Tag Archives: DBT

The Physiology of Mindfulness

The business world is abuzz with mindfulness. But perhaps you haven’t heard that the hype is backed by hard science. Recent research provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) changes the brain, and it does so in ways that anyone working in today’s complex business environment, and certainly every leader, should know about.

Not sure how I missed this article in January, but I guess it’s never too late. Read more about mindfulness and its positive effects on the brain in the Harvard Business Review.

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just breathe.

It’s amazing how sometimes we need kids to teach us how to be adults.

By Wavecrest Films, as seen on Amy’s Smart Girls (.com) and Upworthy.

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When you reach the point that you can appreciate the wonder in every one of your feelings, you will start realizing that there is more to life than just “happiness.” Every part of it has its wonders. What’s better than “happiness” is fascination, and interest, and commitment to maintaining light and love within yourself. Every situation is dimensional, and when you start realizing the possibility in any given situation, you will start understanding what it means to be alive.

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Back to Borderline.

“The urge was addictive, and I couldn’t think of anything else but ending my life. The ability to see how my death would hurt others was lost to me, and I still don’t quite know why I went back home after two hours. I stopped being angry, I think.

I have never considered suicide when depressed; even thinking about it would be too much effort in that situation. However, anger and panic are what drive me to think such thoughts, to harm myself, to chain-smoke and take more pills than I should. Any type of fear sends me into a blind panic; I just don’t know how to deal with the emotions. Or any emotion, really.”

From Halfway Between the Gutter.

While my therapist/psychiatrist and I established that I do not, clinically, have Borderline Personality Disorder (a constant nagging fear of which haunts me with surprising regularity), I definitely DO exhibit some serious BPD traits.  The above quote from HBG was like a lightbulb for me: it’s not depression that makes me think life is worthless, it’s anger and fear!  I’ve discussed my inability to name my emotions before, and with this new insight I feel like I have one more glimpse into the dysregulated organ that is my brain. Now to determine if I’m actually angry in these situations, or if it’s all a manifestation of fear. Specifically, the fear of being betrayed. Well, of being betrayed and not knowing about it. But still.

New goal: let’s separate the three emotions and figure out a better way to respond.  Like, now.  Actually like, two weeks ago would be nice. But you can’t undo the past, right? Dang it. #dbt.

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naming the emotion

I just posted a comment on Jaen Wirefly’s blog and I thought maybe I’d post it here to remind myself and share the skill with others that may not know it.  Jaen is a smart cookie so I’m not saying anything she doesn’t already know, but I know from experience that being a social worker means we learn an incredible amount of skills and it’s impossible to remember them all the time.  Espesh when we live with emotional dysregulation ourselves.  Anyway, here’s my comment:

“One of the things we can learn to do is name our emotions – we tend to only think of things as “ANGRY” or “devastated :( ” or “SO HAPPY :D ” so we think we have a smaller range of emotions. But learning to define our emotions with other names and to distinguish between them, to learn that while we are experiencing SO ANGRY we can also experience other emotions, helps us to let them go and/or respond to them more appropriately. Just a thought!


A brilliant professor of mine said we can learn to see our emotions as if on a ticker tape (does anyone even know what that is anymore, ha) – we can view it separate from our bodies, watch it go by, watch it leave…which then gives us room to see what comes next on that ticker tape.  To experience the next emotion…to let go of the one that makes us feel so out of control.

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Mood tracking

One of the steps in learning mindfulness is to “check in” with your moods (and your reactions to them and the thoughts that surround them) throughout the day.  Homework in various counseling approaches include mood diaries, feelings charts, etc. because so many of us don’t take the time (or don’t know how) to name our feelings and identify how they affect our behaviors – which in turn affect our thoughts about ourselves and then our feelings.  It’s a complicated cycle at first (because sometimes it’s the automatic thought that triggers the feelings that trigger the behavior, and sometimes it’s an external trigger that brings up a feeling in our body that makes us act a certain way that makes us think a certain way that makes us feel a certain way…..et cetera).  But over time the cycle gets broken up into smaller parts that are much easier to deal with, and the best part is that when you adjust one part it causes the rest of the pattern to be interrupted and you can choose how to adjust them, too.  Because it’s a cycle.  You get it right?

