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How to Cultivate Psychological Flexibility:

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Psychological flexibility is a crucial capacity for effectively navigating challenges and optimizing our experiences. However, it is not an innate trait and requires deliberate cultivation. Here are some exercises to help you train and enhance your psychological flexibility:

  1. Cultivate contemplation: Contemplation involves actively observing and focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment or analysis. Start by selecting simple objects and gradually progress to observing pets, animals, and people. This practice helps develop your ability to be fully present and increases psychological flexibility.

  2. Embrace rebellion against routine: Rebellion, in this context, refers to challenging automatic behaviors and routines. Engage in activities that contradict your usual patterns, such as intentionally wearing mismatched clothing or using your non-dominant hand for writing. By breaking free from routines, you gain new perspectives and expand your psychological flexibility.

  3. Practice active listening: This concept is called 'talk less and listen more'. Research suggests that those who focus on themselves a lot, are generally miserable and a more likely to suffer mental il-health. Shift your focus from yourself to others by actively listening without interrupting or judging. Aim to understand the speaker's or other people's perspective and empathise with their thoughts and feelings. This approach fosters openness to new ideas and enhances psychological flexibility. Psychological rigidity is the result of being too focused on yourself. Having a tendency to only be interested in what you think and believe can lead us to miss out on opportunities for growth.. If you meet someone who thinks or feels differently, you feel tense and automatically believe that the right thing to do is to persuade them to see the world as you do. Listening carefully is a great strategy for training your psychological flexibility. Listening means, like contemplation, focusing on what the other person says, without thinking about what you’re going to reply and without judging their words. It's effectively listening to understand and not to respond. Listening actively and intentionally will make you more permeable to new ways of understanding reality.

  4. Say yes to new experiences: Challenge your cognitive rigidity by committing to saying yes to opportunities and invitations for a week. By accepting new directions, suggestions, and even criticism, you expose yourself to novel experiences and ideas. This exercise helps alleviate decision fatigue and encourages a more flexible mindset.

  5. Engage in reading, travel, and diverse conversations: Expose yourself to different perspectives by reading a wide range of literature, engaging in travel experiences, and actively conversing with individuals outside your immediate social circle. These activities broaden your understanding of the world, foster empathy, and enhance psychological flexibility.

Remember, cultivating psychological flexibility requires willpower and an open mind. By embracing these exercises, you can dissolve rigid ways of thinking and fully embrace the journey of life with greater adaptability and enjoyment.

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