The critical importance of psychological flexibility and how it predicts mental health outcomes and resilience

Research Briefing

Keywords: Psychological inflexibility, Psychological flexibility, cognitive flexibility, cognitive inflexibility, coaching

Psychological flexibility refers to a number of things, such as how an individual:

1. Adapts and adjusts to changing circumstances and demands.

2. Reconfigures, shifts and refocuses their mental resources.

3. Is able to change perspective and view things from different view points.

4. Balances and negotiates competing and conflicting needs, wants, desires and demands.

Importantly, previous studies have found that psychological flexibility is a non- permanent psychological state that can be fostered and developed over time. It has also been strongly linked to resilience and emotional stability. A 2015 study found that psychological flexibility is the single largest factor which insulates or ‘inoculates’ armed services personnel who have engaged in combat from stress, depression and the risk of suicide. Psychological flexibility was found to prevent emotional distress following combat exposure.

This briefing is based on two new studies that have just been published about how psychological flexibility predicts mental health outcomes, responses to stress and affect resilience.

This research briefing is of immense use to anyone interested in resilience, employee mental health and psychological flexibility.

Get the full research briefing including all references


About our research briefings


David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page