How to Exercise an Open Mind

Опубликовал Admin
10-06-2018, 20:00
Expert Reviewed Cultivating an open mind means not just stimulating your brain, but opening yourself up to new experiences and perspectives. When you have an open mind, you are more receptive to different ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds. There are a number of ways you can exercise an open mind. Start by challenging your own beliefs to learn what you really hold to be true. Then, look to engage with other cultures and viewpoints. The more practice you have in keeping your mind open, the more you will be able to engage with and understand people from all walks of life.

Challenging Your Belief System

  1. Evaluate how your beliefs developed. Everyone holds some beliefs that they arrived at on their own, and some from external influences. Take a look at the beliefs you hold close and ask yourself, “How did I come to believe this?” If you find your answer is because someone told you to think that or because it’s just what you’ve always believed, try to list at least 3 alternative beliefs or perspectives.
    • For example, if you were raised believing that hard work is all you need to succeed, ask yourself, "can I find examples of people who worked hard but still struggled in life? Are there other factors that may impact your ability to succeed outside of your work ethic?"
    • Then, you may choose to do research into factor like how social privileges may provide certain individuals with more opportunities to succeed completely unrelated to work ethic. Look into these new perspectives and see what others have to say.
    • You don’t have to change your mind when you evaluate your beliefs. Looking at other perspectives simply gives you a chance to see if the belief you have suits you.
    • There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve held onto taught or inherited beliefs. Most people have some beliefs that they didn’t form on their own. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that you should be aware of as you try to exercise an open mind.
  2. Look at the assumptions you make every day. Assumptions are a natural part of thinking, but they can be problematic when they go unchecked. When you find yourself in a new situation, ask yourself, “What do I actually know about this situation? What am I just assuming to be present or true?” Write your answers down and reflect on them regularly.
    • Assumptions represent a certain bias that can be indicative of one’s own life experiences and privileges. It’s important to remember that not everyone else will have those same experiences or privileges.
    • Say, for example, you’ve never tried pasta with pesto sauce. Ask yourself why you assume you would dislike it. Is it because the sauce is green? Is it because you don’t like the smell?
  3. Face your fears. Make a list of your fears. Start by thinking your way through logical flaws or mental exaggerations you use to justify your fear. You can even look for help from local support groups or a cognitive behavioral therapist if you're struggling on your own. Then, challenge your fear with a task or duty that will force you to confront it head-on.
    • For example, if you afraid to do anything more than email on your computer, consider signing up for a free online course. They can teach you everything from basic computer skills to software development.
    • If you are scared to read in front of your class because you think you’ll go too slow or get tripped up, practice reading out loud in the mirror. Then, challenge yourself to volunteer to read one paragraph in front of the class each week.
    • In many cases, you will either find that the task didn’t warrant the fear you had, or that the outcome was worth overcoming the fear.
  4. Adopt an affirmation to help strengthen a new value. If you have a belief that you think is weighing you down, adopt a mantra that challenges that belief. Your mantra should name the value you are focusing on, and describe what that value means to you. Repeat that mantra to yourself multiple times a day, every day. Use this to help you focus on your new values whenever old temptations slip back in.
    • For example, if you decide you want to be happier, make a mantra that says, “To me, happiness is working in a field I care about, playing with my dog every day, and making my partner laugh.”
    • Every time you feel sad or down, repeat that mantra to yourself. It won’t instantly dissipate your sadness, but it will help you focus on what keeps you happy.
  5. Examine your thoughts. You are likely filtering your thoughts through your prior belief system, which can lead to common thinking errors. Noticing these errors can help you change them. When you notice a thinking error, replace it with a realistic statement. These are the most common thinking errors:
    • All-or-nothing thinking
    • Catastrophizing
    • Overgeneralizing
    • Mind reading
    • Labeling
    • Emotional reading
    • Fortune-telling