So here is a great way to track your mood on your iPhone or other smartphone.  My professor recommended it and I already love it:


On your phone you can just search for “t 2 mood tracker,” and it’s FREE.  It doesn’t just ask how you feel, it asks you to rate different levels of anxiety, stress, tiredness, loneliness, etc.  It charts these over time and you can add notes whenever you want, such as “I just got run over by a bicycle, not feeling so great” so that you can account for sudden or dramatic shifts in mood.

The best part?  It reminds you to do it! In the settings you can ask it to check-in with you and at the allotted hour(s) it pops up on your screen with a “how are you feeling right now?” reminder.

So easy, so not intrusive, and so helpful.

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I’m sad today.

I know that it’s okay to be sad, to have times where you just don’t feel good.  As I’ve mentioned before, though, I don’t trust happiness in the slightest, and I’m much more prone to believing the personalized critic that follows me around during times of discontent.  What I’m saying is that when I get sad…I’m afraid I’m going to stay sad.  And that I’m a sad person. And what is wrong with me.

Everyone has bad days.  And all of us, not just the ones with an Axis I diagnosis, experience emotional dysregulation in our daily lives.  When we’re a little too angry at the person that cut us off, a little too teary eyed at an adorable dog food commercial, or a little too excited about the many uses of WD-40.  (Look it up.  It’s exciting, okay?)

So what I’m learning as I study CBT and DBT is that I have choices and agency over my thoughts/feelings/behaviors.  And the three of those things, while interconnected, are not the same thing.  If I can distinguish between them and name my feelings and change my thoughts — well then, I can start reacting in different ways and avoid [some of] this unexplained sadness!


Much harder than it sounds, I guess.  But it’s totally working.  Already I’ve started a tape in my head about “goal-directed behavior” versus “mood-directed behavior.”  Essentially, many times we make our next moves in a day, in life, based on how we feel.  I want to exercise, but I don’t feel like it so I don’t.  I want to be more spiritual, but I don’t feel like going to church today so I don’t.  Sometimes it’s okay to “not feel like it,” but if you’re like me it’s easy for every behavior to become mood-directed.  With bipolar I have to learn to define my goals and perform tasks because they are in the best interest of my goals, dreams, life-vision, even if I don’t feel like it.  It’s a basic concept some people inherently understand: I want to be thinner so I exercise, I want to rest this weekend so I write my papers today.  For me it seems so much more difficult than that! My moods change so drastically, even while I am medicated, that I can get exhausted from an emotional standpoint before I’ve even done anything.

But this “goal-directed” thing has stuck with me.  I wanted to nap so badly yesterday and today, but I realize that, even though it’s the only thing I felt like doing, that I really wanted to end my day at an earlier time, get a full night’s rest, and feel productive.  I wanted to complete my to-do list for the day.  I want to stop needing a nap in the afternoons every day so that I will feel more social and creative in the evenings.

So I didn’t.  Nap, that is.  I walked around, I didn’t sit down when I got home, and I headed out to run errands rather than sleep.  I made something. I started a project.  And now I’m blogging.  All because I’m telling myself to not let my [stupid] moods dictate my behavior.  Because I’m constantly saying it to myself, catching myself, reminding myself.

It’s CBT and DBT in action: mindfulness, identifying automatic thoughts, using behavior to change your feelings, feelings to change your thoughts, etc.  It’s difficult, and it’s a tiny step.  But that’s the only way we change – in the small steps.

And look.  I’m already feeling better.  Now that I think about it…I’m not even sad anymore.

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