Breathing, a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skill, is Helpful in Everyday Life
Right now, as you are reading this . . . . stop. Don’t race through to get to the end. Instead, pause, and practice these easy steps from 's Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program:
- Put your hand on your belly. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Let your breath fill your lungs and notice your hand moving away from your spine.
- Now, breathe out slowly, fully and completely, through your mouth. Observe your hand move toward your spine.
- Repeat this cycle of breathing for two minutes.
You may find your mind is a bit quieter. You may feel a release of tension in your body. You are more relaxed.
Congratulations. You have just taken control of your own reset button.
In two minutes, you have practiced a deep breathing mindfulness exercise. At Silver Hill, we call this belly breathing.
Mindfulness teaches you to pause and reflect
Mindfulness is one of the skills we teach in our residential Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Program. Patients struggling with intense emotions, impulsivity and self-harming behaviors can benefit from DBT. DBT is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance-based interventions. Patients learn skills to manage emotions, tolerate distress, manage interpersonal interactions and to live life mindfully. If indicated, pharmacological treatments are used in conjunction with the program. Silver Hill offers one of the few residential DBT programs available in the world. The typical length of stay is four weeks.
There are elements of DBT that we can all use in our daily lives and one of them is the concept of mindfulness.
Mindfulness means bringing your complete attention to the present moment — to fully participate in your life. When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, taking a breath allows you to step back and take a moment to pause. The pause gives you time to reflect and be proactive rather than reactive. Giving yourself time helps you become more energetic and more productive.
I tell our patients that they already carry all the tools they need to practice mindfulness because they bring their breath with them everywhere — no special equipment required. If you can remember to breathe, you will always have the key to living in the present moment.
Making a list can reduce anxiety too
There are other techniques to assist you in living mindfully. If your life is too busy, and you feel anxious, make a list. Taking the stress out of your mind and putting it on paper can give you a little space.
It may sound counterintuitive, but it works. Each day, in the morning or the night before, write down all the tasks that are spinning in your mind. Prioritize what must get done and what you would like to do. Make a plan for the day and refer to your list throughout the day to help you manage your time.
The first time you try it, you will probably overestimate what you can do. But over time you’ll begin to be more realistic about what can be accomplished in a day. With that perspective, you will be more mindful and less stressed.
For those who would like to learn more about mindfulness, the Silver Hill Patient Library recommends the following books:
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
- Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn
- The Mindful Way Through Depression, Mark Williams
- Five Good Minutes -100 Morning Practices to Help You Stay Calm & Focused All Day Long, Jeffrey Brantley, MD and Wendy Millstine
If you practice mindfulness every day, your life will slow down. We may not be able to eliminate all of the to-dos from our lives, but we can manage how we respond. DBT teaches patients how to live with attention and intention — a life worth living. Best of all, you already have all of the tools you need to get started.
Denise Kearns, RN
Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program Manager
Silver Hill Hospital