Do You Struggle With "All Or Nothing" Thinking?

lifestyle mentalhealth

What is All or Nothing Thinking?

"All or nothing" thinking can also be called "black and white" thinking, and is characterized by the tendency to be "all in" or "all out" when it comes to making decisions. From a health perspective, this can look like saying “screw it” over the holidays and completely throwing out your health routines in favor of over-indulging in rich foods and alcohol and foregoing exercise, or staying so strict with your routines that you aren’t able to enjoy the season whatsoever. Falling into this pattern of thinking is easy to do, as it is much more simple to be completely on one side or the other, while continually finding balance takes effort.


A Common Experience

While we can have good intentions at the beginning of the day, we must stay cognizant of triggers that may throw us into the black and white pattern of thinking. We’ve all been there: starting your day with a healthy smoothie, getting some exercise and sunshine, then when it comes time for dessert, having that one piece of cake seems to “ruin” your perfect day, so you decide to just eat the whole cake. The next day, you wake up feeling bloated and uncomfortable, so you restrict your food intake throughout the day, inevitably leading to feeling hungry in the evening when you have a bag of chips for dinner. Or maybe that’s just me ;) However this type of thinking presents itself for you, I’m happy to tell you that there is a way to train yourself out of it!


How to overcome All or Nothing Thinking

The following method aligns with our strong belief in the 1% rule: dedicating 1% of your day (approximately 14 minutes) to planning focused, actionable health steps to create lasting and meaningful improvements in your overall well-being. 1% action is important because it emphasizes the power of consistent, small steps in making a significant difference over time.


The Method:

  1. Start by purchasing a journal or notebook and maybe even a fancy pen that feels good to write with. Place it within reach of your bed.
  2. Upon waking, before reaching for your phone, take 5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. If you keep water near your bed, now would be a good time to have a drink.
  4. Grab your journal, close your eyes, and think about how you can take care of yourself today. Nothing too extravagant or complicated to begin with, just small actions you can take that will contribute to improving or maintaining your health. This could be eating a nutritious breakfast, taking your supplements, going for a 20-30 minute walk, or taking 5 minutes to meditate. All of these actions don’t need to be done in the morning; try to think of ways you can fit them in throughout your day.
  5. Write down your plans for taking care of yourself today, remembering that flexibility is key and we can not always plan for what life has in store for us; if something doesn’t work out, try not to let it make you feel poorly.
  6. As the day progresses, try to notice if you find yourself shifting into all or nothing thinking; if this occurs, grab your journal and make note of what led to the shift. Over time, you may start to notice a pattern which can then be analyzed and learned from.


Whether or not you follow all of your plans for the day, simply engaging in this exercise trains your mind to be health-conscious and flexible when it comes to making decisions throughout the day.

While this method may not work for everyone, it is definitely worth a try. If you have come across any other ways to combat all or nothing thinking, please let us know! The community can always benefit from sharing your individual experiences.

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