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Flexible Thinking Part 2: Flexible Thinking and Mental Health

In my last post, Flexible Thinking Part 1, I reviewed what flexible thinking is and its benefits. Over the last few months, we have all been “thrown in the deep end” of flexible thinking as the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to make adjustments. Flexible thinking, or the ability to adapt mentally, emotionally and behaviorally to a variety of situations, helped us transition to distance learning, working, shopping, and socializing. 

In this post, I briefly highlight how flexible thinking can improve and help reduce feelings of depression and anxiety:

  • Depression tells us things will never change and reduces hope for the future. Flexible thinking applied to depression recognizes the opportunity each day and, in each situation, to do something different and breaks down negative feedback loops.
  • Anxiety feeds on possible, but unlikely, scenarios playing out in our lives and the lives of those we care about. Flexible thinking reminds anxious minds they have the resources around and within them to solve current and future problems and to create solutions to those problems. In short, flexible thinking focuses on “possibilities rather than deficiencies.”

What can we do to increase and improve our mental flexibility? 

Engaging in mindfulness activities, (think deep breathing, meditation and guided imagery) yoga, aerobics and relaxation techniques have all been shown to increase executive functions and mental flexibility. Research has also shown we can also enable flexible thinking through positive affect (positive emotions such as cheerfulness, pride and energy and their expression), openness to experience and self-control.

As we consistently engage in flexible thinking, we can have more control over our thoughts and responses, reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration and stress, meet our goals and successfully navigate the changing circumstances in our everyday lives and interpersonal relationships. 

Emerald Robertson, M.S.Ed., ACMHC, NCC


Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical psychology review30(7), 865-878.


The Relaxation Response


I think it is safe to say that we live in a relatively fast-paced world. As comedian Brian Regan points out, there are instructions on how to microwave your pop tarts (if you don’t have the time to put them in the toaster oven)! Jokes aside, the impact of our rapidly changing environment on our minds, emotions, and bodies is real. Without noticing, we have become a culture that is plagued with anxiety, attention deficiency, and hyper-tension. Simply, we are stressed.

Understanding that our culture is probably not going to regress to the technologies and pace of the stone-age, how can we cope with, and even thrive in this rapidly changing, frenzied society?

We have to take a step out of it and re-charge. It is similar to a NASCAR race. The cars are zipping around, revving their engines, and going as fast as they can. However, without the pit-stops, they cannot complete the race. They will run out of gas, burn through their tires, or even spontaneously burst in flames. This is not the result that we are looking for.

So, how do we get pit stops in our lives? We need to create them and they need to be rejuvenating, or, effective. Many people have objections to being lazy or “wasting time.” As comedian/actor Jerry Seinfeld (who has practiced Transcendental Meditation for forty years) points out, it isn’t about time management, but about energy management. While creating his Seinfeld series, he would spend twenty minutes while others took their lunch break, and would meditate to “re-charge his batteries.” He said that he could not conceive accomplishing what he did without the much needed benefit of meditation.


6 Steps to a Less Depressing Day

Fighting the battle of depression can be exhausting, overwhelming, and painful. It’s there whenWasatch Family Therapy Depression you wake up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night. It may seem, at times, like it will never end, and you will never be able to live a happy life. However, there are many things that can be done to ease this burden, and the following 6 steps are a good place to start. Here are just 6 simple tasks that, if you can work towards being able to check off of your list everyday, will help you begin to manage your depression:


Anger Management Series – Part 3

Here are a few more tips for handling anger. As mentioned, process and handle your anger, don’t discount it and push it away.


  • Try deep breathing exercises.
  • Repeat a phrase to relax your self like ‘take it easy’ or ‘you’re ok’ to calm yourself down.
  • Use imagery and go to your ‘happy or quiet place’
  • Exercise!

Cognitive Restructuring

  • Change the way you think.
  • Be more rational – “It’s the end of the world” can change to “It’s frustrating but understandable. It’s not the end of the world and overreacting never really fixes anything.”
  • Avoid phrases that start or end with never, always, or demand.
  • Logic can defeat your anger.

Problem Solving

  • Not all anger is displaced.
  • Don’t focus on the solution, focus on the process.

Improved Communication

  • Don’t act on your conclusions – they might be wrong. Clarify what’s going on by asking and using a conversation.
  • Listen to what’s going on.
  • Try not to fight back

Use Humor

  • Humor can diffuse rage quickly.

Change the Environment

  • Give yourself a break!
  • Don’t avoid confrontation but don’t put yourself in frustrating situations either.

Use Appropriate Timing for Conversations

  • Typically places like in front of the TV or when people are busy aren’t ideal conversation places.
  • If you have a confrontation situation then try planning a better place to talk where you can both focus on yourself.

Learn Assertiveness Training

  • Take a class on being more assertive rather than confrontational.
  • See a counselor for assertiveness training.

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Deep Breathing… How Can This Possibly Make Me Feel Better?

Wasatch Family TherapyA lot of therapists do deep breathing exercises with their clients and what’s going through your mind might be… does that really do anything? How can just breathing help make me feel better? I breathe all the time and it’s never helped me before! Well, here are a few benefits of  deep breathing:

1) Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen you take in which then releases tension in your body
2) Deep breathing massages your organs increasing and improving circulation
3) Deep breathing can actually strengthen and tone your stomach… who doesn’t want that?
4) Deep breathing can actually help you burn up excess fat… also something we all want
5) Deep breathing increases oxygen levels right? Increasing the amount of oxygen gives you more energy!
6) Deep breathing increases the pleasure chemicals in your brain making you feel happier and can even combat physical pain
7) If you put your mind into concentrating on ‘inhaling’ and ‘exhaling’ it clears your mind of whatever you were previously thinking about giving you a break from the stresses in your life, depressed thoughts, etc. How? Your mind can only think of one thing at one time so you’re concentrating on breathing and not anything else.

Just 15-20 minutes a day can help you feel better and give you all of those benefits. We all have 15 minutes right?

Learn more about deep breathing exercises…

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