Self-compassion is difficult but it’s the key factor for overall good mental health. What you need for self-compassion is flexibility in thinking.
What is Flexibility in Thinking?
Psychological flexibility is defined as the ability to stay in touch with reality and the present moment, even when emotions and negative thoughts are overwhelming. In those situations, we might think about how we should have done things differently (past) or how things will be terrible (future). Flexibility is crucial in difficult moments when we tend to be harsh with ourselves. Staying in the moment matters.
Don’t Ignore the Pain
When times are tough, it’s important to keep going forward but to acknowledge your emotions and thoughts. Flexibility doesn’t mean that you will completely ignore your emotions. If you ignore how you feel, things might even get more difficult. Also, you are less likely to develop self-compassion if you are ignoring your feelings.
When we encounter a big issue, we often completely focus on one area of our life where we encountered the issue. If we have an issue at work, we often ignore the quality time spent with family members and friends, our hobbies and our interests. We become over-occupied with work and everything else is put on the side.
Balanced life and flexibility are connected. In those moments when we are struggling with work issues, it’s important to lead a balanced life where we are not going to ignore other important areas of life but we are not running away from the issue either. We are not running away from our problems; we are remaining flexible by acknowledging difficult times and allowing ourselves to take a break.
Psychological flexibility and balanced life allow us to remain kind and compassionate towards ourselves.
To become psychologically flexible you need to become aware of all the chatter within your mind and remember that most of your thoughts are temporary thoughts and you have the power to change the way you think in every moment. When we talk about flexible thinking it’s important to remember critical thinking as well. Stiff thinking doesn’t acknowledge critical thinking and fixates on one thought or feeling that’s overwhelming us at any given moment.
Critical thinking is important for scientists to understand the problem. The same goes for us. To understand and change how we think or feel, we need to implement critical thinking. Question everything! Look at the situation from each angle and imagine multiple possible scenarios not only the worst-case scenario.
On the other side, stiff thinking is led by rigid thoughts which can be critical to us in the worst possible way. With rigid thoughts, we are stuck in our emotions and thoughts. Stiff thinking and rigid thoughts are great energy drainers that don’t allow us to resolve our problems.
With stiff thinking, we keep doing the same thing over and over again even if time shows us that the approach is not working. To grow we need to risk and change our approach.
Sometimes it’s not a matter of us not working hard enough but working effectively. We often beat ourselves that we are not doing enough but it might be that we need to change the way we work not the amount of energy that we are putting in.
How to Practice Flexible Thinking?
First, don’t ignore how your feel, thinking it will go away. Face how you feel, implement critical thinking and see all possible scenarios in front of you. Before giving up, think about what can you do differently. Gather more information, look at the situation from a different angle, change the focus of your energy and implement a new plan.
If you ever feel hopeless, remember that you are not alone. Think about it as a normal state. Think about what can you do differently to change the way you feel. Sometimes all we need is to focus our energy somewhere else, go for a walk, and when we go back to a problem that we are facing we might have a new idea of how to deal with a problem.
When we are fixated, we are less likely to resolve the issue. In those moments, we keep trying the same thing all over again which can only lead to the same results.