Dialectical Behavioral Therapy/Core Mindfulness Skills/One-Mindfully
- • Do one thing at a time. When you are eating, eat. When you are walking, walk. When you are bathing, bathe. When you are working, work. When you are in a group, or a conversation, focus your attention on the very moment you are in with the other person. When you are thinking, think. When you are worrying, worry. When you are planning, plan. When you are remembering, remember. Do each thing with all of your attention.
- • If other actions, or other thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, let go of distractions and go back to what you are doing – again, and again, and again.
- • Concentrate your mind. If you find you are doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time.
One-mindfully is sustained attention on the present moment which develops concentration. This skill is easier when you are interested in something and much harder when you are not. When you are doing something that you totally love, focusing on it whole-heartedly is easy. Intense total involvement follows from passionate interest. But how do you focus your mind when the activity is not as compelling as your favorite thing to do?
This paper seeks to explain the mindfulness skill one-mindfully in conjunction with the other DBT skills of emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and the core mindfulness skills. One-mindfully is one of the “How” to take hold of your mind skills, along with non-judgmentally and effectively. The other mindfulness skills describe “What” to do to take hold of you your mind and include observe, describe, and participate. I have adopted the format of expanding Linehan’s instructions regarding one-mindfully with my explanations one-by-one.
Do one thing at a time.
- The essence of mindfulness is acting with undivided attention. One-mindfully is the discipline of doing one thing at a time with awareness. One-mindfully is the opposite of how most people operate. Most of us think that if we do several things at once, we will accomplish more, but in the behavior laboratory those instructed to do one thing at a time actually accomplished more than those instructed to multi-task.
- There are several advantages to doing one thing at a time besides increased productivity. When thoughts are racing, concentrating on one thing slows the mind. Doing one thing at a time decreases anxiety by focusing the mind on one thing, pushing from one’s mind preoccupations and worries.
- Like a guard at the palace gate who is alert to everything that happens you must be aware of every thought, emotion, and distraction. Such mindful watching brings your attention back to the present moment. Doing one thing at a time is like driving a car and takes constant adjustments regarding the road and traffic. But instead of a steering wheel and gas pedal, to stay in the present moment use the skills observe (just noticing the experience) and describe (putting words on the experience and the experience in words). Using words this way makes you aware of what you are doing.
When you are eating, eat.
- It is not unusual to mindlessly eat while watching TV, reading the paper, or walking around. Eating mindfully is very different experience than the way you normally eat. Mindfully eating concentrates on the eating experience. Only in the present moment do you experience the sensations of eating. When you are present you can taste, feel, and smell the fleeting sensations of your food. Mindful eating entails the effort to taste flavors, smell scents, and feel textures. Slow down to observe and describe the experience of eating. You are more likely to notice when you are feeling full when eating this way. If you pay attention to the sensation of satiety, you will probably stop eating sooner. Eating with sustained attention on the present moment helps you learn self-control and self-discipline.
When you are walking, walk.
- Walking, too, can be a way to take hold of your mind. This is mentioned in the describe section, “…say in your mind… walking, step, step, step…” Describing walking this way increases awareness of your self and environment. Your mind will slow as you focus on your movement.
When you are bathing, bathe.
- Some people have a routine they go through every time they shower that allows them to concentrate on their actions mindfully. Bathing offers many opportunities of self-soothing. Bathing with sustained attention is peaceful and calming. Those moments of the day when you are bathing may help you cope with stress, relieve anxiety, and cultivate mindfulness.
- Notice how water appears, feels, and sounds. Notice the smell of soap and shampoo. Notice the difference between wet and dry, hot and cold. Notice the transitions between turning on the water, getting in the water, wetting hair, shampooing, soaping, turning off the water, and drying. You will have the opportunity to repeat your observations daily.
When you are working, work.
- Work offers many opportunities for doing one thing at a time and overcome distractions. You may be surprised at how much you can be done if you set your mind to it. Such a commitment to work helps you learn mastery, the feeling of being competent and in control.
- Many people have told me that they do not have the same sorts of problems at work that they do at home. They admit that they are not willing to work for themselves as they are for others. Are you
- willing to work for what you want?
- What is your life’s work? How does your work express you and your place in the world? What attitude do you bring to the work you do? What part of your work is play and what part of play is work?
- When you are in a group, or a conversation, focus your attention on the very moment you are in with the other person.
