SYDNEY4WOMEN – Psychologists are now doing research on a new concept of mental wellbeing known as “psychological flexibility.” The idea is not to strive blindly for more of everything that is perceived as “good” or “positive” but rather to use the entire rainbow of emotions that we have at our disposal (positive and negative) to move us towards the things that we value most. This makes a lot of sense because not only is it impossible to eliminate negative feelings entirely (we’re only human), but they can actually serve us, helping us to learn and grow and protecting us from danger. Psychological flexibility is the ability to use the right emotional resources at the right times in order to create the kind of lives we want.
So what would “mental yoga” look like? In other words, what are the exercises you can use to develop psychological flexibility? Here are three ideas that researchers are exploring to stretch your emotional muscles:
- Acceptance. Pain, sadness, anger, regret are all a part of life. Accepting negative emotions and experiences, rather than trying to control or eliminate them, is a healthier way to approach the complexities of human life and establish a good foundation from which to make better decisions. Acceptance breaks the vicious cycle of having anxiety about the fact that you are having anxiety.
- Curiosity. A curious mindset allows you to observe your negative reactions without judgment and see what you can learn from them. Curiosity engages your sense of logic and inhibits emotional “gut” reactions, allowing you to learn from these situations and identify intelligent next steps that lead you towards your goals.
- Commitment. Once your mind is freed from the exhausting struggle that comes from resisting or stressing about emotional states, it is easier to commit to the right actions or behaviors that lead you towards the things that you value most.
If you already do physical yoga, you know that sometimes you have to go through some discomfort to get the most out of your practice. In fact, sometimes it is because you challenged yourself to endure some discomfort that you progress to the next level. Your yoga instructor may tell you to observe how your body is feeling but not to make judgments about it. Accepting these moments of discomfort and recommitting to your yoga practice is what makes you better over time.
Mental yoga is no different. If you are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, they signal an opportunity for you to stretch emotionally, learn (wisdom), and grow (maturity). Observe them, but don’t judge yourself for having them. Ask yourself how they are serving you or if other thoughts or emotions could serve you better. You have a number of mental or emotional states at your disposal, and your new psychologically flexible self benefits from all of them.
This article was written by Jeremy McCarthy who is the director of spa operations for Starwood Hotels and is on the board of directors of the International Spa Association. Check out more of his musings at psychologyofwellbeing.com It was published at the Huffington Post called Mental Yoga: Why Psychological Flexibility Matters.
I found it interesting to share. I believe that although there is now a concept to call all these different emotions we go through life, this is something we practice since early childhood. That is how actually kids learn to deal with problems in real life.
Kids are curious, they commit to what they like and they accept their lives and try to make the most of it. Can’t we just go back to childhood and remember how exciting it was to be curious and learn new things?