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Flexible Thinking May Also Mean Flexible Viewing and Flexible Doing

With mental health, we often speak of learning to think more flexibly. This refers to allowing our minds to think in a variety of ways instead of in only one way. The Childmind Institute defines flexible thinking as “The ability to think about things in a new or different way. It helps us deal with uncertainty, solve problems, adjust to changes, and incorporate new information into our plans and ideas.” Flexible thinking is essential because life consistently throws unexpected challenges our way. With some new challenges our prior ways of problem solving may be less effective or possibly even unhelpful. In some cases, our prior ways of thinking may worsen our mental health. However, allowing ourselves to think flexibly and problem solve challenges in new ways may lead us on different paths to different views and different doings. We may travel paths uncharted to us.


When a baby is learning to walk they toddle, wobble and fall often. As their balance improves, they are able to walk without as many mishaps. Life challenges us in the same way. We are all so-called babies learning to walk. We are constantly walking on uncharted territory during our various life journeys. Sometimes we may hike, walk, crawl, or even need to lay still, for a moment, to catch our breath. Allowing ourselves and others grace to move at the pace we and they are able to is essential. Allowing ourselves and others grace to lay still at times is also imperative. Knowing our loved ones and ourselves will toddle, wobble, and fall often, is not only normal but essential. How else can we and they learn to balance independently? 

For this reason, I propose that we accept and welcome the idea that flexible thinking will lead to flexible viewing as well as flexible doing for ourselves and others. While these new paths may appear different to our minds, pioneering new paths will not fail us since even paths with impassable places will initiate forging new paths leading towards greater understanding of the world around us, ourselves, and others.  The vistas ahead of us may be more incredible than we can imagine. Remember, even the storm clouds that at times encircle us and others really do make the sky more interesting and beautiful.

Karina McDonald, MSN, APRN Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

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