What are Mindfulness exercises in DBT?

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This blog will discuss some DBT mindfulness exercises. 

We will also discuss what mindfulness is and what DBT is as well. 

What are Mindfulness exercises in DBT?

Mindfulness in Dialectical behavioural therapy is used to help individuals in the process of learning how to regulate their emotions as well as learn how to respond to the world around them while improving their interpersonal effectiveness. 

Mindfulness helps individuals to become more aware of their thoughts, their feelings, and what they are doing to either aggravate the problem while also learning how to use mindfulness to reduce the problem.

Here are a few mindfulness exercises that you can do as part of your dialectical behavioural therapeutic journey to help you cope with feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

Observe a Leaf for Five Minutes

Observation in mindfulness helps to increase awareness and bring mindful focus and intention to one object or one aspect of our daily lives instead of being stretched thin.

To do these exercises, Pick up a leaf, hold it in your hand, and give it your full attention for five minutes.

Notice the colours, the shape, the texture, and the patterns as you align yourself to the experiences which involves aligning your thoughts, feelings with the experiences rather than being distracted. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

Mindful Eating for Four Minutes

Mindful eating is another exercise to help individuals develop a healthy relationship with their food so as to develop a healthy behaviour when it comes to diet and nutrition. 

To do these exercises, Pay attention to the food that you are holding, notice the feeling of it in your hands. 

Then notice the texture, the weight, the colour, and bring you attention to how it smells.

Finally, move on to eating, but do so slowly and with concentrated attention. As you chew your food, notice the taste and the texture of the food. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

Observe Your Thoughts for 15 Minutes

This is an important mindfulness exercise that is designed to help to develop an awareness of your thoughts. 

To do this exercise, sit or lie down in a comfortable position and try to let all tension in your body go.

Next, allow yourself to focus on your breathing and they bring you focus on how your body is feeling by doing a body scan and then focus on your thoughts. 

Be aware of what comes into your head, but resist the urge to judge these thoughts. Look and observe these thoughts objectively and instead of judging it, take mindful effort to not react or respond to these thoughts. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

Mindfulness Bell Exercise for Five Minutes

For this exercise you will need a mindfulness bell or a gong. 

You begin by closing your eyes and listening for the cue form the bell and when you hear it, focus your attention on the sound and continue your concentration until it fades completely. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

You can follow this visual and audio cue here

Mindful Walking.

This mindfulness exercise incorporates physical exercise as well. 

Take a walk outside or around your room and start by paying attention to the sensation of your feet in contact with the ground. 

Next, expand your awareness to the sounds and smells. 

Also, expand your vision to what you see. 

Next,  let go of other distractions and walk, as if being mindful of every step is vitally important. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

Square Breathing 

For this exercise, you start by breathing in for four seconds. Then, hold your breath for four seconds, then breathe out for another four seconds. 

Repeat four times.

Stare at the Centre

The goal is simple: to focus your attention on the centre of the shifting pattern of colour. You can let your mind wander freely, noticing whatever thoughts come into your head but staying in the present.

This experience is similar to the well-known phenomenon of the quiet fixation that results from staring at a candle flame or a campfire.

The same focus and deep thought can be brought on by this exercise, but be careful not to lose yourself in thought, and instead stay present with the moment and let your thoughts pass by. (Ackerman, positive psychology)

You can use this video here for this exercise. 

Mindfulness exercises handout

This worksheet is a psychoeducational worksheet that is designed to teach individuals exercises that they can learn, do, and apply to develop mindful awareness and acceptance. 

This worksheet helps to create mindful awareness individuals by teaching them techniques such as mindfulness meditation, body scan, mindful eating, and five senses.

To use this worksheet, learn about these exercises as much as you can. Give yourself the space to practice the exercises while also allowing yourself to make mistakes. 

Be compassionate when you do make mistakes and try again. 

You can access this worksheet here

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of being and more proficiently a way of life where the individual actively imagines in the act of cultivating full awareness of the present. 

This awareness of the presence is related to both the world outside and around the individual and the world within the individual in terms of thoughts and feelings.

A person who practises mindfulness may begin with putting effort to bring about all of their senses to focu on what they’re experiencing right now however, over time, it becomes a way of life- done without much effort and with a greater understanding of one’s self. 

Mindfulness is the experience of being present with the here and now. The state of Mindfulness is an experience of your present feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. It is the act of paying attention to yourself, your body, and the world around you.

It is the complete opposite of living in an autopilot mode of existence which can cause various problems, mental health related issues, stress, and an overall poor sense of well being. 

Being mindful requires you to let go of the past, and the worries of the future and simply focus on the present and the things you can do in the present. This can help you move past unnecessary anxious and depressive thoughts that are unnecessary and often causing dysfunction. 