Understanding Other Points of View

  1. Try a different religious tradition. For some people, religion is a large part of how their beliefs are formed. Get to understand these different beliefs by taking part in a service or celebration for a religion other than your own. Find a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or another place of worship in your area and go for a service.
    • It may be polite to ask the place of worship if you can come in advance. You want to avoid crashing things like weddings or holy holidays without an invitation.
    • Come to these services with an open mind. Don’t expect to explain your belief system or try to prove their views wrong. Simply listen, observe, and try to extend gratitude to this new group for sharing their time and their values with you.
  2. Talk to people with different backgrounds and points of view. Diverse viewpoints not only help you see things new ways, they can help you learn new things and grow as a person. Make it a point to talk to people with different backgrounds or beliefs in your everyday life.
    • Don’t be afraid to do things like go to a protest for a cause that you don’t support or understand. Often, as long as you are seeking information and not looking to argue, people welcome the chance to explain their points of view.
    • Some college campuses and community organizations will hold events meant to bring people with different backgrounds and beliefs together. Events like those put on by the Human Library, where people from different backgrounds volunteer as human books that you can "check out" for an open conversation, can help you connect with a wide variety of people.
  3. Travel to new places. Becoming an outsider exposes your mind to new things. You don’t need to go far to get the benefits of travel. Just look for a place where the way of life is different than your own. Immersing yourself in a new place is a great way to see the world from a different perspective.
    • International travel is a great way to understand different beliefs. Plan a trip to a place where you don’t speak the language and don’t have many connections. Learning to navigate a new part of the world without your normal tools will help open your perspective.
    • If you can’t make it abroad, look nearby for something that will challenge you. If you live in a city, go camping in the woods for a few days. Do you live in California? Try taking a trip to the American South to meet some diverse people and get great food.
  4. Learn a new language. Language learning has a multitude of benefits from increased academic achievements to being able to speak to whole new groups of people. Language learning can also help foster cultural understanding and cross-cultural empathy. Look for a local community college course or use a free online tool like DuoLingo to start learning.
    • Learning a new language can help foster understanding across cultural barriers. The ways words and sentences are constructed can offer great insight into what a culture values, and what is less common for them.
  5. Write an essay from the opposing side's perspective. Think of an emotionally charged topic and try to write an essay or opinion piece from the viewpoint you normally oppose. Research their views thoroughly, find legitimate sources and write as persuasive a paper as possible. Try to address at least 5 truly valid reasons that might persuade someone to support that view.
    • Some good topics to start with might include abortion, healthcare reform, or your country’s policies on gun ownership.
    • Exercises like this can force you to think of opposing viewpoints in new ways. This not only helps you see different sides, it can help you open up channels of communication for people with different views.
  6. Volunteer for a local charity or non-profit. Volunteering lets you meet new people and get in touch with new ways of thinking while giving back to your community. Dedicate some of your time to volunteering with an organization in your area that lets you work with diverse groups of people, such as a food pantry, shelter, or youth center.
    • For a really unique experience, consider combining volunteering and travel. Going on a volunteer trip or even setting aside a single day to volunteer while you’re in a new place can help open you up to completely different people and perspectives.

Learning New Things

  1. Practice active reading. Reading is a great way to learn about diverse and emerging viewpoints. To really get the most out of reading, practice being an active reader. This means not only reading regularly, but relating your readings back to your everyday life.
    • If, for example, you want to become better with statistics, trying reading a book on everyday stats. Then challenge yourself to apply at least one of the new stats methods you learned to your job on a daily basis.
  2. Take a hands-on class. Experience is one of the best teachers. If you want to learn something new, look for a course with experience built in. Say, for example, that you want to learn woodturning. While online tutorials and books can be helpful, one of the best ways to learn is to sign up for a class where a teacher guides you through the process as you do it yourself.
    • Community centers, recreation centers, community colleges, and university extension centers often offer these types of classes for free or at a lower cost.
  3. Build on what you already know. Even an expert doesn’t know everything in their field. Use what you already know as a jumping-off point to enhance your skills and learn more advanced techniques. Think about areas where you already have some knowledge or background. Then consider how you would like to enhance or expand that knowledge.
    • If you really like to cook, for example, you could decide that your next step is learning how to cook sous-vide. If you’re great at baking but have yet to master the grill, maybe that’s your next goal.
    • Consider taking on a mentor, who can help you expand on what you know. They can also help you build on new experiences.
  4. Practice a skill from the arts or humanities. STEM education is critical, but so is learning from the arts and humanities. These fields are often based on subjectivity and open-mindedness and can challenge you to flex your creativity. Examples of these kinds of programs and classes include:
    • Reading your way through the great books
    • Learning to draw, paint, or sculpt
    • Learning to play a musical instrument
    • Taking a dance class or joining a dance group
    • Joining your local community theater group

Training Your Brain

  1. Browse unfamiliar topics online. The internet is a great source of new information. Try browsing new topics online to help you discover new topics of interest. Start with basic inquiries on sites like Wikipedia, or watch tutorials on YouTube to build interest in a new skill.
    • As you learn more, you will be able to look up more specialized information. You may even join in on message boards and online forums to get tips and advice or learn new info from other people who are interested in the same subject.
    • Make the most of your downtime by looking into new information when you have a few free minutes. Start a new article when you’re in line at the bank, for example, or listen to a podcast during your commute.
    • Be careful, though, that you are using reputable sources. There's a lot of false and biased information available online. Look for scholarly articles, reports published by independent third-party organizations, and information from trusted sites.
  2. Block out one of your senses. Pick one of your senses, and attempt to not use it for a set period of time. Do everyday things, like cleaning up your room or using your cell phone, with a blindfold. Forcing yourself to find new ways to do daily tasks helps you see alternatives to the way you do things, and also helps slow mental decline.
    • You could also try using a different part of your body to do things, like write with your teeth or type with your toes.
  3. Play strategy games. Games like bridge, checkers, chess, and shogi are all great ways to exercise your mental flexibility. Doing jigsaw and/or brain teaser puzzles will also help you subconsciously think of things in new ways, and you may surprise yourself at how talented you are at certain types of puzzles.
    • If you don’t like puzzles, try crafting or building gadgets. These often require strategic thinking, and some people find it more rewarding to have a tangible product in the end.
  4. Get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise weekly. Exercise doesn’t just help your body, it can help your brain, too. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week can keep you sharper in your everyday life. It can also help fight off the signs of reduced mental function that come with aging.
    • Make exercise fun by taking a new class or trying a new skill. Activities like dance, basketball, soccer, martial arts, rowing, or anything else that interests you are a good way to exercise while learning something new.


  • Exercising an "open" mind and "stimulating" your mind are different. To have an open mind, you must accept at a very basic level that your preconceptions are not the only way to see or do things.
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