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DBT Series 3 - Mindfulness How Skills

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Remember the definition and goal of Mindfulness? Here’s a quick refresher from the DBT Series 1 post: Mindfulness is the “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings” according to the American Psychological Association (1). The goal of Mindfulness in DBT “is to reduce suffering and increase happiness … and to experience reality as it is” (2).

In DBT Series 2, we learned about the Mindfulness What skills Observe, Describe, Participate. These skills tell us “what” to do to be in the present moment. Today, we are going to visit the Mindfulness How skills.

Mindfulness How Skills

Mindfulness How skills tell us “how” to practice mindfulness. Unlike the Mindfulness What skills, you can do the Mindfulness How skills in any order and at any time while engaging in a mindful moment. The skills include:

    1. One Mindfully

     2. Non-judgmentally

     3. Effectively

One Mindfully essentially means to do one thing at a time and focusing our attention to the present moment. No multitasking!

Non-judgmentally means accepting reality as it is without attaching interpretations or judgements (even the good ones!). Quick reminder: just because we are non-judgmentally engaging in the moment, that does not mean we like it or that we approve of it.

Effectively means doing what works in the moment. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s right/wrong or what’s fair/unfair. Shift your attention to what is effective versus ineffective. *DBT Nerd Alert: this is my favorite DBT Mindfulness How skill*

Let’s revisit our washing dishes example to hit home these DBT Mindfulness How skills.

One Mindfully. To engage One Mindfully, you can focus and bring your attention to only washing the dishes and aspects that go along with that. You can notice and focus your attention on the smells, the sounds, and your thoughts associated with washing the dishes. You’re not thinking about doing the laundry. You’re not thinking about that cringey thing you said in the 3rd grade. You are here and now, doing the dishes.

Non-judgmentally. You can focus on the facts while washing the dishes without attaching labels to the experience. “I can smell the soap,” “The dishes are getting washed,” “This is a chore that will be completed.” You don’t *have* to like washing the dishes and you don’t *have* to pretend that you do. You can acknowledge your dislike for washing the dishes and state your preference for other chores or ways to spend your time instead.

Effectively. Dishes need to be done. You’ve been putting them off. Now you have to eat cereal out of a coffee mug (we’ve all been there, friends). You can practice being effective by keeping your eye on the goal of getting the dishes done so you can finally enjoy your cereal in a clean bowl and have the dishes clean. Continuing to put the dishes off may be considered ineffective.

Additional Mindfulness What Activities

Try incorporating the Mindfulness How skills with the Mindfulness What skills with the previously mentioned activities:

  • Coloring for 10 minutes. Can you engage in color one spot at a time? Can you give yourself compassion if you make a mistake?
  • Breathing exercises. Can you label without judgment your experiences while noticing the body sensations associated with breathing? Can you keep in mind your goal for engaging in the breathing exercise?
  • Listen to a playlist of different songs and notice what comes up for you with different songs. Do you notice what could be described as negative or positive interpretations of some song lyrics and engage effectively?

Want to hear more about DBT Mindfulness How skills? Check out this free video from DBT-RU to hear more! (3)


(1) (n.d.). Mindfulness. American Psychological Association. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from,judging%20or%20reacting%20to%20them.

(2) Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed., p. 161). The Guilford Press.

(3) [@DBTRU]. (2020, December 8). Mindfulness How [Video]. YouTube.

Reminder: these blog posts are meant to be purely educational and/or entertainment tools and do NOT replace psychotherapy and/or other medically necessary treatments.

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