When a client asks me how they can live their best possible life, I explain that it starts with something called psychological flexibility
Each of us takes our psychology with us wherever we go. Whether we are at home, work, or elsewhere, our level of psychological flexibility influences how well we can adapt our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in response to the situations and challenges life presents.
If that sounds important, it’s because it is.
Your level of psychological flexibility can determine whether you are thriving or spending time simply trying to survive. It explains how skillfully you relate to your emotions; how you think about ourselves, others, and the world; and how much you engage in actions that matter to you. And, without
a high level of psychological flexibility, it’s easy to end up with high levels of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression.
So, what does it look like to be “psychologically flexible life”? Its components are exactly what many clients seek therapy or evidence-based coaching to find. Research shows that higher levels of psychological flexibility provide a wide range of benefits, including higher levels of mental health; lower stress levels; better personal and social functioning; higher self-efficacy, greater goal attainment and increased goal-related thinking; and even lower burnout at work.
The skills that lead to increased flexibility include the mindfulness, mindset, and meaningful moves that lead to a life with meaning and purpose—our best life. To cultivate psychological flexibility, you need practice. That’s why I created ACT for Your Best Life
, a card deck of 54 prompts and exercises to help clients increase their psychological flexibility.
Each card in this deck includes an exercise to rehearse one of the six psychological flexibility processes: present moment awareness, acceptance, cognitive defusion, self as context, values, and committed action. This deck can be used in self-guided work or by mental health professionals and coaches in session.
Using this deck, you or your client will learn how to:
- Anchor yourself in the power of the present moment
- Sit with uncomfortable or unwanted emotions
- Unhook from unhelpful thoughts and limiting stories
- Step back as an observer and take perspective
- Clarify what matters most in pivotal moments
- Show up as your best self in any situation
Try it now. The following exercise from ACT for Your Best Life can help you defuse from unhelpful, narrow ways of thinking that limited what’s possible for you:
“Yes, And…” Improv
Think of a rigid belief that feels true, such as People are untrustworthy.
Now use the improvisation technique “yes, and…” to expand your perspective. For example:
Yes, people are untrustworthy, and I can still ask for what I need and want.
Yes, people are untrustworthy, and I’m sometimes untrustworthy too.
Try shifting your perspective at least 2 times using the “yes, and…” improv technique when an unwanted thought shows up, and see if your perspective expands and becomes more flexible.
You can find more exercises like this in Dr. West’s ACT for Your Best Life: 54 Simple and Powerful Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Practices for Navigating Stress, Anxiety & Burnout