Psychological Flexibility

Sure you may have heard of the importance of flexibility for you physical health in perhaps your yoga class, but have you ever heard of Psychological Flexibility? Psychological Flexibility is a term that is used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This therapy is gaining popularity and emphasises the importance of psychological flexibility.

To define psychological flexibility, let’s explore what the word “flexibility” means. Flexibility is “the quality of bending easily without breaking”. If we apply this definition to our mental heath, then Psychological Flexibility has to do with our mental ability to cope with change, struggles, or discomfort without breaking. Think of it as a way of holding discomfort mentally without allowing it to impact your behavior, like your muscle can withhold bending without being damaged.

So Why Does Psychological Flexibility Matter?

Psychological Flexibility is important because it allows us stability in an ever changing world. Life will inevitably throw curveballs. Having the ability to adapt to life changes or cope with difficult life events can greatly change your quality of life. Psychological flexibility will allow you to pursue what is most important to your life, regardless of what struggles or changes you may face along the way.

What are some guiding principles of Psychological Flexibility?

Be in the Here and Now. Some may refer to this as mindfulness. The first step is to be aware of your thoughts and feelings. For example, you are on your way to work when you get stuck in traffic. You have an important call that you may miss if you are late. Take note when you notice yourself getting stressed and angry.

Monitor your thoughts. Our minds tend to label situations and then run wild with “what ifs”. Catch yourself if you find yourself going down a mental rabbit hole of “what ifs”. What if this traffic makes me late to work? What if I miss that important call because of this? What if I loose the account?

Acceptance. Don’t try to fight feelings or emotions. We often try to push down feelings that are uncomfortable. For example, make note that you are frustrated about the traffic. It is okay to feel frustrated.

Take a Step Back. This is another aspect of mindfulness, but try to zoom out and observe yourself from the outside. This can give you different perspective of the challenge. For example, getting stuck in traffic is a really common issue. Everyone else is stuck in traffic also and everyone can relate to your problem.

Understand your Values. Understanding your core values and goals in life will help guide you in decision making. For example, you are a hard working and honest individual when it comes to your job, which is why it upsets you that you may be late.

Take Action. Using your values, you can decide what action you would take to take on the challenge or problem. In the example of being stuck in traffic on the way to work, you may decide that you will be honest with your conference call why you missed it. You can rely on your hard work ethic to try to compensate for the missed call. You can trust that your honesty and work ethic will be valued and understood in this situation.

Psychological flexibility and Acceptance and Commitment Theory are powerful tools that may allow you to tackle life’s curveballs with grace and joy. They are currently utilized in coping with depression, anxiety, chronic pain and many other mental health struggles. If you would like to speak with a therapist about utilizing psychological flexibility in your life, book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Why Resilience?
Positive Psychology 101
What is stress and how can it affect your body?

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