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Key Takeaways:

  • DBT Improve can help individuals manage emotions during emotionally distressing situations.
  • “Improve” is an acronym that helps people deal with the emotional stress that comes with unexpected changes.

Life is full of surprises. While some of these surprises are good, others can be unpleasant situations that we do not expect. We are thrown these curveballs every so often, and it can be overwhelming to have to adjust and face the changes that they bring. But it is this skill of dealing with unexpected and sometimes frustrating circumstances that we need to hone in. A skillset called DBT Improve allows us to manage difficult emotions during stressful situations. Here’s how you can use it during life’s many unexpected surprises.

Understanding DBT IMPROVE the Moment Skill

DBT Improve is a set of skills and strategies that are used in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help individuals deal with emotionally trying situations. This set of skills is also called Improve the Moment and as a whole is considered a distress tolerance skill, which is a person’s ability to manage emotional distress, whether perceived or actual.

“Improve” is an acronym that stands for different skills you can make use of when you’re in an emotionally distressing situation. Such skills are useful when our usual self-soothing efforts aren’t enough to make us feel better.


The first DBT Improve skill that you can easily use is imagery. Take advantage of your imaginative creativity to put yourself in a position that is preferable to your current situation. Imagine yourself in a secure place where things will work out for the best. Imagine a relaxing scenario. Allow yourself to focus on the more detailed aspects of the image and consider how being there would affect your well-being.


Identify what matters most to you in life. Think about your values and adjust your ideas and behavior to reflect those values. Find a reason or purpose for what you are going through as well. What significance may you get from your past success in overcoming crises?


There is no requirement that prayer should be religious in nature. By concentrating on your presence in the world with mindfulness, you can reap the rewards of prayer. When you're having problems, you can utilize a mantra, a saying, or even a song lyric to center yourself. Open yourself up to the moment and establish a connection to something larger.


Relaxation aids in easing the physical tension sometimes linked to emotional distress. Try deep breathing, stretching, or progressive muscular relaxation to escape the unpleasant situation. Make your body more relaxed and at ease. Your mind will probably feel tranquil when your body does. DBT mindfulness exercises can also help you put your mind at ease.

One Thing in the Moment

It can be very effective to consciously slow down your thoughts by using mindfulness to concentrate on just one thing at a time. Turn your attention to the present and concentrate on your breath, your current feelings, and your current thoughts. You can redirect your energy on the task at hand by letting go of concerns about the past and the future.


A vacation does not have to involve travel. It can also be a temporary diversion from your typical routine. Take an afternoon out from your regular schedule to do something you haven't done in a while. This mini-vacation enables you to disengage from your thoughts and enjoy yourself, whether it's by seeing friends, going for a walk outside, or enjoying a long, hot shower.


To get through a challenging period, be honest with yourself and offer realistic, yet hopeful, bits of encouragement. For instance, tell yourself that the emotions you are going through are passing, and that you have survived similar situations before. Keep your attention on the benefits of encouragement and steer your thoughts in a more productive direction.

The Bottom Line

When coping with intense feelings or unexpected circumstances, Improve the Moment can be quite helpful. Choose the strategy that works best for you among the several that we have discussed above; you can also use DBT worksheets. The objective is to develop more efficient coping mechanisms for challenging emotions. Whether you are struggling with small or big changes, knowing how to cope with them is key to living a full life.

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