Mindfulness is widely accepted and encouraged by philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual guides, and has garnered traction in mainstream society with various gurus and social media influencers talking about the practice. 

Although originally articulated as a part of Buddhism,  it is often taught independent of religious connotation and it is now seen as a lifestyle choice that can help improve well-being.

There are Buddhist themes in modern-day mindfulness, such as meditation, breathing exercises, and being one with the world- however, in modern or secular mindfulness, there is no need to connect religious or spiritual meaning to one’s practice of mindfulness. 

Meaning that one does not have to adhere to the Buddhist faith to be mindful. Infact, there has been a rising trend of mindfulness now being part of the science of wellbeing where mindfulness practises have been studied scientifically and empirically to help researchers understand what mindfulness does and how it impacts wellbeing. 

What Is DBT?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that emphasises the importance of developing skills to deal with highly emotional situations. 

This form of therapy was created for the treatment of suicidal thoughts and is now considered as an effective treatment of emotional regulation dysfunction disorders such as Borderline disorder.

This form of therapy utilises a supportive and collaborative relationship between patient/client and therapist to address issues paying attention to self-destructive behaviours and focusing on learning social and coping skills. 

DBT also focuses on issues related to improving Quality of life and also coping with PTSD related problems. 

DBT as a form of psychotherapy was developed by Marsha Linehan when she noticed that the basic CBT approach did not work well for personality disorders- specifically Borderline Personality disorders.

Her DBT approach has been tailored to help clients accept their own ways of thinking, feeling, behaving, and also cultivate validations- internal validation towards their own emotional needs.

DBT utilises four skills:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulation

Using these four skills, the individual goes through four stages of treatment which include:

  • Moving to gain control by setting and building up positive relationships and help them understand their emotions better to understand it and be more aware of it.
  • Express emotions in an appropriate manner as opposed to avoiding, shutting out or shutting down, or by being explosive.
  • Learning to solve problems as a part of their effort to live a better life so clients are taught problem solving techniques as well as help them differentiate serious problems as opposed to normal day to day challenges. 
  • Feeling complete as a person where the client learns how to feel that sense of completeness by learning how to focus on building a sense of well being for themselves. 

Conclusion

This blog has discussed some DBT mindfulness exercises. 

We have also discussed what mindfulness is and what DBT is as well. 

FAQ related to DBT mindfulness exercise

How do I practice mindfulness in DBT?

Here are some things you can do on your own, without training, that allows you to practice mindfulness:

  • Observe by taking time to simply notice what’s happening. Notice thoughts, emotional feelings, and your behaviour as you engage with the world around you. 
  • Describe what you have observed.
  • Participate and allow yourself to experience what is happening. 
  • Take a Non-judgmental stance
  • Choose to do one thing at a time

What are the 4 mindfulness Steps?

Here are 4 steps to mindfulness:

  • S – Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
  • T – Take a breath. 
  • O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 
  • P – Proceed with something that is helpful.

What are some mindfulness exercises?

Some mindfulness exercises include:

  • Body scan meditation. 
  • Sitting meditation. 
  • Walking meditation.

What two forms of mindfulness practice are there?

There are two forms of Mindfulness practice

  • Informal practice which involves mindfulness in your lifestyle like being mindful in your everyday life.
  • Formal practice which involves being in a state of mindfulness such as sitting or meditating mindfulness

Is there a free DBT app?

With the progress of technology, the DBT diary card app has also been developed by a licensed psychologist to be used by clients for the same use that the original DBT diary card app is used for. 

The app also provides a feature where the cards can be downloaded in PDF form to be shared with the user’s therapist. 

You can download it off the play store here.  It is free too.

Is DBT good for anxiety?

DBT is an effective therapeutic intervention that can help clients learn to tolerate intense feelings and reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, DBT is found to be more effective for emotional distress and dysregulation as observed in some personality disorders. 

Can I do DBT on my own?

Unlike CBT, DBT is more complex and often requires a therapist to guide and teach the skills as well as assist in the learning of these skills in a client. 

References

Riopel, L.What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)? Positive Psychology. Retrieved on 27th January 2022. 

Getting Started with Mindfulness. Mindful.org. Retrieved on 27th January 2022. https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

Ackerman.C. 22 Mindfulness Exercises, Techniques & Activities For Adults (+ PDF’s). Positive psychology. 27th January 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/

Greenwald.A. QUICK AND EASY DBT MINDFULNESS EXERCISES. EMY Therapy. Retrieved on 27th january 2022. https://eymtherapy.com/blog/dbt-mindfulness-exercises/

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