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, 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!

Uncategorized

Self Care

As a mental health professional, self care is paramount to my well being and ability to do my job well.  I often say that I won’t preach what I don’t practice, so I wanted to share with you five of my self care rituals.

1. Sleep.  My sleep is mandatory and highly schedule! I typically allow for 10 hours of sleep each night, knowing that sometimes it takes 15-20 minutes to unwind and fall asleep.  The longer block of time also allows for me to wake on my own (BEFORE the alarm startles me awake).  If my body happens to need more sleep, it is not difficult to get it with a 10 hour block.

2. Skin. I use a lot of lotion! I have a large bottle at every sink in my house, on my dresser, on my nightstand, in my purse and work bag, at my desk, etc.  I find putting on lotion to be a kind gesture to my body; whether it’s hands, elbows or feet.  It also allows me to pause for a moment several times a day just to reflect on the sensation.

3. Scents. I am an avid candle burner.  One of the first things I do when I get home is light a bunch of candles all over the house.  The warmth, flickering light, and scents are all very relaxing to me.  I also choose my body wash wisely, using a citrus in the morning and lavender in the evening.

4. Music. I always have music on. Records, playlists, Spotify, Pandora, radio, etc. Music to me is very soothing, both listening to it, searching for it, etc.

5. Me time. To me, this means scheduling time to explore.  From new stores, the library, trails, taking the scenic route or walking around the block.  I love to spend time exploring and learning about new places, people, and parts of the city I live in.

What do you do for self care?

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Mindfulness

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What is mindfulness? I love this topic and the practice; yet even I have a difficult time finding the words to describe what mindfulness succinctly.  In simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on purpose.  The concept is that you control your mind/thoughts instead of letting them control you.  Mindfulness has been around for hundreds of years and is often traced back to Buddhism.  The literal Sanskrit translation is awareness.  

Mindfulness is a skill and thus requires practice.  There are six core mindfulness skills according to the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy model, which are broken into “what” and “how” skills. The “what skills”, or what you need to do in order to be mindful, are to observe, describe, and participate.  The “how skills” encourage us to be non-judgmental, effective, and one mindfully in the moment.  Observing is about noticing your internal and external surroundings in a curious manner.  Describing encourages factual statements that everyone would agree with (note this requires you to be non-judgmental and thus becomes effective in reducing anger and gossip). Participating requires you to get out of your head and into the moment, targeting the anxiety that people often feel in new and/or social situations.  In order to be effective in the what skills, you need to apply the how skills. Using them together allows more time between a trigger and a response which reduces anxiety, depression, obsessions, and maladaptive behavior patterns such as self harm, substance abuse, and aggression. 

Examples of mindfulness practice are limitless, almost anything can be a mindfulness practice if done with intent and focus. Taking a walk is a practice if you open your eyes, take in your surroundings through all 5 senses and block any other thoughts from entering your mind.  Eating is often done mindLESSly; however eating mindfully-with no distractions and full awareness has been shown to reduce binge eating and overall meal enjoyment.  Art, dancing, building, meditating, breathing, applying lotion, showering, listening to music…all can be done with full awareness and can increase your ability to live in the moment fully, thus reducing depression and anxiety.

If you need to plan, as is essential in life, mindfulness would tell you to sit down with pen and paper and plan with your full attention. Take that time to worry, think and make decisions; then return to the here and now.  Mindfulness would also tell you that if you need to feel sad, you should reminisce and be sad as is justified; then return to the here and now.  As you notice your self judgments, mindfulness tells you not to judge your judging! 

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