Orlando Therapist Shares – The Importance of Psychological Flexibility
Psychological flexibility is roughly explained as being able to experience the present moment, as it is, without avoidance or judgment while persisting or changing one’s behavior to align with one’s goals and values. Research has found that psychological flexibility contributes to increased emotion regulation skills, better coping skills and higher life satisfaction (Hayes et al., 2006).
Psychological flexibility consists of:
- Being able to recognize and adapt to a variety of situations
- Changing one’s unhealthy thinking processes and behaviors that interfere with personal or social functioning
- Living a life that is balanced
- Being aware of, committed to and behaving in ways that are in line with our values
Many individuals with anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression have been found to be psychologically inflexible as these individuals often engage in rigid attempts to control their situations and reactions to discomfort. Many individuals with anxiety, OCD and depression attempt to have rigid control over their emotions and environment in an attempt to escape or avoid uncomfortable experiences, which often keeps them from living a full and meaningful life.
For example, a person with anxiety may create rigid rules around what they consider to be safe and react with anxiety when they are exposed to anything outside of these rules. In an attempt to escape, avoid or control anxiety, their world becomes smaller and smaller as the individual becomes more and more limited by the anxious thoughts and physical sensations they don’t want to feel. In addition, cognitive distortions, or the tendency to interpret situations in rigid, inflexible ways, are another key factor that maintain anxiety disorders and decrease psychological flexibility. The person with anxiety would probably overestimate the likelihood that something bad will happen as well as the impact that the bad thing might have on them if it actually were to happen. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps to reduce anxiety by developing flexible thinking and learning to understand how one’s mind interprets situations and events, thereby increasing one’s ability to respond differently to anxiety provoking situations. When psychological flexibility increases, one can see that you can respond differently and be more willing to tolerate anxiety and move toward instead of away from the things that create anxiety.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists strive to increase resilience and decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression and OCD by helping clients to develop psychological flexibility so they can engage fully in life, through times of ease and calm as well as through periods of stress and dificulty.
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