A lack of mindfulness often causes people to struggle to make a change in their lives, better understand themselves, and stay connected to others and the world. Mindfulness is a way to pay attention to thoughts and feelings moment by moment, without judgment. Often, pain and mental discomfort come from the judgment people place on their experiences, rather than what is currently happening.
Mindfulness can be defined as the practice of being present in the moment by observing, describing and participating. Many people associate mindfulness with meditation; however, this isn’t the only way for it to be done. Mindfulness simply refers to practicing noticing what’s going on around you and inside your head, from distractions to thoughts to emotions, both unpleasant and pleasant. Mindfulness can be practiced at any point during the day, from observing the breath entering and exiting your lungs, the thoughts passing through your head, or your five senses in detail.
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy teaches the “what” and “how” skills of something called the “Wise Mind.” The wise mind is a mix of the reasonable/rational mind and the emotional mind. Relying too much on one side or the other can cause many issues internally within the self and externally in relationships.
Your “What” skills consist of:
Observation: Notice your five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste) and control your attention without pushing away (watch thoughts come and go like clouds).
Description: Put words into what you’re experiencing (label your thoughts and emotions) and take bias and opinion out of your thoughts and only focus on the facts (if you can’t sense it with your five senses, it’s not a fact).
Participation: Completely throw yourself into the present moment and what you are doing. Do what is needed in the current situation, focus all your attention on it, and go with the flow.
Your “How” skills consist of:
Non-Judgmentally: Observe without evaluating good or bad, accept each moment and acknowledge the difference between helpful and hurtful things without judging (if you end up judging here, don’t judge yourself for judging).
One-Mindfully: Be present in this moment. Do one thing at a time and let go of distractions. When you’re eating, eat. When you’re walking, walk.
Effectively: Be mindful of your goals in each situation and focus on what works for you.
If you find yourself feeling or thinking things, you’ll want to engage in a technique often called “surfing the wave.” There are four steps to this.
1) Observe your emotion/thought: Notice the emotion, let it come and go, do not try to get rid of it.
2) Be mindful of your body: Notice any bodily sensations while you feel or think. Label sensations and how they relate to the emotion or thought.
3) Remind yourself you are not your emotion/thought: Create a separation between yourself and current thoughts or emotions. Remember there are times you have felt or thought differently; this doesn’t define you.
4) Radically accept your emotion/thought: Do not judge your emotion or thought. Validate your emotions and tell yourself you can get through them.
Using mindfulness in everyday life can help you understand yourself, your thoughts and your emotions, and help you achieve goals, from interpersonal, to personal, academic and professional.