Mindfulness for Reactivity

Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to the present moment without  judgement. It is a way of noticing your surroundings, situations, emotions, behaviors, and other aspects without analyzing what these things mean. Observation, or data collection, of the present moment is a way of thinking about mindfulness. This ability to become aware of what’s happening in a moment without judgement can decrease re- activity. This allows for better self-regulation and increases positive experiences. This may sound simple, and self-help books are full of suggestions for mindfulness such as mindful eating, yoga, meditation, and sensory awareness activities. The active art of mindfulness, however, may be more complicated than described. 

 Mindfulness in DBT and for well-being are generally geared towards decreasing the emotional responses that our beliefs lead to. For example, a spouse accused of not taking the trash out may become angry if it was their belief that it was the other person’s job to take the trash out. Mindful listening can lead to better communication and conflict resolution. Instead of arguing about taking out the trash, the trash is taken out and the job is assigned for the next time. While this example may seem small, this continued mindfulness will lead to a better relationship for the two individuals over time. In this way, mindful activities improve our moods and the relationships we have with others. 
 One mindfulness exercise, observe and describe, can help build mindfulness through practice. Sit down with a fruit. Notice the fruit and begin to describe it. How does the fruit look? What color, shape, and size is the fruit. Use each sense to describe the fruit. How does it smell? What does the texture feel like? Can you describe the taste of the fruit? The link above provides a list of activities intended to work with and improve mindfulness. This sounds silly, but this practice will open the mind for noting the details that are often overlooked. 

It can be helpful to keep a journal when working with mindfulness. Keep a log of how it’s going and any fears, failures, and successes. If you are not one to journal, explore teaching mindfulness to others to help you integrate this into your life. Speaking with a therapist or life coach trained in mindfulness can also help with the process. Explore what curiosity without judgement is like. I hate journaling, so creating something (drawing or building) is much easier for me than journaling. Do what works for you. 
 Allow self-compassion as you transition from a space of reacting with your emotions to mindful observation. This is a difficult task for most because our brains are designed for survival. Judgement and reactions are pivotal in surviving emergencies. Not one person is successful with being mindful 100% of the time. Accept yourself where you are and learn from your experiences.