In behavioural psychology, we look at how a person’s environment (both internal and external) can impact their behaviours. It’s surprising how some seemingly small adjustment can still have an impact on what we do. When we feel stuck, when we feel like we’ve hit a wall, or that every door is locked to us, these are cues that we need to adjust something in our environment to get the flow going again.
One example of an adjustment, or a ‘manipulable variable’ is music.
Music can be used in daily life to evoke change and exploration. It is formulated to stimulate our emotions. I can’t say that I’m an expert on how musicians and producers do this, but I am an avid consumer of its affects. Daniel and I have music going almost all the time in the clinic. We usually play something classical because it helps me focus. Every now and then we’ll put on a playlist that gets us out of our seats and dancing around if we’ve been sitting for too long.
Keep in mind that no strategy works 100% of the time. So sometimes music may be a great pick up, and other times it will do nothing to shift the grey monotone. The important thing to focus on is the process or function of what we’re doing, not necessarily the form of the change. Knowing that when things aren’t working we can ‘manipulate a variable’ is a much more flexible response than the action of putting on music. In behavioural psychology, this idea is referred to as ‘function over form’. It helps us move away from the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of doing things and experiment with adjusting something to achieve a desired function.
With that process in mind, another example of an adjustment or a manipulative variable is the way we respond to our thoughts. Just like we might play a certain type of music to achieve a certain function (to focus or to dance), we can think about what kinds of thoughts we want to play to help us along in our day. The mind is amazing in that it is capable of producing anything, even things that don’t exist.
Now, I am not advocating for any forcing of thoughts. In fact, one of my pet peeves is being told ‘just be positive’. Instead, I am asking us all to openly consider how well a particular thought serves our goals. If it’s not helpful, then we need not follow it. We need only to look around our environment for other inspiration.