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I have said it before, and I will say it again – mindfulness skills are incredibly important, and they will change your life.
Marsha Linehan, the founder of one of the most effective evidence-based treatments, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), found mindfulness so important that she made it one of the four primary tenets of DBT treatment and, as participants weave in-and-out of the other 3 tenets, they return to mindfulness between each of them.
Mindfulness is “the act of consciously focusing the mind in the present moment without judgment and without attachment to the moment.”
Mindfulness can be hugely helpful for those struggling with mental illness, as it helps us to ground ourselves in the present moment, to calm our automatic physical reactions, and to practice reality acceptance.
Mindfulness-based therapies have shown improved mental health outcomes in psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD as well as individuals struggling with eating disorders, substance use disorders, and medical disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, and heart disease .
Practicing mindfulness is not all meditation and chanting. In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t require that at all if that isn’t your thing.
In Linehan’s workings on mindfulness, she specifies “what” to do when practicing mindfulness as well as “how” to do it. The “What” skills will include observing, describing, and participating.
If you are in a tumultuous environment or headspace, consider simply attending to the current moment, not trying to change it, just observing what is happening at the moment.
When describing, look only at the facts of the circumstance, not ascribing any emotional attachment or inferring anything, simply looking at it as it is in black-and-white terms. For example, instead of saying, “she went off on him,” saying, “a woman was speaking to a man with her face very close to his face, her voice was raised, and she was wagging her finger.”
Looking at situations in this way can help us to remove the overwhelming emotional attachment and calm our minds. Participating involves entering completely into the events of that current moment without self-consciousness.
The “how” mindfulness skills involve engaging in it nonjudgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively. Nonjudgment is huge in mindfulness, as we cannot experience and accept the present moment while also judging it. Releasing judgment allows us to take in the moment as it is.
One-mindfully is to “focus the mind and awareness in the current moment’s activity rather than splitting attention among several activities or between a current activity and thinking bout something else .”
Using mindfulness skills effectively can be simply summarized as doing what works. It is the ability to let go of “being right” and simply using what is useful.
Finding “Wise Mind”
Another mindfulness concept is called “Wise Mind.” When we are emotionally turbulent, we are in “emotion mind,” when we are ruled by facts, plans, and evaluations, we are in “reasonable mind.”
The sweet spot mindfulness can bring us is “wise mind,” a combination of both our emotion and reasoning. Finding “wise mind” helps us to center ourselves into making effective decisions driven by our feelings as well as our logic.
To find “Wise Mind” in a challenging moment, create a Venn diagram and examine what your “emotion mind” and “logic mind” are saying and work toward combining the two to find “wise mind” at the center.
“I Own Nothing”
Finally, using mindfulness skills and finding peace in the present moment means practicing non-attachment and reality acceptance. Reality is as it is in this current moment, whether we love it or hate it. It is.
Accepting this can help us to stop fighting reality and, instead, discover how we can work within reality.
Non-attachment means letting go of the need to control, to dictate, or to alter the present. We release ourselves from the present moment defining us and, in doing so, free ourselves from thoughts of that present moment being the end-all-be-all.
This moment will pass, as will these emotions, and all will be well. Using these skills can help you to find peace in the present moment, even if the present moment is stressful.
As Linehan describes it, mindfulness is “a way of living with our eyes wide open. It is very difficult to accept reality with our eyes closed. If we want to accept what’s happening to us, we have to know what’s happening to us. We have to open up our eyes and look .”
In opening our eyes, looking at reality as it is in this current moment without judgment, and accepting it, we find freedom in the ability to ask ourselves, “what do I have control over changing in this reality?”
Resources: Linehan, M. (2015). DBT skills training manual: 2nd edition. The Guilford Press. New York, NY.  Coronado-Montoya, S., et al. (2016). Reporting of positive results in randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based mental health interventions. PLOS One.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published July 29, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 29, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC