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Easter Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies: What’s That Got to Do with Happiness & Resilience?

I vaguely remember participating in an Easter Egg Hunt when I was about four years old. We were given little straw baskets and told to go find the eggs. The person who found the most eggs would win a giant chocolate Easter bunny. I desperately wanted that bunny.


A whistle blew and we were all off and running. I looked through the grass and found a couple of brightly colored eggs just like the ones I had colored at home. But then I stumbled upon another thing shining in the grass. It was wrapped in foil. What was it? As I crouched over to see more closely what it was, an older boy swooped past me and grabbed it, putting it in his basket. 

Moving on in my pursuit, I again came across something that looked like an egg. But this one was wrapped in red foil and was smaller. Again, I wondered if I should pick it up. The lady told us to find eggs, and this was not a real egg. Then whoosh! Another kid dive bombed in and picked it up. 

The race was over, and it was time for everyone to count their eggs. As I looked into the other baskets, I could see that the term “eggs” was relative. There were foil-wrapped chocolate eggs along with the real eggs. I remember feeling profoundly sad that I had lost out on the chance to win the giant bunny. 

What’s Cognitive Flexibility

Psychologists would call this story an example of cognitive inflexibility. Briefly defined, cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to combine knowledge and experience in new ways and to be able to apply thinking to situations that have not been previously encountered. For a four-year-old, this capacity is still developing. Through their greater life experience, the older kids understood that “eggs” can mean more than one thing.

As adults, we can also struggle with cognitive inflexibility. In trying to solve a difficult problem or make a life transition, we can find ourselves resorting to old behavior patterns and thoughts and then brood about why “nothing ever seems to change.”  The ability to make creative shifts throughout our life span can be the difference between realizing our passions and mentally filing them under “Never Going to Happen.” Too often, we hold ourselves back with fears that begin with, “What if?” What if I fail? What if I make the wrong decision?

Creativity experts talk about the importance of tapping into the willingness to play with possibilities. Entertain the opposite side of the “What if?” question for a moment, even if it seems absurd. What if I didn’t have all of these barriers? What if there was not one single solution but many possible solutions? Critical thinking says, “Yes, but…” whereas creative thinking says, “Yes, and..”. How might your thinking shift if you applied this simple substitution? 

The cognitive flexibility folks say that advanced knowledge must be acquired in a real-world context. This means that sometimes we must be willing to experiment, to actually walk up to the thing we want, and touch it. Inherent in this is the willingness to make a mistake and to ignore the voice that says, “Mistakes are always terrible and catastrophic.”

People with well-developed cognitive flexibility have been shown to enjoy distinct mental health advantages. For example, nurses and teachers with better cognitive flexibility have been shown to be happier and to be more psychologically hardy. 

Are there “eggs” in your life that you are afraid to pick up? Are you willing to experiment a bit to find out if they actually belong in your basket? If so, here are a few tips to get started with increasing your cognitive flexibility:

Challenge Your Beliefs

Get involved in activities or discussions that challenge your existing beliefs and perspectives. This can help to broaden your understanding of different viewpoints and increase your ability to consider alternative solutions to problems.

Learn New Skills

Engaging in activities that require learning new skills or knowledge can promote cognitive flexibility. Whether it’s learning a new language, musical instrument, or learning how to paint, these skills stimulate your brain’s ability to be adaptable. 

Play Brain Games

Games or puzzles that require you to solve problems or to think strategically like with Sudoku, chess, or logic puzzles help to improve cognitive flexibility. These games challenge your brain to consider multiple possibilities and switch between different strategies. 

Cultivate Your Curiosity

Develop your sense of curiosity and openness to new experiences. Explore unfamiliar topics, seek out new hobbies, or try new activities that may be outside or your comfort zone. Embracing curiosity fosters a flexible mindset and encourages ongoing learning and personal growth. 

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise not only benefits your physical health but also has positive effects on cognitive function, including cognitive flexibility. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and promotes the release of neurotransmitters that support cognitive processes. 

Expose Yourself to Diversity

Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives can broaden your thinking and enhance your cognitive flexibility. Engage in conversations with individuals who have different opinions or life experience to gain new insights and foster flexibility in your thinking. 

Improving your cognitive flexibility can significantly enhance your ability to adapt to new situations, solve problems creatively, and manage stress effectively. By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can significantly improve your overall wellbeing and ability to thrive. 

So go ahead and experiment a bit. There just may be a giant chocolate bunny in it for you!


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