Our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel. Some of these thoughts aren’t even true, but are a result of the stories and beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. Without the proper tools, sometimes these thoughts are allowed to run like a tape in the background. This can take a huge toll on your mental health. We are sharing 5 DBT methods that will help you make changes in your brain and live a happier life:
Checking the facts
Have you ever had what felt like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to something and then later regretted it? Checking the facts is a DBT skill that helps you pause before reacting to something. When you are experiencing a powerful emotion, it can be easy to let those emotions cloud your judgement. When this happens, pause, step back, assess the situation, and ask yourself “Is this true? Is the way that I am feeling or thinking about a situation factual?” After you ask yourself this, check the facts to prove whether or not your response is appropriate. What is great about this method is that it encourages you to think before you react, and it also encourages you to respond from a place of rhyme and reason rather than letting your emotions cloud your judgement. You shouldn’t ignore your emotions, but you also shouldn’t act solely on emotion. Balance is necessary!
“What’s the worst thing that can happen” method
Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, our brains make things out to be scarier than they really are. This is called catastrophizing–we can get so freaked out and uncomfortable that we feel like we want to run away and hide under the covers all day. This just isn’t realistic, and it’s necessary to learn how to function in the real world despite what your anxiety wants you to believe. To move past this, start by asking yourself these questions: What am I afraid will happen? What possible outcomes give me the most anxiety? What is the worst thing that can possibly happen? Next, you will want to challenge the thoughts that come up by asking yourself additional questions, such as: Has anything this bad ever happened before? Is it likely to happen now? What evidence do I have that supports this thought? What evidence do I have that refutes it?
Then, take what you discovered after you challenged your thoughts, and come up with three truthful and balanced thoughts. Make sure they are accurate and factual representations of the situation.
Benign Interpretation is interpreting situations in the most agreeable way possible. You are seeing things just as they are, descriptively and without inference, interpretation, or judgement.
Oftentimes, something happens to us in a social situation, like a friend doesn’t greet us the way they normally would, and we assume the worst–they are mad at me, I’ve done something wrong, they now hate me, etc.
Instead of jumping to the worst possible conclusion, benign interpretation is a tool that helps you be less emotionally reactive and helps you give other people the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t have all the facts, having a benign interpretation helps you avoid unnecessary stress and remain calm.
We are so conditioned to judge circumstances as good or bad. Circumstances are neither good nor bad, they just are. What makes things feel positive or negative are the thoughts and emotions that we have about the circumstance. When we observe and open ourselves up to thinking differently, we experience more peace. Pausing to observe and describe what is happening gives you the opportunity to approach your situation without judgement.
When we practice being non-judgemental, we are opening the doors for radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a skill that is used to reduce unnecessary suffering. If you accept reality fully and completely, without judgement, it will be easier for you to move through challenging situations. Instead of giving in to the suffering, you non-judgmentally accept what is happening, allowing the emotions to move through you. To practice radical acceptance, you can use the DBT skill “turning the mind”, which helps you turn away from what you are resisting and towards acceptance. If you’re still struggling to accept, you can help yourself relax and be more open by acting as if you did radically accept and going from there.
Click here to read last week’s article on how therapy can help your creativity.
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