Blog Post: Critical Thinking is Essential to Good Decisions, Healthy Emotions, and Mental Health

Linda Elder
Dec 20, 2021 • 2y ago
Critical Thinking is Essential to Good Decisions, Healthy Emotions, and Mental Health

{"ops":[{"insert":"A significant principle running through the course of our conception of critical thinking is this: critical thinking, when taken seriously, improves the quality of the decisions you make in all parts of your life and therefore the quality of your emotions and your actions (that come from your decisions). Naturally this has important implications for your mental health.\n\nAs the foundations of critical thinking are increasingly internalized, through practice, over time, (in other words, when they are taken seriously) application to all parts of life begin to emerge. This includes, importantly, application to your own psychological well-being. For instance, consider a few intellectual virtues: when you embody "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"intellectual courage"},{"insert":", you are willing and able to examine your own beliefs without anxiety. In other words, you do not fear uncovering and examining your beliefs and you readily change beliefs you find to be unreasonable (via "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"confidence in reason"},{"insert":"). When you embody "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"intellectual empathy"},{"insert":", you easily think within alternative viewpoints and do not become upset and irrational when other people do not agree with you. When you embody "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"intellectual autonomy "},{"insert":"you think for yourself as a reasonable person and take care of yourself, and therefore you try to avoid irrational people who do not have your best interest at heart and who may try to bring you down. Hence the embodiment of intellectual virtues has direct implications for mental health.\n\nSocial studies research is increasingly illuminating the importance of critical thinking to mental health. Those who have taken critical thinking theory seriously should already appreciate and be able to delineate connections between mental health and critical thinking skills, abilities and virtues. And they should be applying this theory to their own mental well-being. To gain command of your egocentric and sociocentric nature, which typically stand in the way of mental health, I recommend that you work through the activities in our wall of barriers at this link: "},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nFor more on intellectual virtues, look them up in our glossary: "},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nAlso, see how well you can answer the questions on pp. 37-38 for each virtue (focused on yourself):\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nI recommend this video to those suffering depression (you may want to pass this along), as it highlights some of the research focused on critical thinking as a key to decreasing depression. As you view the video, write down the connections between the points being made (about controlling one’s thinking) and critical thinking concepts and principles. Here is the video '"},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":"How to Recover from Depression"},{"insert":".' Of course, the language and abilities of critical thinking go far beyond the basic recommendations in this video.\n\nIt is essential that we see the totality of critical thinking as a toolbox for helping us take full command of our thinking, of the decisions we make, of the people we allow to influence us, of how we treat others, of how we esteem ourselves. It is through command of our minds that we become mentally healthy, resilient, and fully alive.\n"}]}

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