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5 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Flexibility

It is important to be able to “keep your cool” and remain flexible with your emotions throughout life’s ups and downs. This ability allows you to adapt more effortlessly to new obstacles, situations, and experiences. Being cognitively flexible allows you to grow as a person and to have a better overall attitude.

The ACG and Emotions

By using SPECT brain imaging, we’ve observed that the area in the front part of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) tends to be overactive in those who have difficulty with cognitive flexibility. The ACG is involved in shifting attention. When it is operating well, it allows us to focus on something, move on, and then shift focus to something else. However, when it is overactive, there is a tendency for people to get stuck.

Here are some simple strategies you can integrate into your life to help you overcome a negative mindset, become more flexible, and adjust more easily to life’s curveballs.

Use Nutrition to Boost Your Mood

Your ACG has many “serotonergic” receptors, meaning that people who tend to be stubborn in their thinking or behavior may have a deficit of serotonin.

For many, a diet with a higher ratio of complex carbohydrates to protein can be effective. Serotonin levels can also increase by eating foods rich in L-tryptophan which is a building block of serotonin. Such foods include chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, nut butter, eggs, and green peas.

Exercise

You can also increase L-tryptophan by exercising. Exercise increases your energy levels, diminishes your worries, and can distract you from the repetitive thinking patterns that get stuck in your head.

Thought Stopping

An important part of gaining control over your repetitive thoughts is to becoming aware of them when they occur.  When you notice negative thoughts start to creep in, you should envision a red stop sign, and say to yourself, “STOP!” The more you practice this, the more you will gain control over your thoughts.

Write Out Options and Solutions

Writing down your thoughts helps to “get them out of your head,” and allows you to view them more rationally. Follow these steps:

  1. Write down the thought that is stuck in your head.
  2. Write down what you can do to help offset the thought.
  3. Write down the things that you have no control over with regard to the thought.

Think Before Automatically Saying NO

Some people have the tendency to say “no” automatically–even before thinking about what was asked of them. This can be especially problematic in relationships. It is limiting and unnecessary to always dismiss ideas or deny your partner his or her request. To help with this, before responding, take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds, and then take five seconds to exhale while considering what the best way to respond would be.

These techniques can help you vastly improve your mental flexibility which in turn will help you reduce your worries, improve your relationships and reduce the distress you experience when you get stuck on unhealthy or negative thoughts and behaviors.

If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional flexibility, contact Amen Clinics to schedule a visit, or call our Call Center today at (888) 288-9834.

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