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Psychological Flexibility

In the counseling theory of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, it is believed that psychological Inflexibility is what causes psychological suffering. Psychological inflexibility is is defined as "an inability to be open to present-moment experiences and rigid engagement in behavioral patterns guided by psychological reactions instead of chosen values." We will spend more time unpacking this concept, but for today, let's take a small part of this concept. Open to the present moment.... This is an easy enough idea to grasp, but consider how difficult it can be to implement. If like most of us, you may find yourself thinking of the future...dreading an upcoming situation, or even fearing imaginary scenarios. Other times you might spend time with your mind in the past in ways such as reviewing losses, imagining alternate paths or choices. The problem with spending too much time in the past or future is that all we have is now. The past is gone and fixed in stone. Nothing can be done to recreate it. The future is equally out of reach. This moment is the only moment that we can impact and the only place life actually happens.

So a first step in building psychological flexibility, start to consider what might be keeping you from being fully in the here and now. How much time do you spend ruminating on the past, wanting to redo things, or wishing that you could go back to another time? How much time spent imagining the future, wondering what bad things might come, wishing for dreams to come true?

As you become more aware of where your habits of mind may bring you, practice bringing yourself back to the present. This is actually a conscious choice you can make to notice where you are this very moment. Feel the air fill your lungs. I like to implement the rule of 5/5/5. Notice 5 things you can see, 5 things you can feel, and 5 things you can hear. For example, right now I can see a coffee table, art on the walls, a lamp glow, tree branches swaying out the window, and my fingers typing. I can feel the chair under my legs, my socks on my feet, a sweater on my arms, my breath going in and out, and a laptop on my lap. Finally, I can hear the wind blowing, cars passing, the heating fan whooshing, the clicking of the computer keys, and leaves rustling outside. With focusing on these things, I can't help but be only here. I am fully grounded in this moment. Practice making this choice several times a day. The more you practice being in this moment, the more common it will become to stay here.

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