Unlocking psychological flexibility: Why it matters and how to improve yours

A simple way to understand psychological flexibility is to think that as anatomical flexibility can describe physical health, psychological flexibility can describe mental health.

Well-being is a widely used term to describe what is “non-instrumentally or ultimately good for a person” [1]. Mental well-being as a concept captures ways of experiencing and evaluating life in a positive way, whether that be through feelings of happiness, contentment or acceptance [2]. In the wake of the substantial economic and public health crises affecting people over the last decades, developing and maintaining well-being has become one of the most important considerations of human life [3, 4].  

This is where the concept of psychological flexibility comes into play. A simple way to understand psychological flexibility is to think that as anatomical flexibility can describe physical health, psychological flexibility can describe mental health [5]. Whilst physical flexibility indicates the ability to move with a free range of motion, psychological flexibility means that a person is able to recognize and respond to various mentally and emotionally challenging situations that they face in life. Importantly, a psychologically flexible individual is able to respond in a way that is in line with their own values and what is important to them. 

Psychological flexibility involves six core processes:

  1. Acceptance: embracing thoughts and emotions without judgment
  2. Cognitive Defusion: distancing oneself from unhelpful thoughts
  3. Present Moment Awareness: being fully engaged in the present
  4. Self-as-Context: recognizing oneself as the observing self
  5. Values Clarification: identifying and committing to personal values, and
  6. Committed Action: taking purposeful steps aligned with one's values despite discomfort or obstacles.

Ultimately, developing our psychological flexibility will increase our mental well-being by bringing forth feelings of contentment, happiness and acceptance. Through this, psychological flexibility can also be the best way to develop personal resilience.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – a way to improve your psychological flexibility

These ideas are at the core of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of therapy pioneered by American psychologist Steven Hayes [6]. Fundamentally, ACT doesn’t place the biggest emphasis on what kind of problems we face, but rather on how we face them. Unhelpful or inflexible thought and behaviour patterns, where individuals attempt to suppress or deny negative thoughts and feelings are viewed as the central source for poor mental wellbeing in ACT. By developing psychological flexibility, ACT attemps to help people face their life in a way that is in line with their personal values. Perhaps the most intriguing part of psychological flexibility is that we are able to face the good as well as the bad. Thus, reducing psychologically damaging symptoms, such as depression or anxiety are not at the centre of ACT-interventions, but this is rather a positive “by-product” that arises from becoming psychologically flexible [7]. Therefore, ACT offers a new way to go through life and long-lasting skills to support one’s well-being.  

In today's fast-paced and stressful world, prioritizing mental well-being is crucial for leading fulfilling lives. At Wells Finland, we are committed to furthering this cause by developing an ACT-based solution aimed at improving psychological flexibility. We see that psychological flexibility skills are crucial for the modern working life.

If you're interested in testing this innovative approach and taking proactive steps towards enhancing your mental well-being, we encourage you to reach out to us!  


[1] Crisp, R. (2001). Well-being.  

[2] Tov, W. (2018). Well-being concepts and components.  

[3] Katajavuori, N., Vehkalahti, K., & Asikainen, H. (20213). Promoting university students’ well-being and studying with an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)-based intervention. Current Psychology, 42(6), 4900-4912.  

[4] Tsamakis, K., Tsiptsios, D., Ouranidis, A., Mueller, C., Schizas, D., Terniotis, C., ... & Rizos, E. (2021). COVID‑19 and its consequences on mental health. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 21(3), 1-1.  

[5] Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour research and therapy, 44(1), 1-25., ISO 690.  

[6] https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/insight-therapy/201909/psycho…   

[7] Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: An overview of acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychotherapy in Australia, 12(4), 70-6.