5 Ways to Develop Cognitive Flexibility

Photo by Henri Pham on Unsplash

What is cognitive flexibility?

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to think about two different concepts at the same time. For example, you may be angry about spilling your coffee. But you’re also grateful you have more coffee in your pantry.

This involves your ability to adapt when change occurs.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed in situations when things don’t go as expected? Do you have a sense of despair in those moments? That is more than okay. We all experience this at some point in our lives.

I’m going to share with you some tips on how to be more flexible when changes happen.

*Please note that there are affiliate links in this post.

1. Be conscious of your thought pattern

As humans, our minds are busy-bees, buzzing from one thought to another. If you can be present with the way you think, you then sit in the driver’s seat. If what you’re starting to think is negative, hateful or self-sabotaging, let it go.

Throughout your day, pay attention what comes to mind. Acknowledge these thoughts and then move on. You can choose to stay in the momentary darkness or you can shift your thinking!

2. Challenge your own perspective

When you’re met with resistance from another, take a moment to see their perspective. How are you feeling now? What would it be like to stand in their shoes? Is there an aspect of what they’re saying that you may actually agree with?

If you don’t find yourself in conversations of conflict, you can Google or YouTube interesting topics!

Exposing yourself to new perspectives whether it be in thought, food or art can teach you a lot about cognitive flexibility. This also fosters a great opportunity to practice empathy and patience.

3. Ask for clarification

Often, we’re blinded by our emotions and react. Instead of responding wth aggression, ask an inquisitive question to open a dialogue. The more we clarify, the easier we communicate. The more understanding there is between others.

Of course, if we’re met with evil or malicious intent, it is only fair to defend ourselves or those we care about.
Remember to be aware of your intentions and communicate. Cognitive flexibility involves clarity in our thoughts and speech.

4. You are who you spend time with.

If you always hear narrow thoughts and negativity, chances are, you’ll start to think the same.

Same occurrence applies to beliefs. If you only hang around people who believe the same, rigid things, it can lead to bias. When you’re with a friend who is adaptable and motivated, you’re likely to model that attitude.
Be that friend who thinks with innovation in mind.

If we ignored every uncomfortable change in life, we wouldn’t see progress in engineering, medicine and creative arts!

Self-growth looks different in each person, but being able to adapt to change in a flexible way is a trait that everyone can appreciate!

5. Read books with lofty ideas

Getting out of our own mind can be easier when reading. We can go at our own pace and don’t need to worry about a response or reaction.

Dancing the Dream is a book about human spiritual exploration. This took me a while to get through to mentally ‘digest’, but definitely worth the time!

This is a good book about Toltec Wisdom and living in community with others.

Another interesting book, is this one about narcissism. Exploring whether we are living an epidemic. [find book and link]

If you’re interested in psychotherapy and mental health, this is an interesting one.

A book I’m going to start this month, is Rich Dad Poor Dad. I’ve heard about this for years and was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. There are a lot of positive reviews, so I am going to jump on and indulge in the wisdom that’s offered.

Practice means Improvement

How we’re taught to manage conflict, shows us throughout our lives how flexible we are in our thinking. The beauty of life is we have the power to change how we think!

For me, change as a child meant fear and lack of safety at times. Since I’ve started changing my mindset, cognitive flexibility has become my strength. It has helped me through harrowing life events.

Paying attention to our thoughts, being open to new perspectives, being mindful of who we spend time with and reading helps us improve our cognitive flexibility.

Apply the above 5 principles and see how your thinking can change.

See how your conversations change.

See how your relationships change.

Open your mind like Dr Strange

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