When our emotions control our mind, we all can make our decisions solely on our emotions. When we do that, we are using our Emotion Mind( Linehan 1993). Having emotions is not bad, for example, parents make all types of sacrifices for their children mainly because of their emotions. But being controlled solely by emotions can be a problem and lead to distress and misery. Strong emotions can distort reality, facts, and perception.
We also have a Rational Mind ( Linehan 1993) which we use to weigh facts that helps us to make decisions rationally. We use logic and reason to make decisions by the rational mind. Managing your finances, doing a crossword or a doctor making a decision about what medication to use in their patients needs a rational mind. Again basing our decisions solely on rational thinking can sometimes be problematic and appear cold. It is easier to use rational mind when you are healthy, well fed and have had a good sleep but it is difficult to use it when you are not feeling well, feel stressed and feel emotionally overwhelmed.
Decisions are often healthy when we use both emotion mind and rational mind together through what is often called Wise Mind( Linehan 1993).
Experts have proposed that we may have what they call a wise mind that can help us to make difficult decisions by striking a balance between rational mind and emotion mind. Decisions taken by the wise mind can be a source of satisfaction, contentment, and long-term happiness. They suggest the centre of wise mind is in the gut. They also call it enteric brain ( stomach brain). One of the features of wise mind is intuition.
Experts like Linehan suggest that we can access this wise mind to make decisions through mindfulness. Accessing wise mind through mindfulness is an important skill in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) as per Linehan.
Steps to access wise mind are:
1. Find a quite place where you won't be disturbed for about 5 minutes.
2. Set a timer to do this exercise
3. You can close your eyes or keep them open
4. Put your hand on your sternum ( middle chest bone). Slide your hand downwards until sternum ends. The area between the end of sternum and belly button is the area of Wise mind.
5. Take few deep breaths and relax
6. Take a deep breath through your nose and feel your lungs getting expanded. Exhale through your mouth and feel the air leaving around your lips. Continue this for few breaths.
7. Continue taking deep breaths and feel your hand over your stomach rising and lowering with each inhalation and exhalation.
8 Bring your attention to wise mind ( area under your hand). Continue taking deep breaths.
9. Think about any thought or problems or decisions that you have to make.. How does it feel in the Wise mind while you have these thoughts. Ask for guidance from your wise mind about these decisions. Notice what thoughts or solution arise from your wise mind.
10. How do you feel in your Wise Mind? What sensations do you feel in your Wise Mind when you think about these dilemmas, problems, thoughts and important decisions
Now that you know how to access your Wise Mind, you can use it to make important decisions. See how it feels in your wise mind when you plan to make a decision. Does it feel good? If you feel good about the action, you intend to take, then maybe it is the right decision. Does it feel uncomfortable? Then maybe you need to evaluate other options.
It is important to maintain a dairy of decisions you make while using Wise Mind and check if you feel happy in the long-term after you have made the decisions. That will he confirm to you that you are accessing Wise Mind. It is also important to consider all relevant facts, risks of taking and not making decisions before using Wise mind.
Linehan, MM (1993). Dialectical Behavioural Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. New York Guilford Press
Linehan, MM (1993). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York Guilford Press
McKay M, Wood J and Brantley J (2007) The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook. Practical DBT Exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance. New Harbinger Publications
Mindfulness has been a part of eastern culture including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam for centuries. It is well documented in their traditional scriptures. These exercise can be found in most of the books or material on mindfulness. More recently Mindfulness has been found helpful in dealing with stress, anxiety, negative emotions, low mood, pain tolerance and insomnia. We will be regularly uploading various mindfulness exercises here. Keep checking this page regularly.