When we talk about skills for taking care of our mental health, we often talk about things like practicing self-care, eliminating stress from our lives, and being able to seek support from others.
There’s another powerful skill, though, that has more to do with what you think than what you do: changing your perspective.
It’s easy to get locked into a certain way of thinking about your life or of thinking about specific events that happen to you. The thing is, we often have a degree of choice in how we see the world.
Taking advantage of this choice can require intentional effort. Putting aside the automatic patterns we fall into when we think about things doesn’t always come naturally.
Still, taking the time to try looking at some aspect of your life from a new angle can pay off. Being able to renew your attitude and outlook on life without actually changing any of the facts of your life is a superpower worth striving for.
There are different tricks that can be helpful for taking on a new perspective. For example, you can try looking for the hidden benefits of bad situations or the things you can learn from failures. If you have something in particular you’re feeling down about, you can try putting it in a wider context – you might realize it’s not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, adopting a new perspective isn’t the end-all-be-all of mental health coping strategies, and it has its limits. For example, you can tell someone with clinical depression to change their perspective all you want, but you probably won’t get anywhere.
At the same time, most of us can benefit from becoming more flexible in choosing the perspectives we take over the course of our daily lives.
Changing your perspective is a skill that improves with practice. As a mental exercise, take some part of your life and deliberately see if you can consider it from a different perspective. It doesn’t even have to be a better perspective – just different, a new way of looking at things. Do this every now and again, and you’ll notice it starts to become easier.
If “changing your perspective” sounds a little vague, not to worry. Ask the Therapists Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo have some specific tips on how you can adjust your viewpoint when the situation calls for it and why experimenting with different perspectives is a skill you want to have. See the video below, and check out the Psych Central YouTube channel for more videos about mental health: