4 Steps to Mental Flexibility

4 Steps to Mental Flexibility February 19, 2015

A hallmark of good mental health is mental flexibility. Mental flexibility is being able to roll with the punches, not being too rigid in our opinions of the way things ought to be or how others should act allows for less emotional reactivity, less upset feelings, and less judgment of ourselves, our behaviors, and others. Being too rigid is also known as being aggressive, opinionated, or pushy.

On the flip side, too much mental flexibility can be problematic as well. Being too flexible is also known as being passive, a doormat, or a pushover. Having too much mental flexibility is not ever having or stating opinions, allowing of others to over step our boundaries or to disrespect us. It can leave us feeling internally angry, resentful, and even full of rage. Being too mentally rigid or too mentally flexible can create havoc in our relationships. Rigidity tends to test our relationships while being a too flexible tends to allow others to take advantage of us or take the relationship for granted.

So how do we strike a balance between these two opposites? By implementing 4 steps into our lives we can improve ourselves and our relationships with a more balanced mental flexibility.

  1. It can be helpful to recognize and work toward understanding ourselves and others. Noting that we all have much more in common that we tend to notice, especially when at odds. There is a reason that some are more rigid than others while others are overly flexible. Learning and understanding about how we came to be the way we are and for what cause can help to gain more acceptance of ourselves and others just as we are. With understanding comes less judgment and with acceptance comes the ability to move in new directions.
  2. Learning to discern from our helpful and unhelpful thinking and then distancing ourselves from our unhelpful thoughts that lead to unhelpful feelings such as personalization or victimization can create space and further acceptance of what we can, versus cannot, change about our circumstances, ourselves, or others. By paying more attention to our helpful thoughts it can empower us to feel and behave in more helpful and productive ways.
  3. Practicing more pro-self-talk can increase our self-esteem and prosocial behaviors. Our unhelpful words through our self-talk increases the likelihood of negativity and negative thought trains that in turn influence our behaviors whether lashing out over something not going our way or withdrawing due to hurt feelings. Our words to ourselves have a lot of power. Transforming our internal critics into our internal coaches or cheerleaders can improve our lives in more ways than one.
  4. Being able to identify our feelings and communicate them assertively lends itself to a feeling of being heard, is respectful of ourselves and others, and also happens to increase our true self-esteem. Rigid or aggressive communication tends to bring about a false sense of self-esteem in efforts to control a situation or outcome while passive communication deflates self-esteem.

So by working at increasing our understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others related to how we learned to get our needs met can change our behaviors; by practicing new internal skills of distancing ourselves from our unhelpful thinking and paying more attention to our helpful thinking as well as increasing our pro-self-talk can benefit our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and finally by practicing new external skills of assertiveness we can learn to get our needs met in more healthy, efficient and effective ways. With 4 steps we can learn to improve ourselves and our relationships with a more balanced mental flexibility.

Need support in implementing these changes in your life? Call or email me today to schedule your free 50 minute session to see if I am the right therapist for you. 925-566-4487 or afoster@fosteringawareness.org

Aaron Foster

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