Skip to content

Serving clients in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties, including Bradenton, Parrish, Lakewood Ranch, North Port, Port Charlotte, Englewood, and Venice areas.  Serving all of Florida via Telehealth option.

GFE Statement | Se Habla Español

Get in Touch

Office Hours

Monday 8-7
Tuesday 8-7
Wednesday 8-6
Thursday 8-7:30
Friday 8-12


We look forward to hearing from you. Please fill out the form below or call or text our office at 941-867-0047 for more information.

    Preferred Call Back Window Time: Please select your ideal call back time(s).

    How did you hear about us?

    Mindfulness of Current Thoughts

    Mindfulness of Current Thoughts

    Mindfulness of Current Thoughts

    It’s a beautiful day - sunny, slight breeze, turquoise water. I’m sitting in my beach chair watching my kids swim in the ocean. I sit back in my chair. A thought arises, "what if a shark attacks them.. what if they get eaten by a shark." My eyes suddenly scan the water for sharks. My body becomes tense. I’m on alert now. 

    Then another thought, "anxiety thought.”

    I smile, "I can't believe I just used that."

     I feel a separation from my intrusive shark thoughts immediately. Is this magic? "Anxiety thought" I say again. 

    I know anxiety, I know it pops up for me when life feels "too good." Even positive emotions can be overwhelming. But labeling my thoughts, this is new, something that I had recently learned in a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) training. The skill is called, 'mindfulness of current thoughts' and it is intended to be used as a tool for learning to tolerate distress.

    The idea behind this technique is that labeling our thoughts or thought patterns, especially when we're in distress, allows us to create space from them and consequently view them differently (and then maybe even FEEL differently). When we create “space” from our inner thoughts we are less apt to get pulled into them, less likely to be taken on a ride with them (imagine we are waving at the thought as we drive by but not inviting it in the car for a ride). 

    Negative and anxious thoughts often elicit difficult emotions. It’s hard not to get pulled into an anxious thought when it’s also making you FEEL anxious. When I labeled my “shark attack” thought as, “just an anxious thought,” I was also able to then identify, from a more rational stance, why I was thinking and feeling anxiety.  I had not heard of any recent beach warnings of a rogue shark. I was having a good day. Sometimes I feel anxious when I’m feeling really good. This identification was gold. I was no longer in a role of being blindly reactive to my own thoughts. I was a responsive observer; seeing this process through more of a detective lens and as a result, I was able to both identify what emotion the thought brought on and reasons for why I might be thinking and feeling this way. I experienced the thought, then the feeling and then it passed. No secondary emotions of irritability, shame, sadness and/or disappointment, which often occur when anxiety becomes rumination. I broke my typical pattern of: anxious thought - rumination of the thought- internal anxiety - secondary emotions. Instead, I experienced an anxiety thought and then it passed. It was gone. No rumination, no long-lasting physiological changes in my body. I allowed it to be a passing thought, as it needed to be. 

    But isn’t anxiety useful, aren’t thoughts useful?

    Yes! Thoughts and emotions give us valuable information about ourselves and the world around us. They keep us alive. However, responding to our thoughts versus blindly reacting to them allows us to use our thoughts and emotions more consciously (we’re moving away from the reptilian response and into a higher level of awareness). A shark in the water would (thankfully) trigger my fight response. An anxiety thought about a possible shark in the water (thankfully) triggered a watchful eye. But without using the ‘mindfulness of current thought’ technique I would have stayed with this thought, my body would have stayed tense, and I probably would have eventually wanted my kids out of the water. Rumination is effective when we’re trying to solve a problem, it's not effective or necessary for the majority of our often, random thoughts and can even be responsible for a spiral into anxiety and depressive states.

    From the book, DBT skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, by Marsha Linehan, here is one exercise for practicing mindfulness of current thoughts: 

    Sit quietly, with your eyes closed or take a soft gaze. As you notice thoughts, begin this mindfulness practice:

    Imagine a conveyor belt, and that thoughts and feelings are coming down the belt. Put each thought or feeling in a box labeled with the type of thought or feeling that it is (e.g., worry thoughts, thoughts about my past, judgmental thoughts, planning what to do thoughts). Just keep observing and sorting thoughts and feelings into boxes. 

    Clinical Director, Qualified Supervisor, Psychotherapist

    Written by:

    Clinical Director, Qualified Supervisor, Psychotherapist

    Caren Phillippi, LMHC, QS