How does therapy improve psychological flexibility?

If you want more flexible muscles, you need to practice stretching your body in the right way. In much the same way, learning to be more psychologically flexible involves training and practicing six key skills.

Loosen the Grip of Unhelpful Thoughts

We are often drawn into a futile battle with our thoughts, one that we can’t win. Because. we tend to overvalue thinking, human beings forget that no paying attention to unhelpful thoughts is an option. Defusion skills help us reduce the impact of thoughts so they don’t have as much influence on what we do.

Feel Your Feelings

If you don’t like it, try to get rid of it. That strategy, when applied to our internal worlds, is called experiential avoidance. Relying on experiential avoidance to cope with unwanted emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations predicts the development of many, many different types of problems including depression and anxiety disorder. Learning to “make room” for and feel all of life’s experiences, even the painful ones, as a choice, helps us to learn from them.

Refocus Attention to the Present

Human beings need to have a sense of where we are and what is happening. Our minds often try to help us feel oriented by thinking about how we got here and where we are going. Unfortunately, we can get caught in the past through rumination and fearful about the future through worry. Learning to reorient to the present moment helps to bring us back to NOW. This move allows us to create choice points: opportunities to remind ourselves about what is most important and to take effective action.

Shift Perspectives

Who are you? The answer your mind gives to that question is your “self story.”  It’s perfectly fine to have a story about yourself (I’ve got one in my “About” section). Unfortunately, problems start when we start to believe that we ARE that story. This often fuels harsh self-talk and gets in the way of being kind to ourselves. Perspective taking helps us connect with a more fundamental and flexible sense of self that is supportive, loving, and compassionate.

Be Honest About What Really Matters

What do you want your life to be about? What really matters to you? Questions like these are helpful in clarifying the adjectives that describe the person you want to be in your life. Knowing your values allows you to return to them again and again just like you would check your GPS to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

Take Action and Notice the Results

Lives that work are the result of making choices to do what works based on what really matters. Taking meaningful action is the way to manifest your values and bring them to life.