Mental flexibility – in other words the mind’s ability to adapt – is a particularly sought-after skill among many people given the ever-evolving challenges which are faced in the real world. Mental flexibility closely related to resilience.
Both of these traits are important in maintaining extremely functional mental health in addition to developing pro-social behavior. These two traits may be practiced with continued exposure to new and novel situations, where the brain is tested to a point right before the stress ceiling is reached and then performance is compromised.
If you have mental flexibility, you’ll be energized by change. In addition, you’ll adapt quickly and readily to any unknown situation. You’ll relish in testing and learning new skills, and you have the ability to consider multiple concepts at the same time.
Why Mental Flexibility Is Important For The Future Of Business
The world of business moves extremely quickly. This is why companies require a workplace which has the capability to:
- Juggle a complex workflow,
- Understand rapidly evolving markets,
- Manage constantly changing client needs, as well as
- Communicate with an international team across a number of different time zones.
As someone who has mental flexibility, you’ll have the confidence to suggest fresh, out-of-the-box ideas, make stronger connections with a global team and also flourish in a fast-paced environment. These are vital qualities which will help you thrive at work.
What Are The Benefits Of Mental Flexibility?
Creating a more flexible mindset gives us the opportunity to evaluate as well as adjust to the different tasks, roles and responsibilities that we are presented with – each day – with less stress.
Mental flexibility is related to our perceptions, emotions, actions and also even our deep motivations. A change in your environment, attitude or behavior will also affect the way that you think.
Feeling optimistic or content creates a broader and more inclusive way of thinking. On the contrary, fear severely narrows our focus. So, when we are able to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a specific mindset, we’re practicing mental flexibility.
Let’s Talk A Bit More About Fear
Fear is experienced in your mind; however, it triggers a very strong physical reaction in your body. As soon as you perceive fear, your amygdala (which is a small organ in the middle of your brain) gets to work.
The amygdala alerts your nervous system, which gets your body’s fear response into motion.
Stress hormones, for example cortisol as well as adrenaline, are released while your blood pressure and heart rate increase dramatically. You start breathing faster. Even your blood flow alters — blood actually flows away from your heart and then into your limbs. This makes it easier for you to begin throwing punches or running for your life. Your body is preparing for fight-or-flight.
As some parts of your brain are gearing up, others are closing up shop.
When the amygdala feels fear, the cerebral cortex (which is area of the brain that harnesses reasoning as well as judgment) becomes compromised. Thus, now it’s difficult to make good decisions or to think clearly.
Fear narrows your perspective as if you in a dark valley all of the time. However, if you have courage and take a deep breath, suddenly you see the sun, the sky and the stars. It’s like climbing a mountain and being able to see the whole perspective, so embracing the whole joyful experience of living.
How To Improve Mental Flexibility
While some individuals naturally have more mental flexibility, we all have the ability to become better with intention as well as practice. Here are five brain exercises to enhance your mental flexibility further.
Change Your Scenery
Take a walk or slow jog around the block, have a coffee break or – better yet – take a vacation. If you switch up your environment, you will feel your mind shift. Exercise is a great mental booster while offering a great change of scenery.
Do Something Different
Get to grips with playing a musical instrument or dance. Discover how to cook a new recipe or even learn a new language.
In a research study, older adults who participated in a variety of new and stimulating activities – over a three-month period – demonstrated a significant gain in creativity, problem-solving abilities as well as other markers of ‘fluid intelligence’. This is as compared to the control group in the study.
Novelty inspires mental flexibility and over time supports brain growth in order to maintain those changes.
Question Your Thoughts And Words
In order to become more mentally flexible, you should become more aware of what you are saying as well as thinking. Listen attentively to your words. Rather than being attached to your current way of thinking, try a new perspective. Change out negative or inflexible thoughts and words – which don’t serve you – with more positive ideas as well as phrases.
Change up your routine. For instance, drive a different way to work, take a new gym class, register to play now, or try out a new recipe that you’ve been eyeing for a while. Alternatively, once in a while you could change the order of your day. Getting out of the time-rut could be very mind-expanding!
Mix up The Way That You’re Thinking
Jumping back and forth between a focused – or detailed – task and then something which requires less focus can lead you developing to more creative and groundbreaking ideas. Rotate periods of focused thought and spread attention (do something in an unfocused way while you are also doing another thing else) for optimal results.
You need good mental flexibility in order to be able to easily switch your thinking easily from one concept or task to another one in response to the changing circumstances around you. In fact, the quicker and more easily that you are able to do that, the greater your level of mental flexibility. Keep in mind that mental flexibility is not a synonym for the often-sought-after term (and longed for skill) which is ‘multi-tasking’.