The term Mental flexibility describes for the ability of the brain to think and visualize the concept. If you quickly change your thinking from one object to another (such as object or color), then you will have excellent mental flexibility levels.
Mental flexibility also describes as cognitive flexibility, which is a human brain ability to think, thought process, understanding the stimuli demands. In neuroscience, the mental flexibility also describes as cognitive shifting or attention switching, task switching, set shifting. The analogy is the best way to explain to you about mental flexibility.
Example: Think of the brain as a Tv, and the channels are thought streams which keep changing. If you stuck with one channel, then your mental ability is inflexible. If your thoughts streams are unable to update, then you are incapable of changing the thoughts in the brain.
Mental flexibility has different degrees such one person have less another have double mental ability to think. In other words, maybe both individuals are able to change their thinking to adjust with new stimuli, but it can be possible that one may achieve shifting thinking faster than another individual.
Here are the ways to have excellent mental flexibility for better physical fitness.
Change your routine
A simple change in your routine is the best way to increase your mental flexibility. You can start doing things in a different way from your everyday routine.
For example: If you drive to reach your office, then try going by bus. A complete change you may feel in your brain and body while traveling on a bus.
In your own car, you will drive or your driver. During traveling in a car, you will think only about your work, meeting or checking your phone.
Whereas, when you go by bus, you will see different people around, wearing different clothes and struggling to take the bus. That makes your brain visualize things differently.
Similarly, if you go to the gym, try changing exercise by riding a bike or running in the park.
Even changing your dinner table place or brushing teeth with your left hand can strengthen and develop your new neural connection in the brain.
- Try to change your morning routine in five ways.
- Make a note of your experiences about what you learned and noticed around.
- Again, next week adopt five different ways to change your routine.
Experience new things
Whenever you do or learn something different from you know can help your brain to form new synaptic links. Learning or doing something new helps to induce dopamine (neurotransmitter) release which helps to motivate your mental flexibility and increase your memory power.
You can involve yourself in novel activities which help in increasing mental ability. Here are the changes you adopt.
- Travel another country
- Volunteer new industry
- Learn a new language
- Learn musical instrument
- Join dance class
- Explore your own town where you never been
Trying something new helps you to overcome from your fear. There will be something everyone wants to do but fear and leave it. Once you do that one thing, you will see how happy and determined you will feel.
There is always some fear in mind to try something new, do that and you will come to know how your brain expands to do something. Once you do what you fear, then trying thing will be your top priority, you will experience many spectacular things in life.
Trying new things helps to know ourselves better. Often you skip things by telling yourself that it’s not your cup of tea but when you really try new things, you will realize how unique qualities you have. It also helps you to know your likes and dislike which you didn’t know earlier. Knowing yourself help you understand how things you want in life which increase your mental flexibility in a great way.
Creative thinking helps to increase your mental flexibility. According to the study of a psychologist, Dr. Robert Steinber discovered that the students who learn how to think practical and creative were able to perform best in the examination and conveyed their knowledge in other areas of learning.
Divergent thinking often occurs naturally in a free-flowing way which involves unlimited possibilities instead of limited choices.
How to develop creative thinking?
There is no limit to creative thinking. Here are some useful techniques to practice.
- Paint or draw on paper.
- Play with ideas during a walk
- Take a topic and brainstorm about it and write down your thinking.
- Try to give a different answer to the same question.
- Create new ideas of different objects by combining some feature of each one.
- Change your route forgoing college, office or market.
- Listen to another type of music and let you’re to learn new stimuli.
- Try to push the ideas beyond its limits.
Don’t seek easy ways
Currently technology, mobile apps provide us everything easily and unlimited ways but doing everything in an easy way can reduce your mental flexibility.
According to research, practicing difficult things can help in deep learning and increase your thinking ability in a more flexible way.
- While driving to an unknown area, use the map to navigate and follow the direction.
- Try grabbing your mobile for any calculation, use pen and paper to calculate in an old way.
- Try to use logic and analyze things and think to find better solutions.
- Distract your mind in a light way, daydream and think about some problem.
