Exercises For Non-judgmental Thinking

Cultivating non-judgmental thinking is taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Groups as a part of the Mindfulness Training.  Mindfulness teaches individuals to observe and describe their own behavior, which is necessary when any new behavior is being learned, when there is some sort of problem, or a need for change.

In DBT mindfulness skills are intended to improve an individual’s abilities to observe and describe themselves and their environment non-judgmentally, which enhances the ability to participate in life effectively.

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Non-judgmental Mindfulness: Changing Your Thinking

Good, bad, fair, unfair, superior, awful, excellent, dreadful, worthy, shoddy, should, shouldn’t.  If this is the soundtrack in your mind, then this exercise will help you to re-focus on the skill of non-judgmental.  Part of our mind is constantly comparing our experiences with others we’ve had or holding them up to some expectations we’ve created.  These judgments happen in our minds, can trigger intense emotions and distract us from the moment. If you’re trying to concentrate, but you keep getting distracted by judgmental thoughts then it’s time to practice non-judgmental thinking.

In order to change your thinking, you must focus attention on your thoughts.  Notice them as clouds floating in the sky.  They change and pass with time.  Bring your awareness to the content of your thoughts.  Observe each time a judgmental word or thought crosses your mind.  At this point you can either simply allow the judgment to float by or you can begin to change your thinking. 

To change your thinking, try to describe the situation, rather than judge it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  You can acknowledge whether something was helpful or harmful for you, acknowledge how it made you feel or simply describe to yourself the observable parts of the situation, without placing a value on them.

It’s very hard to think in non-judgmental terms, but it’s an important skill to learn.  Judgments have a significant effect on the way we feel.  They also can cloud our perceptions and leave us responding not to a situation as it is, but to a situation as we’ve judged it to be.

Non-Judgmental Mindfulness

This exercise will focus on the skill of non-judgmental. Part of our mind is constantly comparing ourselves to others and expectations we've created. We tend to see things as good for me and those close to me or bad for me and those close to me. We also often tend to judge ourselves. "I'm good at this" or “I’m no good at this.” “I’m no good.” “I’m not good enough.” Thinking like this can weigh you down. It’s like carrying around a suitcase filled with rocks. Putting the suitcase down would feel good. Letting go of our judgments can feel good, in the same way. The first step to letting go of judgments is to NOTICE when you are having them.

Today, spend a moment thinking about common judgmental words you use. These might be words you use when speaking to others or they might be words you use in your own head. Common judgmental words include good and bad, right and wrong, should and shouldn't, terrible, awful, wonderful and perfect. Throughout the rest of the day, notice when you say or think these words. Simply take note that you've made a judgment and move on. Be sure to notice both positive and negative judgments. Being non-judgmental is not changing negatives to positives, it is acknowledging each moment, without a positive or negative judgment.