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What is cognitive dissonance theory? Today, we are going to talk extensively about this topic. Also, we will be seeing how cognitive dissonance can impact our mental health in the long run. Stay tuned to this blog to know everything about cognitive dissonance.
By birth, we all human beings are the same. But what makes us different are our values! Yes, different people hold different moral values and beliefs. And when they live their life aligned with their core value system, they feel happy and content. However, when it is the other way around, there is a lot of tension, shame, conflict, and guilt that gets created in their mind, increasing chances of mental health challenges.
We all are born as empty vessels, which can be shaped by moral values, says Jerry Springer, a famous American chat show host and journalist.
Well, he is entirely right on this. Our values make us who we really are. Without them, we are like an empty vessel, without any purpose and passion.
So, what is cognitive dissonance theory? Let’s try to understand it with an example!
What is Cognitive Dissonance Theory?
For example, let’s say, I believe eating healthy is crucial for me. And I should avoid grabbing junk food. But, then also if I am eating oily and unhealthy stuff frequently, creating shame and guilt within myself. This whole gap between what you value and your respective actions towards them is called cognitive dissonance.
At the start of the 1950s, Leon Festinger, who was an American social psychologist, shaped the cognitive dissonance theory. It implies that contradictions between your values and actions create tension in your cognition. He coined the term “cognitive dissonance” for this state of mind and proposed his theory.
When Cognitive Dissonance Can Be A Motivational Factor?
Cognitive dissonance is not always necessarily a negative thing. Sometimes it can also motivate you to do good. Yes, by noticing your inner conflicts about different decisions and life aspects, you can also use your dissonance for better.
Considering this, it can also be a motivational factor for you. However, when dissonance becomes larger and left unnoticed, it can cause harm to your being.
How? Let’s find out in our next segment!
When Cognitive Dissonance Is Harmful?
Emotional processing is a crucial concept in psychology. However, in our day to day lives, we often tend to forget to give importance to our emotions and feelings. Also, we have a lot of myths and preconceived notions about emotions in general.
Like we often try to label our thoughts and emotions in between good and bad. These are negative emotions, and here are some good emotions- people forget to see the grey spectrum in between these two extremes, leading to bottled emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
Due to this lack of emotional processing, cognitive dissonance can take the shape of some serious mental health struggles, such as depression and anxiety. That’s why understanding your values and aligning them with your actions is of utmost crucial. It will make your life happy and peaceful.
It’s now time to see how some factors play an important role in cognitive dissonance and how you can process them in the best possible way!
How To Handle Cognitive Dissonance- Some Important Factors For That!
According to studies, these three are some of the most crucial elements of cognitive dissonance. By effectively tapping into these three aspects of your life, you can reduce your inner tension considerably.
Change Your Belief-
To be very honest, changing your belief is the hardest thing to do. However, if you think your belief system is backfiring your existence and not built on realistic and practical approaches, then modifying your beliefs is vital. Let’s comprehend this better with an example.
For say, somebody is dealing with an eating disorder. And he or she has already exercised for three hours but is still feeling anxiety and worry about their shape and weight. In this case, spotting how realistically you are thinking about a situation can be a sigh of relief. Not to mention, opting for professional help can provide valuable skills to you, so you can better manage these kinds of anxious cycles and thought patterns.
Note- Your worth is not dependent on anything external. How you look and weigh don’t make any difference to who you are. Your inner beauty is everything. Of course, you value your health and for that you can choose to exercise.
Change Your Actions-
It is one of the most effective ways to handle cognitive tension, reducing feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety.
Considering the previously taken example of avoiding junk food. For instance, if you try to understand your pattern of unhealthy eating, you can better align your actions with your value of eating healthy stuff. And this alone can minimize your dissonance to a great level altogether.
Change How You Perceive Your Actions-
Staying kind to yourself is very crucial to living a healthy and peaceful life. It goes without saying, we all sometimes feel the tension and inner conflict. However, when it becomes too much, then this inner dissonance can transform into something serious and hefty. That’s why remaining kind and compassionate towards yourself is imperative. Of course, you don’t need to be ignorant or inconsiderate towards your shortcomings. In short, you have to find a balance between discipline and letting go.
By sometimes letting go of yourself for certain stuff, you can better manage your cognitive dissonance. It’s not always needed to beat yourself up for each and everything.
For example, if you are on a diet. But sometimes, you choose to eat a little out of your diet plan. Then, it is completely okay! You should let go of yourself for not following your rule book once in a while. You are human, and it’s okay to make mistakes.
Besides these three approaches, here are some of the most effective things one can do to channel their thoughts and emotions, challenging cognitive dissonance in a better way-
Express your emotions and feelings. Talk it out. Share your problems and issues with your loved ones. Don’t keep everything to yourself. You are a human being and you too need someone to share your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Start penning down your thoughts and feelings to better notice your dissonance patterns. Journaling is one of the common practices phycologists use with their clients to help them introspect and change their behaviors.
Consider professional help. Yes, there are certain approaches that a professional can only tell you. They are highly skilled and trained in this psychology related stuff. Experts can train you to live a peaceful life.
Exercise, yoga, mindfulness, mediation- all these things cannot be replaced with anything. According to surveys and extensive studies, they have proven to be some of the best ways to enhance your mental health.
Also Read: What Are Cognitive Distortions And How It Affects Your Life?
Becoming aware of your inner tension is the first step towards creating a peaceful life for yourself. Then, working towards aligning your actions and beliefs is very imperative. In a nutshell, the less inner dissonance one will have, the better its life will be for sure.
We hope now you understand what is cognitive dissonance theory and how it can impact your mental health. Please share your thoughts about cognitive dissonance in the comment section below. Would love to hear from you all! Thank you!