One important attribute of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is that you learn mindfulness techniques.
Mindfulness is the term used for a collection of skills and methods that are intended to slow you down and be more present. These include meditation, controlling your breathing, and similar skills that help build awareness and keep you in control.
That all sounds great, but how does mindfulness actually help you regulate your emotions? After all, you are struggling with some real issues.
You might doubt that mindfulness will actually work for you. But it can!
Here are four ways how.
1. Staying in the Moment
When it comes to problems such as anxiety, it’s very hard to stay present. Your mind drifts away from the task that you are on to whatever is causing the anxiety.
For instance, let’s say that you worry a lot about the future. It stresses you out that you can’t control what might happen. The result is that worry, or ruminate, about the future so much that you neglect things you need or want to focus on in the here-and-now.
With mindfulness, you can better stay in the moment and worry less about anxiety.
2. Strengthening Your Observation Skills
If you are stressed, then you will experience some pretty serious emotions. That’s a problem because it feels as if they happen out of nowhere. You have no idea why they are happening or what causes them.
But mindfulness will teach you how to strengthen your observation skills. This helps you note why you suddenly feel anxious and how that affects you. Then you can use rational thinking to help you stay grounded and present. This, as opposed to feeling as if your emotions are running away from you.
3. Maintaining Attention and Focus
Issues such as anxiety and other mental health problems drive your attention away from the present to what’s triggering those emotions. Mindfulness teaches how to stay focused on what we need to do. Even if that’s simply working through the problem of why you feel anxious.
But it’s also helpful for staying on track with work or being present with your children. So much of your attention and focus gets sidetracked, which means you are less productive.
4. Being Aware of Your Surroundings and Environment
A fourth reason mindfulness is so helpful with emotional regulation is that it empowers you to be more aware of your surroundings and environment. Why is this useful? Because when you are stressed or triggered, it can feel as if you are disconnected from everything around you.
This feeling fuels that stress and causes you to get even more triggered. However, mindfulness can keep you grounded and keep your sense of reality. Rather than getting “hyped-up”, you have more energy to focus on what is happening, why, and to use other DBT skills to resolve the issue.
For instance, if you were triggered by a sound that’s connected to your PTSD, you could use a five-sense exercise to note what you are experiencing in your environment. This helps you stay calm, rather than escalate.
The Importance of DBT Therapy
Although it’s possible to learn mindfulness skills from online articles, therapy is necessary to make those connections to both the DBT process and your own therapeutic journey. Your therapist will help you put all the pieces of the puzzle together. That way you have a plan that you can work through together in order to resolve those issues.
Also, the time you spend in therapy is useful for practicing those mindfulness skills with your therapist before using them outside of session.
Mindfulness as part of DBT is a powerful tool for regulating your emotions. To learn more about how mindfulness and DBT can help you, contact me today.