{Mental Health Mondays} What Is Mindfulness?


At its core, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) utilizes the concept of mindfulness. All of its modules and skills training build upon that foundation. But what is mindfulness, exactly, from a mental health standpoint?

In her amazing resource DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, DBT founder Marsha Linehan defines mindfulness as “[i]ntentionally living with awareness in the present moment … [w]ithout judging.” She says that doing so allows us to “[r]educe suffering and increase happiness,” as well as come to a better acceptance of reality as it is.

Sounds great, but let me tell you, mindfulness is hard work. It’s a practice, and takes the same level of perseverance as learning an instrument or a foreign language. Staying present in the moment requires a tremendous amount of focus; you’re constantly bringing your restless mind back to the simplicity of whatever task is before you, whether it be washing dishes or actively meditating.

And doing so without judgment? Even harder. When I first started practicing, I even found myself judging my inability to refrain from judging! (My brain is a serious jerk.) But after a while, I found tuning into the present moment to be extremely calming. (My favorite activity to practice with? Making risotto — all that stirring!)

In future posts, I’ll cover the skills and practices that flow from mindfulness. Stay tuned.

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