Begin with just a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable.

  • Use Guided Meditations: There are numerous apps and online resources that offer guided mindfulness meditations tailored to beginners.

  • Incorporate Mindfulness into Daily Activities: Practice being present while brushing your teeth, eating, or even walking.

  • Be Patient: Your mind will wander. That's natural. The practice is in bringing your attention back to the present moment, without judgment.

In conclusion, mindfulness in DBT is not just a skill but a way of life. It's about embracing each moment, understanding oneself better, and navigating the challenges of life with grace and balance. Whether you're undergoing DBT or just curious about mindfulness, integrating this practice into your daily routine can lead to profound changes in your mental and emotional well-being.

Check out these DBT-RU videos on the whats and hows of mindfulness:



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