ABC Skills

Introducing the DBT skill called ABCAccumulating positives, Building mastery and Coping ahead. Last week in my DBT skills class the focus was on AAccumulating positive experiences.

We were asked to guess the frequency of positive activities/ events/ moments in our lives in DBT class, and mine was around 5-10% on average per day. That is not very high, and sometimes it is even lower; as low as 0%, if I’m struggling. The 2 therapists were around 60-75% and I was very impressed. And doubtful, I admit…

Our goal of the week was to implement at least one pleasant activity into each day in order to influence positive emotions.

On Monday I met with a friend from my DBT group and we went to a mindfulness event at my uni. On Tuesday I simply noticed the relief and joy I felt after a very helpful therapy session, and pushed myself to participate in class at uni which I find extremely difficult to do. On Wednesday I promised myself I could finish my incredible book, and I stayed up until I did. I also belly laughed for the first time in yonks with people at university – and couldn’t stop! On Thursday I went back to the Farmers’ Market by uni to bask in the smells. On Friday my close friend who is back from uni for a week came over for the evening.

Accumulating positive moments is important in reducing our vulnerability to being in Emotion Mind, especially if this is a state we often find ourselves in. If we are really struggling, experiencing difficult emotions and then on top of that have nothing to look forward to and no opportunities in our life which elicit joy, the situation is only going to become more dire. Negative emotions become a way of life, and it’s hard to find a way out.

This is why behavioural activation can be such an effective treatment for depression. This is why we are encouraged to do Opposite Action to our emotions so frequently. This is why it’s important to put these events into our lives whether we are struggling or not. ABC skills are Emotion Regulation skills not just for during difficult times, but they can also be implemented before the difficult times hit.

They help to reduce both our vulnerability to Emotion Mind, as well as our resilience to coping when faced with adversity. Building up a bank or an evidence bag of positive experiences and happy moments can be helpful to hold onto.

My next step is to implement more independent pleasant activities because I am still relying heavily on others to gain pleasure and rarely feel positive emotions when alone (does anyone!?).

For example:

  • Taking a long bubble bath
  • Looking through photo albums
  • Listening to happy music
  • Walking my dogs in the sun
  • Reading in a library
  • Doing a puzzle or word games
  • Watching comedies
  • Planning future holidays
  • Lighting incense/ candles

…. showing myself that it is possible to be okay and perhaps even more than okay within my own company; that I don’t have to rely on others to regulate or boost my mental state for me; and that I am deserving of giving myself and experiencing pleasurable moments – regardless of if I am in the company of people, or on my own.


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