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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Avoid Binary Thinking and Think More Clearly

How to Avoid Binary Thinking and Think More Clearly

Unfortunately, we live in a world of either/or, with us or against us, black or white thinking. You’re either conservative or liberal. You’re for gay rights or against them. For goodness sake, now you’re either pro-putting a mask on your face or against it. All of this has to do with the human tendency to engage in binary thinking.

What is Binary Thinking?

Binary thinking, also known as dichotomous thinking, happens when even complex concepts, ideas, and problems are overly simplified into being one side or another. The gray area in the middle is ignored or goes unnoticed.

Binary thinking helps us feel a sense of certainty. In a complex world, binary thinking can feel comforting. The uncertainty of complexity can be scary and anxiety-provoking, so it’s no wonder people fall into binary thinking, especially during uncertain times like we’re currently experiencing.

As Bob Johansen says, “Categories move us toward certainty, but away from clarity.”[1]

If I’m worried about a global pandemic, racial unrest, and the future of my family’s survival, thinking about the complexity of the world can be overwhelming.

No one understands everything about, well, everything. Therefore, our brains take a shortcut to make us feel better, and we oversimplify things into general categories, resulting in binary thinking.

The Problem With Binary Thinking

The problem with binary thinking is that it isn’t accurate. Gray area does exist. All the time. It may make us feel better to think in terms of this or that, us or them, him or her, but it’s not actually how the world works.

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When we’re engaging in binary thinking, we’re stuck making assumptions. As Johansen says, “Being stuck in categorical thought doesn’t actually involve much thinking at all—you just assume without thinking that new experiences will fit into your old boxes, buckets, labels, generalizations, and stereotypes.”

Binary thinking also leads to conflict and detachment. When we make assumptions about others by lumping them into preconceived categories, we aren’t being curious about them, and we aren’t trying to investigate nuance that might actually bring us closer together.

So, how can we stop thinking in a binary way?

7 Ways to Avoid Binary Thinking

1. Try New Things

If we’re ever going to break out of the bad habit of binary thinking, we need to go to new places and try some new things. Life is complicated and messy, so when we get out there and do some living, we at least put ourselves in the position to encounter new ideas and perspectives.

Take a class, learn a language, find a new hobby, travel, or just do things differently than you did yesterday. Part of breaking our old habit of binary thinking is switching up our everyday lived experience.

2. Meet New People

The same goes for meeting new people. If everyone in your social media feed looks and thinks like you, you’re probably stuck in a feedback loop. You spout off some binary thinking, and then your friends agree with said binary thinking, and the cycle continues.

Break out of binary thinking by meeting new people—people from other cultures, races, religions, and backgrounds. But it’s not enough to just meet them. We also need to be curious and open to their perspectives.

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3. Cultivate Curiosity

Even when you don’t agree with someone, it’s important to ask lots of questions and approach each interaction with a sense of authentic curiosity in order to break out of your binary thinking.

I like to play a game I call Curious Detective[2] when I meet new people. Instead of talking about myself, I pretend my job is to learn as much as I can about them. Either that, or I’ll play a game called Hard-Hitting Reporter where I pretend to be a reporter who’s really trying to get to the bottom of what makes this person tick. This helps me to be genuinely curious about other person instead of approaching conversations as an opportunity to gab about myself.

4. Listen With an Open Mind

It’s also important to slow down. Our initial, gut reactions are often examples of binary thinking. We tend to make assumptions and snap judgments before we gather all the information needed to truly gain clarity.

Break that habit by slowing down your reactions. Pause and reflect before you jump to conclusions, and if you do find yourself mentally lumping things into broad categories, catch yourself, stop, and then try to see the broader picture.

And listen. Instead of trying to cram new information into the limited categories you already have, keep your mind open. Let new information be confusing and complex instead of fitting neatly in those binary categories you’re used to.

5. Build Empathy

Brene Brown writes, “Perspective taking is listening to the truth as other people experience it and acknowledging it as the truth.”[3] This means that when you’re meeting those new people and trying those new things, you need to actually listen for the truth in their experience instead of trying to force them to fit into your preconceived assumptions.

