For most of us, the way we solve our problems today has a lot to do with what worked at another time in our lives. As our situations and responsibilities change, we can find that what once worked isn’t really helpful anymore.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a problem-solving focused therapy, designed to teach and support new ways of responding to the issues of life: ways that are more helpful, ways that may actually solve problems. It’s used to treat a variety of conditions such as borderline personality disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and others.
However, everyone can benefit from practicing DBT skills. Three in particular can help you learn to live a happier life!
Mindfulness is about living your life in the present moment instead of ruminating over the past or catastrophizing about the future. Practicing mindfulness is about bringing your awareness to what is happening in our thoughts and emotions right now, without getting caught up in them. It’s about observing your thoughts as just thoughts, not as fact or absolute truth.
Practice Mindfulness: Go for a Walk.
- Feel your feet as they touch the ground, your legs bending and straightening, your breath.
- Notice the sky, the buildings, the plants and trees. What color are they? What does it smell like? Do the tree leaves flutter in the wind?
- Put words to what you are observing. “I see white four puffy white clouds in a cobalt blue sky,” or “I smell fall leaves and fresh mown grass.”
- If your mind wanders, that is okay. Don’t judge it as good or bad. Just notice it has wandered (“There’s a thought about…”) and then bring your attention back to what you are observing.
Non-acceptance + fighting reality = increased suffering and misery.
Not accepting that we didn’t get that big promotion we hoped for by telling ourselves, “It’s not fair,” and “I deserve it more than he did,” can make us miserable. Acknowledging that “It didn’t happen this time,” and moving on, means we have accepted reality and let the rest go.
Practice Reality Acceptance: Stuck in Traffic.
You need to get home quickly, but on the way you get stuck in traffic. Lamenting that “I have so much to do at home,” or “this is a huge waste of my time,” will only increase your anxiety and stress.
Instead, remind yourself:
- There is nothing I can do about this right now.
- I am not in control of this situation.
- Traffic is heavy between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. every day.
- Other people want to get home just like me.
You will be amazed as to how quickly you can reduce your frustration level.
The skill of taking a non-judgmental stance is extremely important when it comes to reducing the intensity of emotions like anger. Judging things as “good or bad” or “all or nothing” increases our emotional reactivity and damages our relationships. Being judgmental towards ourselves can cause unnecessary emotional pain and low self-worth.
When you catch yourself making a judgment, just stop and notice, and be careful not to judge your judging!
Practice a Non-judgmental Stance: Bad Weather.
You get up in the morning, and it’s cold, cloudy and rainy. You may notice the urge to think, “This weather is awful. I can’t stand the cold. We never get to see the sun!”
Instead, say to yourself, “It is raining and irritation has arisen in me because I might get cold and wet when I go outside!”
Saying that does not change the fact that we live in Michigan and weather is sometimes cold and rainy. However, it can stop you from telling yourself the whole entire day stinks just because the weather is not sunny and warm.
Kym Hansen-Duell, LMSW, ACSW is a licensed social worker at the Pine Rest Traverse City Clinic. Kym has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Central Michigan University and a Master of Social Work from Grand Valley State University. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Kym is available to speak at community events on topics such as ADHD, depression, parenting, family issues and workplace stress.