Meet new people
Meet new people around who belongs to different culture. Getting social can help to increase your mental flexibility. When you’re thinking meets another type of idea, then it can help to think you in a deeper way to find solutions to any problem or anything.
According to research, the people who face a challenging situation can find the right ideas which can increase their mental flexibility.
A study discovered that a college student who encounters with cultural differences were more prone to develop moral reasoning advance stage.
Try to build connection out of your regular social circles. It can be volunteering, traveling abroad, teaching and connecting with people on social media.
Transfer your learning
What you learn passing to others can be a good exercise for mental flexibility because it overpowers to create a new connection between earlier unformed knowledge channels to think clearly.
Without transferring ability of knowledge and skills to a new context, your learning will not have a prominent impact.
According to a study discovered that street children were able to do complex accurate calculations while selling their wares and they found difficult to answer equal problems which asked in the school.
Therefore, research shows that developing your own knowledge transferring ability in a new concept helps to discover incorrect assumptions. It also helps to generalize the future application concept.
Test your morals
According to research, getting experience which challenges your morals and present different values, beliefs and expectations which can give a better understanding of different perspectives of culture and helps to think more flexible.
If you are unable to agree with someone beliefs or point of view, then try to stay mentally flexible to understand why someone thinks like that, why their thinking perspective is different than yours. Developing the ability to understand others thinking can make communication easy with other people. Being mentally flexible helps to resolve conflicts and modify thinking about different situations.
Travel is a way to challenge your thinking ways, but you can also read about moral dilemmas and critically thinking about it help to develop your mental flexibility.
Make sure to go out of your ways of doing things differently, engage with new people and interact with them to become more mentally flexible.
Believe Your Behavioural History
Some people have type A characteristic as if they have hereditary personality traits. Most of the people do not get perfectionist or inflexible overnight.
- You may have done many things which show your perfectionism paid off which include
- You had a mock quiz for your friends.
- Hosted an unprepared bachelorette party for a girlfriend.
- You had volunteered a dance recital for your kindergarten and received a standing ovation.
The behavior science continues in doing things which gets reward and recognition. It is kind of mental flexibility which develop in you to take charge of certain things which brings strong praises for you and increase your mental power.
Develop a reading habit
By reading books, poetry helps to bring a charming change pattern in your brain activity.
According to one study, few people were asked to give ratings on texts after reading on the basis of poeticness, and they had to write how much they felt to rethink the meaning.
A brain scan performed while reading more complex texts and the scan showed the rise in activity in the brain’s key areas which increase the literary awareness.
According to research, a sustained poem reading experience helps to increase the mental flexibility from the process of new meaning acceptance and meaning reappraisal, said by study author – Professor Philip Davis from the University of Liverpool.
Professor Davis tells that having more mental flexibility helps to adapt behavior and thoughts to change the situations. Better levels of mental flexibility seek new solutions rather than staying stuck in same habits.
Stress is a common health problem which triggers much chronic health diseases. Acute stress can cause mental flexibility impairment. Many studies analyzed how stress effect on mental flexibility. The scientist measured the changing levels of stress and pattern performance which asked participants to change the different tasks. This process involves PFC functions (an impaired space by stress).
However, mental flexibility has many sides. Another flexibility dimension includes updating relevant information which involves dorsal striatum. During research, this region heightened the function due to stress. Researcher tested flexibility in DMS tasks which raised by acute stress manipulation. Participants of the study responded to stress which increased the updating flexibility accuracy and the condition became worse to switch between different task demands. It caused them a reduction of mental flexibility.
According to the research of the Solan center website, the employees with working hours flexibility are more mentally satisfied and have a better balance between work and life.
Therefore, the researchers discovered that the high level of flexibility has a link with better health which means less stress and strain on physical health.
Aim small for mental stretching
Try to observe and track your inflexible behavior and gradually start to practice flexible in a different situation the whole day. Next aim to set a small goal for stretching mental activity. For example, A great runner aims weekly mileage for practice for a marathon.
