Get Well

Baby Steps to Solve All or Nothing Thinking

by Hannah Amini

All-or-nothing thinking, also known as black-and-white thinking, can plague us in ways that we don’t even notice. Words like “always” and “never”,  “love” and “hate”, and “best” and “worst” have snuck their way into our daily thoughts and became a normal part of how we analyze situations and interactions.

The end result? Self sabotage in our careers, relationships, and, most importantly, our self worth. Ready to change your all-or-nothing tendencies? We’ve got you covered.


DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) is an evidence-based branch of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) used to treat these types of polarizing thoughts, and the destructive behaviors we use to cope with them as a result. Think of being dialectic as taking time to create a dialogue with yourself, in order to really analyze your thoughts and discover an unbiased reason for your feelings and emotions.

In order to dive deep, DBT typically involves completing a variety of modules with the guidance of a therapist or licensed professional, but there are still some simple practices that you can incorporate into your everyday lives at home to begin making this a regular practice for yourself. See some of the easiest, most efficient ways to start changing your thought patterns below



Mindfulness is something most of us are familiar with through yoga, meditation, and other similar practices. The idea is simple – just be present. Instead of harping on mistakes of the past or anxieties of the future, try to occupy your mind with the sights, sounds, and smells around you presently. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

This is about balance. Consider balancing “wants” and “needs”, “musts” and “shoulds”. This is harder to pin down and practice, but being mindful about creating balance is a step in the right direction towards building a sense of self-respect. When you prioritize your actual priorities over demands or something you think you need to do, you begin to set much needed boundaries for yourself and your mental health.

Distress Tolerance

When we’re under debilitating stress, it seems like it will last a lifetime (even though it often doesn’t). Rather than fighting it, try to “ride the wave,” so to speak. Notice the peak of distress and, when you finally push through it, how it begins to dissipate. 

Non-judgemental Stance

When you find yourself resorting to all-or-nothing thinking about a personal situation, try to think about what it would look like from someone else’s shoes. Talk to yourself the same way you would talk to a friend.

Feature Image via Vanessa Granda

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