Has anyone ever told you that donuts are good for you? Probably not, but they taste so good, you just have to have one sometimes. The problem is, the choice to eat something you know is bad for you comes with a cost, that nagging voice telling you all the harm the donut is doing to your weight, your heart, your face, it just doesn’t stop. This argument causing discomfort in your mind is called cognitive dissonance, and it’s really annoying. Read on if you want to find out how to use it more wisely.
Cognition: our brain thinks the donut is unhealthy
Dissonance: we eat the donut anyway, creating a discomfort within ourselves
So having your actions at odds with your values causes dissonance, a discomfort that manifests in ways such as stress or regret, and negative self image.
Help with cognitive dissonance
If we really think about it, this discomfort is giving us information, usually that our beliefs don’t match our actions, and we can use this in a productive way:
- don’t ignore the thoughts and feelings that pop up when your thoughts and actions don’t align – stop and think them through, ask why are they popping up, what reasons are behind them, are they valid?
- know the typical excuses we use to justify going against our own morals and listen when you find yourself using them (e.g. “everyone else does it”, “it’s only one donut”, “you’ve got to live a little”, “you can go for a jog tomorrow”); what is this information telling you about your decision /action?
- if you can and it feels comfortable, change your behaviour to match the cognition, for the donut we know it is unhealthy and we want to eat healthy, so we can choose to eat something healthy instead, and align our beliefs with our actions.
- be accountable and kind to yourself. You are human and you make decisions every day, it is likely you will experience dissonance sometimes, use it as a learning tool where you can.
I always pay attention to things that disprove a belief I have.Rebecca Lynn
Interested in the science? See the links below.
Featured image courtesy of pixabay.com @Couleur
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