Distress Tolerance–IMPROVE the moment with IMAGERY

Among the central crisis survival skills in DBT are those captured by the acronym IMPROVE. The suggestion is that we can render a crisis less intense, make it more bearable, by making use of the following:

Imagery (the subject of today’s entry)

Meaning, or finding a purpose to the suffering

Prayer, or a higher power (or your own Wise Mind) to help you bear the pain

Relaxing Actions such as a hot bath, neck or scalp massage, deep breathing, relaxing the facial muscles

doing One Thing in the Moment–or in other words, being fully present to whatever you are doing, focusing outside the mind

taking a brief Vacation, e.g., by turning off your phone for a day, reading a magazine, lying in bed for a bit, sitting in the park

and with self-Encouragement, or cheerleading statements.

Improving the moment with IMAGERY might mean: allowing yourself to imagine things going well; remembering a happy time from your past; making a visual image of your hurtful feelings leaving the body. Most of all, it means being able to call up a relaxing or peaceful place to which you can go in your mind when you are feeling distressed. As with many Distress Tolerance skills, it’s helpful to practice when you are not in a crisis. This is so that you can train your mind to think of the skills when you really need them–and also because it can help you get an inner sense of which skills are most effective for you.

Today’s suggestion is to try out this “Special Place” mediation from the Dartmouth University Student Wellness Center–or another of your choosing. This 6.5 minute guided mediation will invite you to do what the title suggests: Find your own special place. It also encourages you to give as much detail to that scene as you can so that the image is thick in your mind. The Dartmouth Student Wellness Center has a series of relaxation scripts–of which the Special Place mediation is just one. If you find the Special Place meditation effective, you might also be interested in some of their other free guided audio scripts.


Meditation and Daily Routine

Do you have trouble making mindfulness mediation part of your regular routine? In a recent article, “The One Thing You Can Do to Make Meditation a Habit,”UK-based mindfulness teacher and writer Ed Halliwell proposes meditation in a community. He proposes:

“I’ve no doubt that practising mindfulness on your own can be helpful, but I also suspect a large part of the therapeutic benefit of mindfulness for individuals comes from the fact that it’s traditionally trained in groups and communities, enabling us to learn with and from other people” (full article).

For a list of some meditation groups in Chicago, click here.

Free Guided Mindfulness Exercises from UCLA

Free Guided Mindfulness Exercises from UCLA

Click the title of this post to access free guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. These are mostly short meditations that you can play in your internet browser or download to iTunes.


Breathing Meditation

Mediation Instructions

Breathing, Sound and Body Meditation

Meditation for Working with Difficulties

Loving Kindness Meditation (Tonglen)

Body and Sound Meditation

Body Scan Meditation

Body Scan for Sleep