Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The “How’s” of Mindfulness: Effectively

We’ve gone over how to be mindful Non-Judgmentally and One-Mindfully (is it just me or is this word a little cumbersome to place grammatically?) so today we’re going to finish up with learning to be Effectively mindful.

It’s exactly what it sounds like it is. Learning any new skill takes time, training, and practice. As you practice your proficiency becomes more refined and your ability to utilize those skills becomes more effective. This allows you to maximize the benefits of the skills you’re developing.

In short, to be effective you need to do what works. And developing the skills that will aid you in coping with life situations are what work.

In DBT the major skills that you learn are core mindfulness (which is what I’ve been talking about), emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. Your whole goal is to bring about the most positive outcomes you can and effectively implementing these skills are major aids in helping you achieve a more balanced, less stressful life. And let’s face it, living a life that is less earth shattering, and actually happier, is the entire point. Not traumatizing everyone else around us is also a pleasant bonus.

As I’ve mentioned though, it takes time and practice, and yes even patience, to really get a handle on some of these skills and ways of thinking. Being effectively mindful is not about the end result. It’s about the process. Every time you try and make these changes, and use this thinking you’re increasing the positive outcome of your mental journey. It’s about developing the skills, connecting to the moment you’re in, and focusing your mind on creating more positive outcomes.
In order to do this it’s important to not avoid the problems we face. This is something that is EXTREMELY difficult for me to do. I love to avoid my problems, bury my emotions, push them aside and leave them to rot in a dark hole until they fester and infect my psyche. This is bad. There are a lot of ways to learn to actively engage your problems that DBT helps you learn. One of the key benefits that I find with this is it allows you to gain control. This isn’t something that’s really talked about as far as I’ve seen, but I know my big issue is control.

I avoid things I don’t have control over. Lacking control creates an intense anxiety in me. Avoid problems and emotions leaves the possibilities open to endless ruminations and wanderings of the mind. You can’t see an end to the problem when you refuse to even look at the problem directly. One of the best ways to regain control and put your mind at ease, is constructive confrontation. Identify the problem, square up your shoulders, and pop it straight in the nose. Figuratively speaking (especially if your problem is a person – physical assault is also bad). When you confront your problem effectively you can begin to create constructive solutions. At the very least you can channel your emotions directly and release them in a healthy way instead of letting them fester. But you need to be WILLING to take a look at the situation. A willingness to change is key to living a healthier lifestyle. No one can make you change. Change has to come from within. You must be willing to take some responsibility for the life you want to lead.
Once you’ve made the decision to change you also need to be willing to follow through and do what needs to be done for each scenerario whether it’s something you want to do or not. As much as I would love for life to be all puppies and rainbows, sometimes we have to do things we’d rather not do because it’s actually in our best instance (like telling Friend how his actions hurt me, even though there’s the potential for him to be mad at me). When you are willing to face a situation, you are in a place to recognize the reality of it. Sometimes it’s painful, not everything in life is easy, but being willing to accept the distressing aspects of life, actually reduces the intensity of the loss and pain because you can see it for what it is. A problem with me, and many with BPD, is that our imaginations run the fuck away with us. The monsters in our mind are by far worse than the scrappy little mutt of reality. Being willing to face the pain, allows you to recognize that the monster isn’t real, and what you’re actually faced with is much more manageable.

“Act as skillfully as you can, meeting the needs of the situation you are in. Not the situation you wish you were in; not the one that is just; not the one that is more comfortable; not the one that… Meeting the situation you are in may require you to dismiss your wishes, abandon your ideas of justice, and leave your comfort zone.”
  • Wishing is a way to avoid. Wishes indicate that you are trying to solve your problems by magic not by using skills.
  • Thoughts of injustice provoke anger and increase stress. If the situation is not just, remember, life is not fair.
  • Comfort is temporary. Tolerating discomfort is much easier if you learn distress tolerance skills. [source]
And don’t forget to incorporate the rest of yourmindfulness into each situation. Observe what is happening. Don’t judge it. Decide to participate by effectively facing the situation and doing what you need to do to make the most of the situation. Not all situations turn out great, but they can certainly turn out better than you fear.  

Because srsly, this guy knows what he's talking about.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Haven,
    One of the hardest things for so many of us is letting go, and trusting ourselves to be able to manage whatever life throws at us, and stay in the moment, instead of worrying or using our vivid imaginations to imagine what might go wrong! You are so right.
    Mindfulnes is a hugely useful (but not always easy LOL) skill to develop. Its so helpful that you are sharing this with all your readers.



Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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