- Skills class is an opportunity to practice one-mindfully by devoting your full attention to learning skills.
- In conversation, your ability to be interpersonally effective increases by practicing one-mindfully. No matter how nervous you are with another person, focusing your attention on the very moment you are in liberates you from troubling emotions such as doubt, worry, stress, and fear. Letting go of troubling emotions sounds easy but is so hard. But focusing with complete involvement leaves no room in consciousness for distractions like troubling emotions.
When you are thinking, think.
- Thinking this way is hard work! To think one-mindfully, try practicing the “How” skills observe, describe and participate with your thoughts in your mind. Observe is useful because you must be aware of where your attention is at all times. Observe is your mind’s eye, the witness to the fragile products of your thinking, your ideas. Describe is putting words on thoughts and your thoughts into words. When you enter into the experience of thinking completely, forgetting yourself, you are participating. Think without the distraction of judging. Effective thinking is flexible, intuitive and includes multiple perspectives. An inquisitive and open-minded attitude helps you see yourself and others from fresh perspectives.
When you are worrying, worry.
- An effective therapy for worry: set aside 30 minutes a day to worry. Go to the same place each day and try to spend the whole 30 minutes worrying. During the rest of the day, banish worries from your mind, reminding yourself that you will attend to that particular worry during your worry time. If you practice worrying one-mindfully, during the rest of the day, you will let go of your worries and free your mind to do something else.
When you are planning, plan.
- The essence of planning is setting goals. A workable goal is specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-conscious. Your intention to make the future a certain way is an appropriate here-and-now activity. Make plans for a life worth living. Use a calendar and a list of things to do to schedule small steps to a future you want.
When you are remembering, remember.
- A note about memory: there are voluntary and involuntary memories. Voluntary memories are the memories you choose to have and involuntary memories come unbidden.
- When you are remembering, you are not playing back a tape of the event – you are attending to the present moment mentally retrieving the past. Voluntary memory is a mental event grounded in your historical experience. There is an act of will in each memory. One could say that memory is conjuring the past, i.e., evoking or calling forth as if by magic. Note that memory takes effort, and if you want to remember something, you need to spend time remembering as many of the connected events as possible.
- Involuntary memories are intrusive, come unbidden, and can be quite distracting. One way to reduce the effect of intrusive memories of the past is to use the mindfulness techniques outlined here. It may seem backwards, but the Wise Mind way to deal with intrusive memories is to observe and describe them non-judgmentally (without an opinion about it). Avoid avoiding memories. Attend to your memory by attending to the present memory – non-judgmentally observe and describe it, and participate with it, if you can. Accepting your memory is not approving of its’ content. Notice it and then effectively go back to what you are doing. When you are not remembering, focus on the present moment.
Do each thing with all of your attention.
- Sustained mental attention or concentration is a powerful tool to bring to your daily activities. Doing each thing with all your attention will assist you doing what is needed in each situation. Connecting yourself to your activities with attention is a simple idea, but the benefit of doing one thing with all your attention is enormous.
- If other actions, or other thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, let go of distractions and go back to what you are doing – again, and again, and again. The effort of doing each thing with sustained mental attention requires a commitment. At first, you may only be able to focus your attention for a second. But try, try again.
- For many the problem is letting go of distractions. Letting go of distractions (especially memories) may feel like abandonment. Abandonment is a scary word for many, because they have been hurt so many times. Letting go of certain memories may feel like abandonment. You are leaving your old self (painful memories) and creating a new self.
- Awareness of your attention gives you the opportunity to direct it to one thing or another. Distractions will come from all directions. Let distractions go and turn your mind toward what you are doing. Returning to what you are doing is powerful.
- A deceptively simple strategy when you find your thoughts wandering astray is to say to yourself, “Be here now” and turn your mind toward what you are doing.
Concentrate your mind.
- Concentration is the gathering of the mind, bringing all the parts together, uniting the mental faculties. Attention is focusing on a selected object. Intuition, desire, and curiosity naturally concentrate your mind. Concentration is one of the qualities of Wise Mind.If you find you are doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time.
- Focusing on one thing in the moment does not mean that one cannot do complex tasks requiring many simultaneous activities. Like the dancer on the dance floor, at one with the music and her partner, attend completely to what you are doing. Dancing integrates many processes – listening, moving, looking, and balance, but you are still doing only one thing.