DBT Skills: Yes You Get To Have Fun

Welcome back to DBT land, the place where you get to do fun things and say it’s for your emotional regulation! As you’ll recall, last week we talked about building mastery, and feeling good about yourself by accomplishing new things. Well this week we have an even better skill: building positive experiences. Yes, that’s right, doing things that feel nice is an entire skill in emotion regulation. And this stuff is evidence based. Thanks Marsha Linehan!

There’s a little more to building positive experiences than just sitting on the couch eating ice cream all day though. It asks you to balance short term and long term pleasures. Every day try to do something that makes you at least a little bit happy, whether that be getting a fancy latte at your favorite coffee shop or taking your dog for a walk. It doesn’t have to take long or cost money, just a few minutes set aside to be about you. If you can’t think of things that you like, the DBT handbook has a handout of things you might like doing. Warning: some of them are really ridiculous, but it can help spur some thoughts of your own.

But in the long term, you need to focus on how you can make your life more pleasurable as a whole. What are your goals and values that you feel will make your life worth it? Those are the things that will bring you more pleasure in the long run and make it so that you don’t have to rely on little things each day to get through. They help build a buffer against negative experiences because you know you’ve got a life that’s generally pleasant and enjoyable.

In addition to building your life around your goals and values, positive experience also means using all your other skills to keep up your relationships and do the hard stuff in your life that might be weighing on you and making your down time less enjoyable. Sorry, I know it seemed like it was going to be all fun and games for this skill, but in order to actually have those fun and games you’ve gotta give yourself the space by getting your shit done.

So why does this count as a skill instead of just an excuse to do what you want? Well one of the fastest ways to let your emotions plummet is to not have anything to look forward to or any positive memories to dwell on during the harder parts of life. Instead of simply reacting to bad things or hard emotions, it’s good to regularly find ways to bring those emotions up so that your baseline isn’t “blah I hate my life”. Positive experiences are the best way to do that.

So there you have it. Incorporate fun into your life and your life will be better. Deep wisdom, I know.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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