Many children, teens, and adults have difficulties with sustaining focus, being aware of what they are thinking or feeling, and knowing the causes of their distress. Mindfulness skills help with these challenges, as they are geared at helping a person be in just one moment at a time, without judgment. Many people experience their minds as being pulled to the past or the future, increasing their suffering and decreasing their connection to the present. Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) employ mindfulness skills that train our minds to slow down and notice what is going on internally and externally. Regular mindfulness practice has been associated with reduced feelings of depression and anxiety, improved compassion for self and others, improved attention and focus, and even reduced physical pain and discomfort.
In addition, many people have difficulties with reducing their levels of distress. Some people with high levels of stress report feeling on edge or keyed up, having difficulty relaxing, and even having physical pain/tension associated with their distress. Relaxation skills teach people to focus on their physiological sensations in the service of reducing emotional suffering. Both CBT and DBT utilize relaxation strategies including diaphragmatic breathing, also called paced breathing or breathing retraining. These breathing techniques help to increase awareness of then breath, changing the pace of breathing and length of one’s inhales and exhales. A second relaxation strategy is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), whereby one practices tensing muscle groups and then releasing this tension. PMR helps people notice where they carry physical tension in their bodies, and reduces tension over time.