Mood swings refer to our ability to isolate ourselves from one task and then respond to another or think about multiple concepts at the same time. A mentally flexible person will be able to learn faster, solve problems more creatively, and adapt and respond to new situations more effectively, which is why it is so important in both educational and workplace settings.
According to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum which looked at the future of jobs in nine different industries in the 15th largest economy in the world, employers will soon focus more on cognitive skills such as creativity and adaptability.
So whether you are a student or an active professional, building your mental flexibility is a great way to develop professionally and keep up with the changing work environment of the future. One of the best ways to adapt is to expose yourself to new experiences and ways of doing things, but if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas.
- Change your daily routine.
If you are looking for an easy way to start building your mindset, you can start by changing your process and doing everyday things differently.
For example, if you are used to taking the same route to work each day, look for a different route or consider taking a bus instead of driving. If you regularly exercise in the gym, change things up by running in the park or riding a bike.
Even making small changes such as sitting in a new place at a dinner table or using your left hand to brush your teeth instead of your right can help you build and strengthen new neural pathways.
- Look for new experiences.
Every time you encounter something strange or learn something new, the brain creates new synaptic connections. New and exciting experiences have also been shown to initiate the release of dopamine, which not only increases motivation but also improves memory and learning.
So getting out of your way to hear new things or get involved in novel activities can go a long way in helping you improve your mood.
This could mean going abroad or volunteering in a new industry, but it could also take some kind of activity such as learning a new language or musical instrument, taking a dance class, or exploring a part of a city unfamiliar to you.
- Practice thinking creatively.
Another way to build flexibility is to make an effort to think in ways that are not in harmony with art or to use different thinking. Another study by psychiatrist Dr. Robert Steinberg showed that while students were taught to think in both creative and practical ways, not only did their grades improve, but they were also able to transfer the knowledge they gained to completely different learning areas.
Different thinking often occurs automatically and in a flow-free way and involves thinking about infinite possibilities rather than having a limited set of options. Want to know more? See this article for tips on how to promote alternative thinking.
- Don’t always take the easy way out.
Nowadays we have technologies and applications that make our lives easier in countless ways, from spelling checking and automatic adjustment to GPS. But the fact is that making things easier for us is not always the best thing in our mind change.
Research shows that introducing so-called “desirable difficulties” can lead to deeper learning, so by making the point of not always choosing the easy way to do things, you can keep your mind sharp and also learn from your daily experience.
For example, if you are driving in an unfamiliar area, try navigating your way using a map and asking for directions instead of using your GPS, or instead of finding your phone the minute you need to count, take a pen and paper, do it the old way.
- Get out of your way to meet new people.
Meeting people from different cultures and walks of life whose views and ideas may be different from yours can help you to be less rigid in your thinking and accept that there can be more than one way of looking at things.
Studies show that people who are exposed to conditions that challenge their perceptions about what is right and what is wrong are more likely to have serious mental disorders. Some studies in particular have found that college students who have been exposed to cultural differences and cultural differences are more likely to have a higher level of moral thinking.
So make an effort to meet people outside of your normal social circles, whether that means going abroad, volunteering, educating, or communicating with people through social media.
- Pass on your reading.
Learning to transfer what you have learned in one context to a new context can be a good exercise in mental flexibility, as it forces you to build new connections between previously uninformed information networks and think creatively.
Without the ability to transfer skills and knowledge to new situations, your learning will not have much impact. For example, one study found that although street children were able to perform complex mathematical calculations when selling their items, they were not able to answer similar problems presented to them in the school environment.
If you want to improve your ability to convey information, research shows that defining a new concept in your own words not only helps you to identify any misconceptions, but also helps you to make sense of future action. Once you are sure that you understand the concept, you can look for ways to apply it in real-world situations.
- Challenge your character.
Research shows that looking for an experience that tests your character and reveals your different beliefs, values, and expectations can give you the best
understanding different cultural perspectives and helping you to be more flexible in your thinking.
Even if you do not agree with a person’s viewpoint or belief system, rationality means that you will be able to think about why they might see things that way and understand their point of view. This ability will make it easier for you to communicate with people, resolve conflicts, and adapt your thinking to different situations.
Of course, walking is one way to challenge your way of thinking, but even learning about the problems and thinking about them can help you to grow in this area.
Just remember that the more you travel and do things differently, the more you engage in new experiences, and interact with different people, the more flexible your thinking will be.
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