This month has been incredibly busy one for me, and at moments I find myself just rushing through the day, trying to get through a very long “to do” list. Some of the things on my list are the mundane tasks of life like answering emails or folding the laundry, but others are things I normally really enjoy, like taking my daughter to her ballet class or getting Halloween pumpkins with my family. When I rush through these fun activities, they feel more like a chore than anything I am deriving pleasure from. I was teaching a DBT group on Emotion Regulation skills recently, and, as teaching group often does, it provided me with a much-needed reminder of the importance of using skills in my own life.
Oftentimes when I am working with individuals in the beginning stages of DBT treatment, they want to know if I use the skills myself. I think it’s a very valid question, and probably one that I’d have of my therapist as well. It’s understandable to me that people who are considering making a commitment to DBT are curious about whether or not the people guiding them through the process are essentially practicing what they preach. I always let people know the truth- that I use DBT skills every day in my life, and that doing so increases the quality of my life in countless ways. When I teach skills groups, the experience is akin to reading a favorite book over and over again; each time I do it, there are new things for me to discover in how to apply the skills in my own day to day.
I also notice that the topic of whatever group I’m teaching each week always somehow seems timely for me; I find myself teaching the exact skill that I need to be reminded of. This happened again in teaching Emotion Regulation recently, and the skill of Accumulating Positive Emotions: Short Term in particular. As I was reading over my teaching notes and the skills manual in preparation for group, I was especially struck by the line “Focus your attention on positive moments when they are happening. No multitasking.” This was EXACTLY what I hadn’t been doing with the fun things on my to do list, which is why they weren’t feeling very fun. When I am so consumed with rushing through things and just crossing them off my list, I don’t get the benefit of doing pleasant events in the first place.
We can all benefit from being mindful of positive experiences, and being unmindful of the worries associated with them. While there are a lot of tasks in life that I may not derive a huge amount of pleasure from, there are actually so many more that truly are pleasant events if I allow them to be. When I am fully attentive to the good stuff of life, even if that good stuff is as simple as reading a book to my kids or enjoying having breakfast with my family before work, I truly derive so much pleasure from them, and I know that it makes me less stressed and less emotionally vulnerable overall.