My Wellness Project has come to an end. I’ve realized that a year is a long, long time. A year ago, I was cutting out sugar and dairy for my very first wellness month focused on nutrition. Between now and then, I’ve hosted a sister and a brother-in-law, performed at Nordic Fest, started (and almost completed) a health coaching certification, started a health coaching business, celebrated Christmas in Sweden, started a job managing Luther College’s website, launched a holistic health directory, built a website for my church, written 30,000 words on my book, gotten myself out of a whole lot of commitments, and bought patio furniture (yes, it’s a big deal). And somewhere in between, I’ve sort of kept up with my Wellness Project resolutions.
I Was Born With Mental Inflexibility
The last month, May, I focused on mental flexibility, which is something I lack at times. The thing is, the only person who suffers from my lack of mental flexibility is me. So it is in my best interest to flex that mind!
To a certain extent, I think I was born with mental inflexibility. When I was a child, I got really upset if I lost something or things didn’t go the way I was expecting. (Good thing I lived in a different decade and country, otherwise I probably would have been diagnosed with and medicated for OCD or GAD). My mind had a really hard time adjusting to the new reality that followed, whether it meant living without a cherished trinket or having to miss a birthday party.
Putting My Mental Flexibility to the Test
Well, last month, my mental flexibility was tested to the max. On May 1, one of my best friends in the whole wide world passed away unexpectedly. This was the first time I had lost a close friend and the emotions that set in were fierce. Looking back, I feel like I grieved appropriately and was able to rebuild a reality without Scott in it. Now I mostly feel thankful for the time we had together and smile at beautiful memories.
On a completely different, material level, I had another loss. I lost a gold bracelet my parents gave me for my high school graduation 20 years ago. When I realized it was gone, my first instinct was to get really upset, but it didn’t seem worth the effort. I surprised myself.
I have discovered that mental flexibility gives you a resilience to face life’s changes (good & bad).
Moments of Inflexibility
Looking back at the month, I also remember two experiences where my mind was not quite as flexible (both in interactions with those I love the most — naturally). In both cases, I knew the “right” response, but I chose to go with the more familiar, inflexible way of responding to the situation.
I’m not beating myself up about it though. Rather, I’m viewing these events as stepping stones on my way toward greater mental flexibility.
Awareness is good.
A Flexible Mind – The Benefits
Halfway through the month, I downloaded a copy of Leo Babauta’s 52 Changes. Lo and behold, one of the first changes (#4) was titled “Flexible Mind.” Leo writes eloquently (as always) about why one should strive toward mental flexibility in the first place:
The root cause of frustration, irritation, anger, sadness is an inflexible mind — one that wants to hold onto the way we wish things were, the ideas we’re comfortable with. When things don’t go this way, we are frustrated, angry, sad.
So developing a flexible mind is a way to be open to anything, happy with change, prepared for any situation. Think about it: if there’s a major disruption in your life, it’s only a bad thing because you’re holding onto the way you wish things could be, what you’re comfortable with. If you let go of that wish, the change isn’t bad. It’s just different, and in fact could be good if you embrace it and see the opportunity.
It’s about developing the ability to cope with change, to be flexible, to simplify.
(Why don’t they teach you this stuff in school?)
Leo notes, “… you will not be perfect at this when you start. It’s a difficult skill to learn, because we have emotional patterns that have built up over the years. It’s good enough to become more aware of it, and to attempt this method once a day. Be flexible in your desire to get this exactly right.”
Practicing Mental Flexibility
Do you have specific things that irritate you or make you frustrated or sad? It could be things like cancelled plans or family members not picking up after themselves. What if you could let go of wishing things were a certain way? That plans never changed or that you came home to a sparkly, tidy home every day.
Those wishes are fantasies. And holding on to them just makes you feel bad (nobody else).
So let them go. And you’ll be happier.
Over to You
What are the wishes you hold on to? Have you found ways to let go of those wishes. Share in the comments!