What is mental flexibility and what impact does it have on your well-being? Is depression the consequence of a fixed mindset? How can you develop mental flexibility?
Mental flexibility and truisms
It may be good to begin an article dedicated to mental flexibility with a truism saying that life is the consequence of changes. Although it may sound obvious, many of us accept this saying only on the surface level, not fully grasping its deeper meaning. After all, as a consequence of evolution, the most important thing we seek is the sense of safety.
Which is why we like stability so much, being left alone, not having our routines interrupted. If something distressing happens, and our ordered everyday life becomes in any way endangered, we tend to catastrophise, feel anxious, and the last thing we would want to do is break the status quo. But that is not always possible. Mental Flexibility and depression: mental flexibility is the trait that will protect us from depression in the face of inevitable changes.
What is the correlation between mental flexibility and depression?
People with a Well-developed mental flexibility are better at dealing with life challenges, are less likely to get sick, and have a happier and less anxious approach to life. They are better at adapting to new circumstances, which lets them avoid a lot of anxiety. They have the skill of adjusting to different point of views, they accept ambiguity and uncertainty, are better at taking risks, they learn on their mistakes, and are better at solving problems.
Weak mental flexibility may come in pair with poor focusing skills, timidity, passivity, impulsivity, unreliability, and avoidance of new experiences. Some psychologists see the source of weak mental flexibility as the Source of depression. For example, the psychologist Albert Ellis claims that the risk of getting depression is higher among people interpreting their experiences irrationally, which is strictly connected to the level of mental flexibility.
The lack of mental flexibility manifests in a fixed mindset. If the mindset is negative and one constantly rationalises their bad experiences in a way that leaves no place for optimism, the risk of depression is very high. Holding onto the fixed mindset leads to discarding counterarguments and worsening of the emotional issues.
How to develop your mental flexibility?
Mental flexibility is correlated with chemical process that take place in the brain, which are in turn dependent on the functioning of the whole body. That is why the first step of bettering one’s mental flexibility should be the change of diet. The brain has to produce more serotonin, which has the direct impact on the thoughts and behaviour. That is why a good diet will be richer in carbohydrates rather than protein. Foods that are recommended include chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and products containing L-tryptophan, which builds serotonin, such as poultry, salmon, peanut butter, green peas, or eggs.
To induce the amount of L-tryptophan in one’s body it is worth to exercise regularly. There are also many psychological methods. A good mental exercise that induces mental flexibility is stopping the train of thought. One has to first identify the thoughts that block the possibility of making a rational decision and keep their attention away from it. After some time, this exercise really helps in controlling one’s thoughts.