Neuroscientists, educators, and psychologists sometimes call it cognitive shifting, but you may know it better as flexible thinking. However you describe it, it refers to your brain’s ability to shift gears from one subject to another.
Flexible thinking also plays a major role in your happiness and productivity.
Even if you know that flexible thinking is good for you, you may resist it because it feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar. However, you can overcome those obstacles with practice.
Take a look at the benefits of becoming more adaptable and strategies to help you loosen up.
Benefits of Flexible Thinking
Many studies have found that flexible thinking is associated with enhanced brain function. You’re likely to enjoy greater mental and physical health, higher levels of fluid intelligence, and many other advantages.
Consider these benefits:
1. Cope with change. Flexible thinking helps you to accept that change is natural. You’ll adapt to new circumstance faster and experience less stress.
2. Stay updated. Applying new information keeps you from becoming stuck in the past. You can master the latest technology or follow revised guidelines on nutrition.
3. Find solutions. Recognizing a wider range of options makes you more adept at resolving difficulties. You’ll see that there’s more than one way to repair your dishwasher or discipline your children.
4. Transform your relationships. You help others feel validated and respected when you look at a situation from their perspective. You’ll feel closer and encounter fewer conflicts.
5. Avoid frustration. Why miss out on life because you’re clinging to old expectations? Try a different coffee shop if your favorite hangout closes down.
Techniques to Increase Flexible Thinking
Would you believe that playing video games can strengthen your flexible thinking? Many effective exercises for your brain are simple and fun.
Try these techniques:
1. Practice mindfulness. Observing your thoughts without judgment and living in the present makes you more agile. Try meditating or just cutting back on distractions.
2. Play with words. Language affects how you think. For example, humor is often based on words having multiple meanings. Study jokes or invent your own. You could also read more poetry and drama, and work on expanding your vocabulary.
3. Invent games. Shake things up the next time you play cards. Create your own house rules.
4. Explore functional fixity. Take an ordinary object and imagine 3 alternative uses. For example, you could pick tennis balls or staple removers.
5. Talk to yourself. Stress interferes with creativity. Use your self-talk to provide reassurance and guidance when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask yourself questions that will clarify your priorities.
6. Alter your routine. Small steps add up when you’re trying to break out of a rut. Buy a different brand of shampoo or ride your bike to work instead of driving.
7. Exercise regularly. Physical and mental well being are interrelated. Work out at least 3 days a week and incorporate more activity into your daily life. Studies show that aerobic exercise is especially beneficial for stimulating creativity.
8. Sleep well. Rest and relaxation are also essential for keeping your brain in top condition. In addition to planning for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, focus on getting enough REM sleep, which is when most of your dreams take place.
9. Upgrade your diet. What you eat can strengthen or weaken flexible thinking. Cut back on processed foods, especially those high in sugar, while introducing more fermented foods into your diet. Also, omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fatty fish, enhance many cognitive functions.
Use flexible thinking to deal with life’s challenges. You’ll feel more confident and behave more skillfully, even when you’re faced with unexpected demands or last-minute changes.