Reality Check: Evaluate your Information

Is depression linked to drinking diet drinks? Do teenage drivers have more daytime accidents than at night? And can you really prevent diabetes by eating more cheese?

A new day; a new study. The media breathlessly reports what we now “should” (or shouldn’t) be doing. Sometimes they contradict each other. What’s a body to do?

Information helps us choose our actions. In fact, one of the Ten Axioms of Choice Theory is, “All we can give or get from other people is information.”

If you are connected at all to the outside world: radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, internet, you get information. Some of it is well-thought-out and presented in a helpful way. Other information, however, isn’t “just the facts.” It can be one-sided, biased, or sensationalized.

Take the study linking diet drinks and depression. One headline stated “…diet soda leaves you depressed.” Sounds pretty cut-and-dried!

However, another story about the same study stated that the findings could indicate that folks with a disposition toward depression might crave sweet beverages. So, which comes first? Depression? Or diet drinks? The study has no answer. It simply detected a link (referred to as a correlation) between people with depression and some types of beverage consumption.

Our lives are filled with correlations. For example, you might carry an umbrella if it looks like rain. Often, it does rain. Does that mean there’s a cause-effect relationship between your umbrella-carrying and the rain? Not exactly. Your fetching the brolly didn’t “make” it rain!

Why does this matter?

The information we get contributes to the choices we make. When that information is confusing or misleading, it can have a real impact.

For example, some folks might interpret a headline as, “If I get rid of my diet soda, then my depression will disappear!” If only it were so.

When the soda is gone and the person is still depressing, how is their life? Better? Or worse, as the hoped-for result didn’t come to fruition?

We have the freedom to accept, reject, or ignore the information that we get. So before you dump your drinks down the sink, permit your teenager to drive only at night, or invest in supersize cheese blocks, try self-evaluating.

For example, do you suspect that eating certain foods gives you a headache? It’s under your control to change your eating habits, should you choose to do so. Then evaluate. What happened?

You are sure to learn something: either your headaches changed or they didn’t. Even when the result is not what you hoped for, at least you have a new piece of information.

As another example, are you feeling down in the dumps? It’s under your control to change what you are doing. You could change from sitting on the couch with a can of pop to walking outside with a bottle of water. Then evaluate. Is your outlook better? Worse? Either way, you have learned something about yourself. You can choose to continue the action, expand it, or stop.

So when you read a sensational story, my suggestion is to be open to suggestions, but evaluate for yourself. What’s your suggestion?

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