Five Practices to Help Patients Become More Flexible

Research Updates in PsychiatryPatients often come to us with rigid rules for living that tend to keep them stuck in unhealthy patterns or behaviors that don’t serve their values or the things that truly matter to them.

Such patients may stick to rigid rules as a way to maintain an agenda of control or avoidance, and they may do so with such intensity that their lives becomes smaller and smaller. They may trade control and rules for moments of spontaneity, surprise and freshness.

The good news is that there are many ways to practice flexibility. These daily practices can help patients cultivate psychological flexibility, which has been associated with a range of positive health outcomes and overall well-being.

Practice Mindfulness.

Mindfulness practices may not be a fit for everyone, but can lead to reduced stress, enhanced ability to cope with physical or mental illness and improved general health.

If you are new to mindfulness practices, there are many free resources available online that can guide you in finding exercises that will make sense for your patients. It’s always best to try them out before recommending them, so that you’re able to better understand the process and anticipate any potentially triggering experiences.

Try Doing Something New.

We all find ourselves stuck in the same boring routine every so often, living a life that feels more like a sitcom re-run, or a scene from Groundhog Day.

Trying something new can be as simple as biking to work one day a week instead of taking the bus or adding some variety to your diet. Even small practices of flexibility can provide a much needed energy boost or shift in perspective.

Seek Different Perspectives.

 With social media and advanced marketing technologies, it can often feel like we are stuck in an echo chamber of people who think like us and see the world the way we do.

Encourage clients to make an extra effort to consume news and other media that are different or even conflicting with their own views. This practice doesn’t mean that they need to needlessly expose themselves to hateful or triggering content, but tuning into something they don’t typically listen to may help broaden their perspective and shake up some of those well-worn thought patterns.

Focus On the Positive.

 Negative stimulation abounds in the world today. Particularly for those clients who struggle with anxiety or depression, limiting contact with negative news can be a radical act of self-care.

Encourage patients to find their own balance between becoming overwhelmed with the state of the world and sticking their head in the sand. This balance will look different for everyone and may take time to establish. Encourage clients to be gentle with themselves and pay close attention to how the news affects their mood as they figure out what works for them.

Have Fun.

Making time for fun becomes less and less a priority as we get older and it may even fall by the wayside entirely. Many of our clients may feel they are simply too bogged down with responsibilities like paying the bills, raising children and taking care of aging parents to have fun.

Fun looks different for everyone, so spend some time with your  patients coming up with ideas that are genuinely enjoyable for them. It’s important that fun not become another chore or obligation. Encourage them to be creative and nonjudgmental about what feels truly fun for them.

Five Practices to Help Patients Become More Flexible

Jessica Dore

Jessica Dore is a behavioral science and spirituality writer with several years of experience in clinical psychology publishing. She blogs weekly about tarot cards and psychology on her website In her free time, she is a devoted ashtanga yoga practitioner, food enthusiast, and DJ. Follow her on twitter @realJessicaDore.


APA Reference
Dore, J. (2018). Five Practices to Help Patients Become More Flexible. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Jan 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Jan 2018
Published on All rights reserved.