DBT, mental health

Smile

DBT has a skill called the “half smile”.  Even the name brings on a smirk from people; however I want to take a moment to really explain this one…

Half smile is NOT about faking a smile or having a weird Cheshire Cat/Joker type cynical smile.  If I re-named this skill, I’d call it “pleasant expression”. Basically you are relaxing your facial muscles and then ever-so-slightly putting a pleasant expression on your face, almost as if you were recalling a lovely memory. When we use certain facial muscles, our brain is tricked into thinking we really are happy and it will send us the feel-good chemicals associated! It is so powerful and packs a big punch for being such a minor task.

Half smiling is similar to Tyra Banks “smize”.  If you actually watch WHAT she is doing differently between her normal face and her “smize”, she has ever so subtle crows feet appearing at the corners of her eyes, and the corners of her mouth are very slightly being tugged toward a smile.  These are minuscule details; however, your body will pick up on them and adjust accordingly!

 

Half smiling can be done at any point in your day for a mood boost, it works faster than caffeine and sugar! I would especially challenge you to half smile when you are irritated, it really takes the edge off! Mona Lisa is another great reference, she has the look perfected!

monalisa

 

Researcher Paul Ekman has in depth research available on his website that covers the science behind the half smile if you are interested on a deeper understanding! https://www.paulekman.com/

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DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Validation to Improve Relationships

Validation is the ability to communicate to another person that they, their perceptions, their feelings and/or their opinions are valid.  Our world tends to be quite Invalidating, in that we are berated with the message that we aren’t enough and we don’t make sense.  It reminds me of the teacher that we all had, that would correct your response even if you read from the text the exact answer.  Validation is a skill that will instantly improve relationships, especially if you learn to validate and then STOP.  The STOP is about not jumping into problem solving.  Think about how it feels when people hurl solutions to you (have you tried____________??) without taking time to understand the problem or communicate to you that the problem is anywhere near valid.

Validation requires you to find the truth in another person’s point of view.  This means that no matter how ___________ (dumb, pointless, absurd, irrational) you deem their experience to be, if you want to expedite their calming down, it is necessary for you to validate something. Validating is not the same as agreeing with them if you truly do not.  You could say something like “I can see that you are really passionate about this” or “It sounds like you had a difficult day and it has you feeling really depressed”.  If you agree with them, you can be more validating by saying “I think it makes sense that you feel that way” or “given your background, I understand why his statement bothered you”.  Letting someone know that you hear them will aide in their ability to calm down and thus problem solve.

Some tips for validating

  1. Make eye contact, stop what you are doing and put your phone down. Communicate to the other person that they are important enough that you can give undivided attention
  2. Pay attention to their body language and whether it is congruent (think slumped teenager saying “I’m fine” and attend to the one you believe is more authentic
  3. Be open to correction. If I think you have your head down because you are disinterested in what I am saying, I need to remain open to you correcting me and telling me you have a headache
  4. Communicate to them with your words, that you think the make sense either because of their history or because ANYONE would feel that way given their circumstances
  5. In unique situations, share the feeling with them (not one-upping them, not taking the focus off of them) ie: when they get REALLY good or REALLY bad news

 

I have a feeling that if you reflect on who you like to spend time with, they are a fairly validating people! If you can channel that person, it may be easier to validate by thinking “what would _________ say?” Take time to practice!

DBT

Mindfulness of Thoughts

As bizarre as it may seem, you do have the ability to control your thoughts! By and large, this seems to be a difficult concept for most people to grasp…like a mystic urban legend. I’m here to talk to you about exactly HOW it’s done! As previously discussed, mindfulness is all about noticing and being aware of what is happening in and around you; while remaining compassionate and non-judgmental.

So how does this relate to thoughts you ask?? First things first:
1. You must become AWARE of your thoughts: their patterns, intensity, nature, etc
2. Take a step back and just pause. Breathe. Your breathe is ALWAYS there for you; use it as your anchor.
3. Observe any urges associated with your thoughts. Do you have an urge to minimize it, block it or suppress it? Do you have an urge to maximize it, exaggerate it or cling to it? Neither of these options is mindfully allowing the thought to pass. Just as you would a raccoon on a trail hike, just notice the thought, acknowledge it, and keep on walking. No need to taunt it, no need to kick it, no need to feed it either!
4. Make a choice to mindfully (with intention) re-enter your day. Make a choice to be effective in the scenario you are in. This may mean problem solving, it may mean having a difficult conversation, it may mean LETTING GO of nagging thoughts.

You have so many options with thoughts, it’s a shame to just give into every single one and be at it’s mercy. Just because you have a thought, does not mean you need to act on it (let’s face it…that could be pretty awkward in some situations!). Just because you have a thought does not make it a FACT. (come on…did any of us see Pluto getting his planet status revoked!). Just because a thought is intense or pervasive, doesn’t mean it’s more important than other less frequent thoughts.

I urge you to take some time and consider these concepts. You may not have the ability to control which thoughts pop into your head…you DO have the ability to control what you do with them though!

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness of Color

color

My previous post got me thinking about color.  Color is all around us in nature, life, the foods we eat, the habitats we live and work in; and yet color is something we often overlook.  If I asked you to stop and tell me what color your neighbors house is, what color your boss’s car is, what color the tiles are at work or school…would you be able to?  Mindfulness is all about WAKING UP from auto-pilot.  Mindfulness of color can be a quick way to wake up and increase the amount of time you spend observing the present.

Try it…

Take the next few moment to spot something red…something orange…yellow…green…something blue…and purple.  You can expand from their if you would like: black, brown, white, pink…

Allow the search for color, really noticing the colors in your world, to anchor you to the present moment.  Stop worrying about what might happen or fretting about what did.  Come back to the now and take a moment to find the beauty and variety of color where ever you are.

