According to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), there are six core mindfulness skills. Understanding these skills helps us become aware of the mindfulness skills we are already using throughout our day. These skills are also helpful in making mindfulness more accessible – it makes mindfulness concrete, definitive, and behaviorally specific.
1.Observe: Simply notice what’s happening. Notice thoughts, emotional feelings, physical sensations, and anything else that is happening. Simply become aware and pay attention.
2.Describe: Put words on what you have observed. Observe and Describe often happen simultaneously.
3.Participate: fully participate in an experience. Often, when we start to practice mindfulness, we become distracted or engaged in another activity. Rather, if we fully participate, we understand the full experience and how jt might be helpful for us. Therefore, if you’re watching your favorite show on TV as a form of self-care, watch that show with your full attention. If you’re practicing a mindfulness meditation, be fully present and participate in that experience.
4.Non-judgmental stance: reduce judgments. This one is challenging, because we naturally judge things as “good” or “bad.” This skill, rather, helps us reduce judgments and focus on the facts. Thus, if you observe that you’re feeling tightness and discomfort in your chest due to anxiety, a judgmental stance would be:
“I feel awful. This is embarrassing. Everyone is looking at me, and it’s just making me feel even worse.”
Whereas a non-judgmental stance would be:
“My chest is feeling tight, and it’s making it hard to breathe.”
5.One-Mindful: do one thing at a time. As a culture of multitaskers, this one is hard! But this is an important one to practice. If you are watching TV, then only watch TV. Don’t also play a game on your phone or scroll through Twitter. If you are eating dinner, then only eat dinner.
6.Effectiveness: do what works. If something isn’t working for you, or if something is making you feel worse, then try something else. It is OK to move on from something if it doesn’t serve you.
For more on these mindfulness skills, follow along on our podcast: Taproot Therapy: A Mindful Moment
When you embark on a journey to support your mental health, the most important thing we can do right from the beginning is to ensure we are caring for our emotional vulnerability. Part of being a human being involves experiencing pain. If we, however, integrate daily tools to support ourselves (especially as we expose ourselves to some vulnerable things), the journey becomes more manageable.
This is where the DBT skill, PLEASE, is handy. This skill probably won’t come as a surprise to many people. But, if we don’t use this tool, it can feel that much more challenging, maybe even impossible, to feel to true effectiveness of other tools and skills we might use to support our mental health. PLEASE is a helpful acronym to decrease stress and improve our wellbeing.
PL: treat Physical iLlness
Take care of yourself when you feel sick. Visit your doctor if you need to. If we feel sick, we feel increased emotional vulnerability (and not the helpful kind of vulnerability!).
E : Eat balanced meals
Food is fuel. So eat to support yourself during the day. Eat nutritious foods that make you feel good!
A: Avoid mood altering drugs
Now, I’m not saying a glass of wine at the end of a day is out of the question. You can absolutely have your glass of wine, your beer, a cigarette - just make sure you aren’t using them to excess, or that you aren’t using substances to numb your other feelings. Everything in moderation.
This is a big one! Simply put: if you aren’t getting adequate sleep most nights, make the changes you need to get the rest you need. create a bedtime routine, turn off screens before you wind down for bed, and, if necessary, talk to your doctor. Sleep is so vital for our well-being!
I like to say “move your body,” to reduce any unwanted connotations the word “exercise” has. Whichever way you say it, get moving in a way that feels good for you. The intention in exercising/moving your body is to reduce stress, boost the positive mood-boosting chemicals, and feel more grounded.
Again, this skill covers those things we already know! But, it’s helpful to remember that without these things, any other work we do to support ourselves can feel that much harder.