In DBT, when we start in Mindfulness, we start with two basic principles – Observing and Describing. It is not hard at all to tell what something is and to talk about it, and where it gets tricky is how we go about doing it.

Observing is called a “What” skill – what are we experiencing by interactions with our environment through sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.

Observe your surroundings based on what you see.

  • What kind of building are you in?
    • Are you in an office, outside, at home?
  • What are on the walls?
    • Pictures, posters, are they bare?
  • What kind of lighting is there?
    • Natural, fluorescent, LED, or another kind?
  • Are there windows?
    • How many?

Observe your surroundings based on what you hear.

  • What do you hear where you are?
    • Are the noises from inside your building or outside?
    • Are electrical items making noises? (My lights in my office make this distinct buzzing sound).
  • Can you hear yourself?
    • Does your breath make a sound?
    • Can you hear your heart beat?

Observe your surroundings based on what you physically feel.

  • What are you sitting on?
    • Is it comfortable?
  • How is your body situated?
    • (I’m in my office chair, and my feet are on the ground, yet only the balls of my feet are touching, I didn’t realize that until I was just now writing this.)

Keep looking around and see if there are things that you may not have noticed before. My grandpa used to say, “if it had been a snake it would have bit ya” when I would lose something only to locate it very near me. Many times we don’t notice the things that surround us daily or sights and sounds that are part of our routine.

Once you feel comfortable with observing, you can move onto describing!