DBT, mental health

Opposite Action and Posture

opposite action

Oh Chuck…

How right he is! It’s actually hard wired in our brains that posture and facial expression are directly related to our mood.  This means that holding your head down, having slumped shoulders, averting your gaze, and having a sullen facial expression will actually PROMOTE depression.  So next time you notice feeling depressed, with urges to stay in bed and/or isolate…remember this comic and do the opposite!  Get up, hold your head high, be around people and get active…tell that depression who’s boss!

DBT, mental health

Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors

ThoughtsBehaviorsFeelings

Thoughts, feelings, behaviors. They are all connected and the relationship is transactional.  This means that while one influences another, that change will in turn influence another factor.  None of the three can exist without the other two.

This begs the question, where do we make the change in our lives if we have suffering?  Do you change what thoughts you have, do you change your actions before or after the thoughts, or do you change how you feel about the situation?  The answer is ANY of the three will elicit change; however, I will tell you that I believe that it is easier to BEHAVE your way into thinking differently than it is to THINK your way into behaving differently.  Feelings will happen.

Think about it: You wake up to your alarm.  You are very tired as you didn’t sleep well.   You were up late crying, emotional about something that had happened.  Is it easier to get yourself to think “gee, I am so glad to be awake early! The fact that I have a headache from crying is no problem! I look forward to seeing people today who may ask me how I’m doing!” OR is it easier to get out of bed, turn on the radio to some upbeat music, and pour a bowl of fruity pebbles?  I imagine that if you try to change your thoughts, you may end up with anxiety, dread, sadness (and you may never get out of bed, at least not on time!)…whereas if you try to change your behavior, you may actually feel pride, competence and contentment.

We know it is one of the HARDEST things to do, to act differently than we may feel.  Think back to the last time you were feeling depressed, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to get you to go exercise!  The last time you were really anxious, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to convince you to go lay down and listen to a meditation.  And the last time you were fuming mad, I bet it would have been difficult to get you to go for a walk…and yet this is what I suggest! Why would I suggest something so radically difficult? Mainly because if you do, you will see how quickly it remedies the intensity of the emotion and thoughts.  I propose that if you do it a few times in a row, you will begin to trust the process…this is pretty much what all people with good habits say about how they stick to their routines!

So work on doing the opposite of your (ineffective) urge and see if the thoughts and feelings come along in a helpful way!

DBT, Inspiration

Values

Has anyone ever asked you what your values are? It seems like such a simple question and yet it’s quite complicated! Values are such an abstract concept that people often don’t know what they actually are.  Values are personality traits, beliefs or principles that increase your feeling of self worth.  Values should make you feel more confident in your identity and when relied on, will guide you in making decisions you feel proud of.

 A (very short) list of values:

  • Creativity
  • Fitness
  • Spirituality
  • Belonging
  • Mastery
  • Intellect
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Gratitude
  • Loyalty
  • Patriotism
  • Health
  • Altruism
  • Professionalism
  • Security
  • Achievement
  • Independence
  • Faith
  • Accomplishment
  • Fluency
  • Challenge
  • Balance

 

What I would recommend you do is make a list of your core values. The internet is an amazing resource here, searching for lists of values will produce immediate results.  Once you have your list, see if you can group any of them into categories. For instance, if you chose faith, spirituality, and belonging you could group them into spirituality.  Or if you chose fitness, accomplishment and health you could consider them as a whole.  Step three is to develop an action plan.  Figure out how to incorporate you values into your life.  With the example of spirituality, you could join a church community to feel a part of something while also nurturing your spiritual life.  If you are working on the fitness goal, you may set a goal of a 5K run to satisfy your value of accomplishing something that also improves your health and fitness.  Working toward goals that are aligned with your values will increase your sense of self, thus improving your self esteem.

DBT

Eat. Sleep. Exercise

I really can’t begin to label or quantify the value of good self care.  Humans are equipped with amazing capabilities to self regulate…if only we would use them.

 A balanced diet helps alleviate mood swings.  We (generalizing for Americans) live on a cycle of sugar highs and sugar lows. We eat a low quality breakfast…if we eat any breakfast at all…which floods the brain with chemicals and overwhelms our neuro-functioning; this results in hyperness, motivation, and energy.  As a result of this flooding however; our bodies secrete insulin to suck up all the sugar like a vacuum leaving us feeling lethargic and moody.  This cycle repeats itself after lunch and dinner as well. Think about it…when do you reach for the candy bar? 10am, 2pm, 9pm…a few hours after each meal! Eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats ensures that our food (including a healthy amount of sugar) gets broken down over time and reduces that roller coaster of moodiness.

Exercise.  I feel like this is a mute point in some ways. My goal is not to be preachy; it is to motivate you into action. The science behind working out is limitless and boils down to this: if you move your body your mind will feel better.  Physical exercise can helps your brain secret endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine…all of which alleviate depressive symptoms.  Consider for a moment the cost of getting those chemicals elsewhere: prescription drugs, theme parks, extramarital affairs… Are those effective or realistic on a regular basis? Exercise also builds mastery. If you become fluent and experienced in a form of movement (yoga, running, lifting weights) it will build your confidence and overall satisfaction in life.

Sleep. Just do it, stop fighting it…put your Smartphone away and close your eyes.  Did you know that your brain cannot convert anything into memory until you are asleep? That may explain why you don’t remember the details of yesterday or last week as clearly as you would expect.  Our bodies are not machines; on a cellular level your body needs sleep to repair itself. Sleep allows time for the immune system to do its job and ward off viruses and bacterial infections.  It also helps you to reduce your overall stress level. So next time you want to watch the next episode on Netflix, play the next level on a game, or return one more e-mail, ask yourself what you need more: your health or 30 more minutes of your activity…