A healthy dieter aims for a fair target for fast weight loss every week. If you want to continue motivating yourself, then think about how flexible you want to be in an entire week. Write about your plans and keep it where you can see easily.
You may wonder how to know that your habits are improving? Keep track of your practice. You can also keep a note in your email or stick notes on the chart. Once you see the results, you will know that your mental flexibility is changing.
Reward Your Choice to Retreat
Inflexible behavior patterns develop gradually and making a change to them is a big challenge. Sometime you may feel exhausted while practicing your mental flexibility in daily situations. It can be tough while doing things such as planning, packing lunches, laundry, creating employee schedules, following emails.
During the mental change, you can use some extra habits to make yourself motivated to calm yourself.
You can do messaging back, watch a movie at the theatre and make fresh flower bouquets. Using such aim to stretch your mental ability helps to stick with your plan every week.
Until you get a flow of continuing your plans you can reward yourself to grow your flexibility.
If you are left handed or right handed, try to use your other hand to do things such as eating, brushing teeth and using a mouse. It is the best chance to use a non-dominant hand which helps to increase brain activity.
Initially, it can be difficult, so that is excellent for brain exercise.
Eating food with chopstick can be mindful. It is a good activity for the brain, and beneficial for calorie consumption and digestion.
Do tasks with your closed eyes
To create new neural pathways, you can try doing everyday chores with closed eyes such as washing hair, taking shower and laundry. Remember only selected things you can do with closed eye because trying anything with closed eyes may put you in danger.
Example: don’t close while walking outside, but you can close eyes while taking shower.
Use your all senses all together
Try to involve yourself in activities which can simultaneously occupy your all senses. There are some activities which engage all your senses such as camping, travel, and gardening.
There is another excellent activity such as shopping at a farmer’s market in which you can touch, look, taste and sniff the products.
Visiting your farmer and getting sociable helps to stimulate your brain for increasing mental flexibility.
Harvard, National-Institutes-of-Health and Mayo clinic praise meditation for its great benefits. Meditation is a valuable habit to improve mental flexibility.
As you begin to meditate, you will develop different patterns of information which you may not have earlier.
Our brain is like a machine which works non-stop for a process such as thinking, understanding, and leaning. The brain creates up to 60, 000 thoughts every day and 95% of thoughts are the same in day out. Training your brain can be a difficult job, but meditation can help gradually to build the brain flexibility.
Doing meditation can benefit from different health problems such as
- Stress reduction
- Memory problem
- Mood and learning ability
- Increased attention and focus
- Brain atrophy reversal
Do Physical Exercise
Mental flexibility cannot complete without physical exercise. Physical exercise is an important thing for the brain and its development. Regular physical exercise can help your brain to function normally.
Physical exercise reduces stress and helps to release good feeling brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine.
The increased level of brain chemicals helps to improve the new neural network and new brain cell development.
Doing physical exercise also helps to prevent mental decline and lessen the risk of dementia.
Doing regular exercise helps to boost blood circulation in the brain and circulate proper oxygen in the brain cells.
You need to do moderate exercise for brain health, and there is no need for a strenuous workout.
You can do walking, as it provides the best benefits for your mental flexibility.
Why mental flexibility is important
Mental flexibility is essential for shifting thoughts and attention quickly. The people with mental inflexibility get difficulty to shift one thought to another. Their thought often stuck and unable to respond quickly.
Being mentally inflexible mean watching only one tv channel or only one novel reading for the lifetime. These people not able to accept the change.
Developing mental flexibility helps to shifts thinkings quickly and change your perspective accept new information in the brain.
With cultural growth, continuation rises mental flexibility and biological evolution and helps to update the old belief system as a progression to new motives.
The example is those people who are unable to learn new things such as using a mobile or computer. These people get difficulty to understand new learning because their mental flexibility gets stuck in their ways. Therefore, they fail to understand new generations.
Additionally, improving a person’s ability to accept when faced with new stimuli, mental flexibility linked with developing brain functions. It makes your brain to function more effectively like operating different sections in the orchestra.
The people with high mental flexibility levels have an excellent understanding and fluency liked with reading and more extended awareness sense.