Being Mindful of Current Thoughts

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Distress Tolerance skills are a set of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills that are strategies to help you get though difficult feelings and situations, and tolerate (deal with, sit with, accept) the things that you can’t immediately change. Emotions can be extreme and lead to behaviors that are ineffective. You may not be able to change the stressful situation you’re in, but you can change the way you feel. Distress Tolerance skills are aimed to make your response to distress more effective.

Mindfulness of Current Thoughts is a Reality Acceptance Skill, meaning a DBT skill that can help you accept your distress to decrease your suffering. 

To practice Mindfulness of Current Thoughts:

  • Observe your thoughts: They are merely waves, coming and going. Do not judge or analyze them. Let them float along out of your mind. Do not cling to them, acknowledge their presence and move on. Practice Willingness.
  • Adopt a curious mind: Wonder where your thoughts come from and observe them to find out. 
  • Remember that you are not your thoughts: Do not automatically act on your thoughts. Remember times when you’ve thought differently or how you think when you’re not suffering. Remind yourself that Catastrophizing is part of Emotion Mind.
  • Don’t suppress your thoughts: Don’t avoid thoughts. Ask yourself what sensations your thoughts are trying to avoid and then Turn Your Mind between the sensation and the thought repeatedly. Be playful with your thoughts. Sing them, use a silly voice to say them aloud, imagine them as cute animals or bright colors. Try loving your thoughts, as difficult as that might be.

There are a few different ways to practice this skill as mentioned in the list above. Observe your thoughts, say them aloud in a silly voice, or practice opposite action. Here are some additional ways to practice:

  • Practice different thought diffusion techniques such as imagining your thoughts are clouds in the sky, cars on a train, or leaves on a creek. Observe each cloud, train car, or leaf as it passes by. 
  • Perform a body scan incorporating your thoughts. Observe the first sensation you notice in your body, then scan your mind for the first thought you notice. Go back and forth between scanning for sensations and scanning for thoughts. You can also scan for emotions.
  • Pretend you’re on a talk show or a sitcom and voice your thoughts aloud in that format.
  • Imagine things you would do if you stopped believing everything you think, if you acknowledged your thoughts are not facts. 
  • Practice the conveyor belt Mindfulness technique. Imagine you’re in front of a conveyor belt. Take each thought and place it in a box on the conveyor belt. Box it up as creatively as you’d like – with tape, chains, in a chest, etc. Then label the box with the type of thought it is (worry thought, memory, etc.) and send it off down the conveyor belt.
  • Say your thoughts aloud so fast or so slowly that you can’t recognize them as words anymore.