From the time in college that I believe pursuing a philosophy minor on top of a nursing and history major, transitioning into an English and creative writing major with a theatre minor (trust me, my college journey baffles me as much as you), I have believed one core fact about any writing: core terms need to be defined and universally understood before you use them to explain something.
From this perspective, especially with the recent rise of “mindfulness” as a buzzword in the mental health and holistic spaces, I feel it is prudent and necessary to define it for the purposes of this article as this definition informs how I believe mindfulness serves the purpose of reshaping negative thought patterns.
My definition of Mindfulness comes from Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), while not being the first instance or definition, I find it to be one of the longest running and most complete. (as an aside, I credit DBT and my therapist Amber Chan for saving my life).
DBT mindfulness is the practice of staying present in the current moment, keeping your thoughts and actions focused on what you are doing at the time. What you are doing is determined by 1 of 3 “What” skills: Observing, Describing, or Participating. You do one of these 3 skills while using all 3 “How” skills, One-Mindfully, Non-Judgmentally, and Effectively.
Understanding this definition goes a long way towards understanding how mindfulness can reshape your negative thought patterns. Because something that is very obviously missing from that definition is words like meditation, yoga, self-evaluation, and any and all other buzz words associated with the general “Wellness” industry. Mindfulness, as understood through a DBT lens, can be done anywhere while doing anything.
This type of mindfulness can be done with eating, watching TV, cleaning, walking, working, listening to music, learning, and anywhere else you may be at any point in time. It simply must be done intentionally and via the 3 “How” skills.
One-Mindfully – this means you focus only on the task in front of you. You are not multitasking; you are not singing and cleaning while watching TV. You are only putting your attention in one place.
Non-Judgmentally – this means that you dismiss any judgmental thoughts that enter your mind, think of a greased-up pan on its side. Throw something at it, and it slides right off. It’s the same with those judgmental thoughts. Whether they are of yourself or anyone around you, they come in and you let them slide right out.
Effectively – this is a broad skill, but fundamentally it means that what you are doing progresses your growth and your continued use of skill. You cannot practice mindfulness while engaging in a harmful behavior like avoidance, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, binge eating, substance abuse, etc.
Negative thought patterns, at their core, are thought patterns that lead us to engage in our target behaviors, invalidation of others or ourselves, avoidance, suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors, and substance abuse.
The core practice of mindfulness keeps you centered, allows you to be present in the current moment and listen to your internal “Wise Mind” (often considered your gut) to guide you through the choices and actions that further your goals and maintain your priorities and core values.
A daily mindfulness practice, whether it be exercise, meditation, eating, driving, etc. is core to taking control of your mind and therefore your life.
Negative thought patterns are inherently the loss of control, mindfulness is taking it back.
Caleb is a Storyteller, Marketing Expert, Business Owner, Husband, and Streamer. He has a B.A in English and Creative Writing from Augustana University in South Dakota, has successfully graduated from DBT Skills group and has become a Twitch Affiliate. After being diagnosed with genetic cancer at age 10 he ventured down a path of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a myriad of surgeries, that culminated in brain surgery and full mental breakdown in September of 2015. This led to his journey in self-discovery, DBT, solidifying his love for his wife, and growing into a better man and husband than he thought was possible.