4D Acceptance Exercises

This page tells you more about the DBT exercises for ‘acceptance’.

First, what is ‘acceptance’?

In DBT, ‘acceptance’ is about letting go of the need to fight reality when you have no control over the situation; it’s about acknowledging ‘it is what it is’; it offers us freedom from suffering and allows us to concentrate on the things in life that we can change.

The skills of ‘acceptance’ are important, because sometimes the things that cause us distress are things that we can’t do anything about, either because they are in our past or because they are out of our control; we may not agree with them, but rejecting or fighting them will increase our suffering.  In these situations, the best way to get you through the pain and help you make the right decisions for the future, is to accept that what is happening in this moment is happening, it is reality and it will pass.

You can find out more about DBT ‘Acceptance’ skills here.

What exercises can help us to achieve ‘acceptance’?

There are 3 key exercises to help you to achieve ‘acceptance’; they are simple exercises, and yet they can be really useful in helping you to get you through the crisis you are experiencing.  And with regular practice they can help you to develop a more accepting state of mind.

Why not give them a try:

Observing your breath

Observing your breath can bring many benefits, including helping you to relax, focus and take control of your mind, it’s also important in helping you find ‘Wise Mind’.

Another important way in which focusing upon your breathing can be useful, is in helping you to achieve acceptance and tolerance of reality.  You can use this skill in a range of ways, but as a basic exercise try this:

Find somewhere quiet and comfortable, where you can sit and relax without being disturbed.

Then, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breathing; notice each deep breath in and each deep breath out.  Keep your attention just on your breathing.  If you find yourself being distracted, just notice the distraction, and bring your attention back to your breathing.


Our bodies and minds are very closely connected, we can experience physical changes as a consequence of how we are feeling emotionally, and in the same way our feelings and emotions can be affected by how we are feeling physically.

What we are trying to achieve with this exercise is a positive emotional response from carrying out a positive physical action.  Through ‘half-smiling’ you are using your body to ‘accept’ and ‘tolerate’, and you are communicating this message of acceptance and tolerance to your mind.  This exercise is particularly effective, as our emotions are partly controlled by our facial expressions.

This skill can be useful in a range of situations, you can use it to get you through a tense or difficult moment, or to get your day off to a good start, or at any other point during the day.  But, for your fist attempt at half-smile, try this:

Find somewhere quiet and comfortable, where you can sit and relax without being disturbed.

Then, before you begin, try having no facial expression; just to notice how this feels.

Then try half-smile: relax the muscles of your face (your forehead, your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth and your jaw), and turn your lips up slightly at the edges.  Try to keep a relaxed and calm facial expression.  Remembering that this message is being communicated to your mind.  Notice how this new expression feels.

This exercise might sound a bit unusual, but it really can help you to find acceptance and get you through the moment; give it a try!

“Sometimes your joy can be the source of your smile,

but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”

Thich Nhat Hanh


As with ‘observing your breath’, ‘awareness’ or rather ‘mindful awareness’ is another skill that has lots of benefits, and so is something you are likely to also see appearing on other pages of the 4D Toolkit.  Here, we’re suggesting that it can be useful in a moment when you are experiencing something very difficult and also as a general day-to-day practice to help you learn and develop acceptance’.  This might seem a very straightforward exercise, and it is, but it’s also very effective, making ‘awareness’ part of ‘what you do’ can be invaluable.

But, for your fist awareness exercise, why not try our ‘mindful eating podcast’.


My 4D Toolkit Activity

Half Smiling explainedHalf smile and let the tension fade away

Part of the 4D DBT Toolkit, this podcast provides a practical introduction to the power of half smiling and how to do it.


For more information about ‘DBT’ skills check out the ’4D Toolkit’.

Distress tolerance

Related Pages – Crises Survival: Distract, Self-soothe, Improve the moment, Pros & Cons

Related Pages – Acceptance Skills:  Acceptance,

This entry was posted in 4D Toolkit. Bookmark the permalink.