A great example of this is happening with the Black Lives Matters protests the world over. White people are not taking perspective when we lump all Black people together or interpret their experiences through our own perspectives. Perspective taking is when we actually listen to their experiences and acknowledge them as truth.

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We invite gray area back into our lives when we acknowledge that just because someone’s truth is different than ours, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

This builds empathy. Brown explains, “Empathy is incompatible with shame and judgment. Staying out of judgment requires understanding. We tend to judge those areas where we’re the most vulnerable to feeling shame ourselves.” Instead of shutting down because we feel shame or judgment, real empathy comes from honoring other people’s experiences and truths and being open to the multiplicity of perspectives.

People don’t all think and feel the same way, and that’s actually a good thing.

6. Don’t Fall for the Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is when you know a little about a topic and are, therefore, overly confident about your expertise in that topic[4]. When people don’t know anything about a topic, they have low confidence in their expertise. However, as soon as they know a tiny bit, their confidence soars.

Then, the more people learn, the less confident they become because they begin to realize that it’s more complex than they initially realized. Once someone starts to actually become an expert in a field, their confidence finally starts to gradually increase again.

Knowing about the Dunning-Kruger Effect is important if you want to avoid binary thinking. Our smartphones give us access to the basics about any and every topic. This primes us for feeling way too confident about our understanding of way too many things.

If you know a little bit about something, please also know that your confidence is probably unjustifiably high. You are not an expert and do not understand the complexities of the field yet.

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Stay humble and learn more before bragging and boasting about how much of an expert you are. Also, binary thinking should be a good clue for you that you’re actually just making assumptions and generalizations instead of actually being an expert in the field.

7. Embrace Uncertainty

Finally, if we want to stop our binary thinking, we need to remind ourselves every day that the world is complex and that we don’t know nearly as much as we sometimes think we do. While this may cause anxiety, it’s an important realization to embrace if you want to grow intellectually.

Full-Spectrum Thinking

Johansen calls the antidote to binary thinking full-spectrum thinking. Instead of making assumptions and broad generalizations, full-spectrum thinking is when we investigate the nuance and explore the gray areas.

That’s what we’re aiming for if we want to avoid binary thinking. We need to stop ourselves when we start making broad generalizations and assumptions and actively look for complexity and gray area. Slow down, learn more, and let there be more truths than the one you’re used to. Sit with complexity and uncertainty and let it motivate you to learn more instead of being overly confident about your expertise.

Final Thoughts

Binary thinking, while useful for human survival, can be harmful as it limits the experiences we have. If more people primed themselves for full-spectrum thinking, we certainly wouldn’t live in such a disconnected and divisive world because more people would be engaged with each other’s diverse perspectives instead of lumping each other into preconceived categories. Start developing full-spectrum thinking and open yourself up to more possibilities.

More on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Published on March 18, 2021

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

As important as it is to look after our body, it’s also important for us to be looking after our own mental health. Doing daily exercises, eating plant-based or organic meals, amongst other activities are a good way of promoting our brain health. But for many other people, they feel that they can be getting more out of it.

There is a tonne of top brain supplements available for you to look out for. With plenty of brain supplements available on the market, we wanted to pick out the ideal supplements for you to purchase. As such, the ones we recommend offer the following:

  • Nootropics – Every one of these supplements is a nootropic, meaning that they are drugs that have a track record of improving cognitive function.
  • Science-backed – One of the big problems with brain supplements is that there is no oversight. The best memory supplements, therefore, are the ones that have been researched and have studies to support the use of them.
  • Price vs. Value – All of these nootropics are able to work on various parts of the brain, offering plenty of value at a reasonable price. They’re one of the best memory supplements and can stave off age-related brain problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Below is a list of the best brain supplements to improve your memory, sharpen your focus and grow your brain further.

