Futures Recovery

DBT Decoded: Mindfulness “How Skills” in Action

The How Skills: Non-Judgmentally, One-Mindfully, and Effectively are actions that contribute to a healthy mindfulness practice.

Non-Judgmentally – the act of taking a non-judgmental stance. In order to begin observing our thoughts and emotions objectively, we must commit to being non-judgmental about them. Within our mindful practice, there are no good thoughts, bad thoughts, unwanted thoughts, or welcomed thoughts. They are all equal because we don’t judge. Part of the relief we experience in mindfulness is the letting go of our opinions. By doing so we’re able to let go of the stress that comes from trying to resist that which causes us pain. Such resistance can become a contributing factor, or even the source, of suffering. Because we’re human and judgment is within our nature, we’re likely to be challenged by this part of mindful practice. That’s okay. When we notice ourselves judging, we know that we’ve wandered from mindfulness, and we begin again. Mindfulness is a vacation from judgement, so we don’t judge ourselves for noncompliance. We simply notice, treat ourselves with understanding and compassion – and begin again. Like the basketball player who endeavors to make a shot, the nonjudgmental approach of mindfulness is akin to the good technique of having a balanced stance. With legs shoulder-width, and the body squared up to the basket, we are setting up for a successful shot.

One-Mindfully – the act of focusing on one thing at a time. This is the opposite of multitasking; a common habit associated with our modern, overstimulated environment. By engaging in tasks with one-mindfulness, we strengthen our ability to engage in one practice at a time. Meditation is a one-mindfully practice that allows us to focus our mind and let go of distractions. Within our everyday lives, we can act one-mindfully by simply completing a task without pausing to check email, answer the phone, or concern ourselves with another pending task. We can choose to cook, eat, play music, listen, swim, or do anything one-mindfully. With our mind focused on the basket — thinking only of the strength and projection needed to complete the shot — One-Mindfulness gives us the best chance for flawless execution.

Effectively – the act of applying mindful concepts, learning, and honing our practice. To be effective means that we progress and strengthen our mindful muscles as we move along. As we practice mindfulness, we become more aware of the spaces between our thoughts and our actions – giving ourselves a newfound ability to reduce impulsivity – an especially valuable tool for people recovering from the disease of addiction. Becoming more skillful at the practice of mindfulness enhances our ability to effectively reduce judgment (of ourselves and others), let go of emotions that hinder us and to nurture our sense of compassion. The act of beginning again when we notice our mind wandering is an effective act that strengthens our resilience. Simply stated, when we practice mindfulness effectively, the positive takeaways are unlimited. With a nonjudgmental stance forming the base of sound technique and our ability to focus one-mindfully, all that’s left is to effectively take the shot. Hit or miss, it’s a thing of beauty.

Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment

Mindfulness-based stress management techniques have been proven effective in the treatment of stress- and anxiety-based disorders. When incorporated into a well-rounded mental health or addiction treatment program, the practice of mindfulness through mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) can provide patients with a useful tool to control the effects of anxiety, fear, agitation, phobias, panic, and other stress-related mental health issues.

How Do I Practice Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” is another way of saying “noticing the small things in the moment.” Actively being in your present moment can help you to avoid obsessing over the past, worrying about the future, or otherwise drowning in emotional responses to stressful issues. To some, it may be easier said than done. Shutting off the mind can be difficult. So how do you do it? There are a number of different techniques. Paying attention to your breath and breathing is a great place to start. Focusing on nothing but the breath coming and going from the body, feeling it enter the nose, fill the lungs, and leave the body can be a positive initial practice in mindfulness. During this period, there should be no active thoughts in your head. You are to do nothing but notice your breath. Another way to describe the practice is to define it as a form of meditation in which you quiet your inner dialogue and focus solely on the sensations of the body.

What Disorders Benefit From the Use of Mindfulness?

Any mental health disorder that is characterized by insomnia, a decreased ability to manage stress, increased anxiety, or depression would benefit from a treatment plan that includes the practice of mindfulness for stress management. This includes:

  • Eating disorders. Self-awareness, acceptance and self-criticism all decrease for people struggling with bulimia, anorexia or eating disorders after MSBR treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder has been shown to improve with mindfulness treatment.
  • Panic attacks. Panic attacks can be mitigated when MSBR techniques are used.
  • Phobias. The overwhelming nature of phobias can be reduced when mindfulness is practiced during the stress period.
  • Depression. Improved mood has been associated with MSBR techniques as well.
  • Substance abuse. A number of issues related to substance recovery – insomnia, emotional outbursts, depression, anxiety, etc. – can be improved by the practice of mindfulness.

How Quickly Does the Practice of Mindfulness Produce Results?

The peaceful and calming effects of mindfulness and meditation increase over time. The more you practice, the more lasting the positive effects in your life, and the more quickly you will begin to see a lessening of the impact of stress.

Is Mindfulness About Sitting Still?

Though the goal is to still the mind, it is not necessary to still the body. Many people find that they best benefit from mindfulness techniques learned in stress management when they do something to occupy their hands. Focusing on the breath while practicing a passive activity can increase the calming effects and decrease the chances that your inner dialogue will drown out your peace. While practicing mindfulness, some people enjoy:

  • Gardening
  • Walking or jogging
  • Knitting
  • Cleaning the house
  • Listening to soft music (usually without lyrics) or playing music

Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Right for You?

Almost everyone can benefit from incorporating the techniques and philosophies of mindfulness into their lives, but most who are struggling with issues like an eating disorder or substance abuse will almost always find that their experience in treatment improves when they practice mindfulness. If you would like more information, contact us at Futures today.