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New You, New Thoughts

New-You-New-Thoughts

Rather than start a diet at the beginning of this year, think about January as a good time to evaluate and improve not just your thoughts, but the way you think. Change it, and your feelings and behavior will be transformed, automatically shifting you in the direction you want to go for health, fitness and higher self-esteem.

Let me explain a simple tool for measuring how take in and process information. I’ve been using it since I learned about it in social work school back in the late 1980s. Be careful not to judge yourself as you’re learning about this new concept. Just take note of your habits and how you might change them.

Consider what you do with new information. When you’re presented with a different way of looking at something than your usual way—for example, trying intuitive or mindful eating versus dieting—how do you decide whether to hold onto your old views or open up to a entirely new way of thinking?

When evaluating new information, we engage in two possible processes, assimilation or accommodation. “Assimilation is when the brain takes the new information and fits it into an existing model in the brain. Accommodation is when we acknowledge that our existing model is incomplete or incorrect. The brain [then] updates the model so that the novel information is no longer an anomaly but a new layer of understanding.” 

This process is about how we categorize new information. For example, as a child, if all the curly-haired children you knew—back then, only your older twin sisters—bossed you around, you likely equated curls with bossiness. If your new neighbor has ringlets, you expect her to be bossy too. That’s assimilation. But if your neighbor is sweet and kind, you might begin to think of curly-headed people differently. That’s accommodation. 

Because not changing your thinking expends less mental energy, most of us are prone to using assimilation to make sense of the world. It’s easier and simpler not to change our minds—even in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary—than to develop new schema. But that way of thinking doesn’t grow you wiser. For that we need to push out of our comfort zone and change our minds, especially in light of new facts. 

What ideas have you been holding onto for too long? That you have to diet to lose weight? Be thinner to be happy? Get your parents to love you to be lovable? Show the world you’re a success to feel like one? Rather than same-old-same-old assimilation thinking, give accommodation a chance and set the stage for a real new you.

Best,

Karen