1. Blended Vitamin & Mineral

When it comes to supplements, it’s hard to find a supplement that offers a blend of vitamins spread over many vitamins. This isn’t the case when you’re purchasing from the Infuel brand. Infuel Focus Boost offers a great blend of vitamins and essential nutrients that can help in whatever you hope to achieve.

The vitamins, which include Vitamin A, B complex, C and D, that Infuel Focus Boost provides will allow you to stay focused and sharp throughout the day. You’ll also find that your energy levels, memory retention and overall clarity will be increased with this brain supplement.

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2. Fish Oil

Another one of the best memory supplements to consider is fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements provide a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

These types of omega-3 fatty acids have been tested thoroughly and have been linked to several types of health benefits. One such improvement is brain health.[1]

Out of the various supplements available, Nature’s Bounty is an ideal pick. They are softgels which means your body will be able to absorb all the nutrients. The company also prioritizes purity so you can expect no filler or unnecessary ingredients in these pills. Paired with the fact they are trusted by wellness experts is enough to say this is a quality brand.

3. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits such as grapes and other berries. You can also find this in red wine, chocolate and peanuts.

Even though you could get resveratrol from those sources, health experts still recommend supplements to ensure you get higher doses of it. Studies show that taking resveratrol is able to prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus,[2] the part that is connected to our memory.

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One brand that caught our attention for providing this supplement is Toniiq. The company takes pride in their 600mg capsules providing the highest quality of resveratrol you can find. Better yet, they are ethically sourced and cultivated using an extraction process that ensures a 98% purity. While it’s not 100%, it’s a big stretch as other brands that produce resveratrol tend to contain 50% or less purity.

4. Phosphatidylserine

Also known as phospholipid, it’s a type of fat that our own brain has right now. That said, because our brain will deteriorate with age, taking supplements of this type can actually help in preserving the health of our brain.[3] By preserving your brain, you’ll be able to keep up with typical brain functions as you would normally.

Out of the various best memory supplements available, Double Wood’s phosphatidylserine was a notable one. It’s made in the USA and tested for purity. It’s non-GMO, soy-based, and the capsule is gelatin.

5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid that our body produces ourselves. But like many supplements on this list, boosting its production with a supplement has proven to be beneficial for us. In this case, this is one of the ideal focus supplements to go for as studies show taking these supplements to boost focus, improve memory and slow down age-related memory loss.[4]

Out of the various top brain supplements available, our pick is the NaturaLife Labs supplements. They are GMO Free, and Vegan friendly. Beyond that, these supplements are highly potent at 1500mg. It’s also made 100% pure acetyl-l-carnitine so you shouldn’t expect fillers or binders when taking them.

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6. Ginkgo Biloba

You probably haven’t heard about Ginkgo Biloba much because it’s actually a herbal supplement that stems from the tree of the same name.

Think of it as a supplement hidden in plain sight as it’s incredibly popular amongst people who look past the unique name and figure out what it does. Research shows, taking these supplements increases blood flow to the brain which in turn improves brain functions of the brain.[5]

Nature’s Bounty offers these top brain supplements too and is a great brand to purchase from. Similar to what’s mentioned above with the previous supplements, these are pure and high-quality supplements.

7. Creatine

Creatine is the last on our list and is something that you might be familiar with. After all, it’s commonly found in protein powders, meats, fish, and eggs too. Creatine is also found in our own bodies and plays an important role in our energy levels and metabolism.

That said, not every person is big on eating those kinds of foods. As such, supplements provide a good way to get the creatine your body needs. Not only does creatine help with energy levels, but also sharpen our brain – namely an improved memory and thinking skills.

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You can look to protein powder for creatine, but you can also consider capsules as well. With capsules, you don’t have to think much about adding liquids. Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine capsules are a notable option as they provide 2.5 grams of pure creatine per serving. They’re also easy to swallow making it an ideal supplement to try out.

Bottom Line

When looking for brain-boosting supplements, you don’t have to look far. Paying attention to your diet can help you out in keeping up your brain functionality.

However, adding one or two of these supplements into your daily supplement routine would help you in boosting your brain functionality, memory, and stave off the various age-related brain problems.

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

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