4D Mindfulness

This page provides an introduction to DBT Mindfulness skills, whose main focus is to help you to achieve ‘Acceptance’ of your current emotions or situations, whilst learning behaviours to change the way you react to similar emotions/events.

So, what is ‘mindfulness’?

Mindfulness is the core skill of DBT, it helps you to achieve ‘Wise Mind’ thinking and as such it’s the key to effective use of the other DBT skill groups. Put simply, ‘wise mind’ is to be mindful of what is effective.

Mindfulness means to really pay attention to the moment; to shine the spotlight of your attention on the here and now, focusing on all of the detail, and how it is affecting the ‘whole’ you. This has real benefits, as the present moment is often a lot less stressful than the fears and worries we have about the past or the future.

‘May you live all the days of your life’

Jonathan Swift

Why are mindfulness skills important?

Mindfulness skills can help you to:

  • Focus on what you are experiencing in the present moment, and doing this can help you to better control and soothe overwhelming emotions.
  • Recognise and separate judgemental thoughts from your experiences, so that they don’t get in the way of your experience and make overwhelming emotions worse.
  • Develop the skill of connecting with ‘Wise Mind’, through balancing ‘emotional mind’ and rational mind’. Helping you to make healthy choices about your life.

So how does mindfulness work?

There are lots of ways you can practice mindfulness. Two easy ways to think about it are formal and informal practice.

Formal mindfulness basically means planning a set time in your day when you will practice mindfulness. This could simply mean allowing yourself 10 minutes, in a quiet and comfortable place, where you will sit and focus on your breathing, just paying attention to the in and out flow of your long deep breaths, and the feelings and sensations that this brings. Sometimes you may notice that you’re distracted by other thoughts or worries, that’s ok; notice that they are there, then turn you focus back to your breathing.

check out our mindfulness video

Informal mindfulness simply means to be mindful in your regular daily activities. This could be anything from walking to the shops, eating your dinner or getting a shower. It basically means, being aware of what you’re actually experiencing and how the experience affects you. Being truly aware of the experience means to make full use of your five senses, in noticing the smells, sounds, sights, tastes and the physical sensations. You may need to slow down your breathing, to encourage you to slow down the pace of your experience, allowing you to truly notice what’s happening. As with formal mindfulness, you may sometimes notice that you are distracted by other thoughts or worries, that’s ok; notice that they are there, and then turn your focus back to your experiences (your senses).

Learning and practicing the basic mindfulness exercises introduced to you within the Mindfulness pages, will provide you with the skills to move on to some of the more advanced mindfulness practice that can help you to cope with distressing feelings, increases your level of functioning and help you to get more enjoyment from life.

So, what are the mindfulness skills used in DBT?

Well, there are 6 specific mindfulness skills used in DBT and these are broken down into:

3 ‘What’ skills




…in your experience

3 ‘How’ skills

 be non-judgemental

stay focused in the moment

do what works for the situation

‘What’ you do to practice mindfulness

‘How’ you practice mindfulness effectively

Mindfulness skills in themselves are simple, but practice is important, as we train our mind to work in ways that it’s not used to. Practice:

  • Doing regular daily activities, mindfully

  • In real life situations when you find yourself distressed

  • Deliberate, planned exercises

As exercise and healthy food help our bodies, mindfulness activities feed and exercise our hearts and minds.

1 – 10 minutes of mindfulness a day can make a positive difference to your well-being.


Related pages: What Skills, How Skills