The Flexible Mind - Part 1
The current pandemic creates opportunity to maximize the potential of the mind. As humans, our minds have the ability to grow and change. Pressure and stress can move us in a forward direction. This week’s blog post by our in house anxiety specialist, Sherri Robbins, gives insight into how you can get control of your thoughts and live with more peace today.
The Flexible Mind Part 1
The human mind is so amazing and complex! As children, we can create imaginary friends who play with us and keep us entertained for hours. During adolescence and early adulthood, we can visualize our future selves happily married, with children, a dream home, and a high-status career. As we engage in these imaginary scenes, our emotions and physical sensations often benefit from the positive thoughts we fuse with. On the contrary, we can also create fearful scenarios that result in racing thoughts, anxiety, elevated heart rate, and many other negative symptoms.
The latter example is the picture of an inflexible mind that is fused with negative thoughts. Our thoughts can dominate our minds and affect our behavior. However, a flexible mind is one that can defuse from those thoughts. Defusion happens when we separate or distance our minds from our thoughts by letting them come and go instead of getting caught up in them.
Did you know that your mind is not you? It’s a part of you, but it is not in control of you. You actually have the ability to tell your mind to turn toward your thoughts and feelings in a way that is open, curious, and kind (Hayes). Your mind can take in an experience in the present moment and move in whatever direction it desires. It can avoid thoughts and feelings, be consumed by them, or it can be aware of them and tend to them in a nurturing way.
Here are some helpful things you can begin to do in order to develop a more flexible mind:
- Look “at” your thoughts rather than looking “from” thoughts
- “Notice” thoughts rather than getting “caught up” in thoughts
- Let thoughts “come and go” rather than “holding on” to them (Harris)
These tips and ideas on the flexible mind are part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Developing a flexible mind is about “learning not to turn away from what is painful, instead turning toward your suffering in order to live a life full of meaning and purpose” (Hayes). It’s also about “moving your life in directions that are important to you and building habits that allow you to live life in accordance with your values and aspirations” (Hayes).
- Harris, R. (2009). Act Made Simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
- Hayes, S. (2019). The Liberated Mind. A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters. New York: Avery.
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