magical thinking

We might imagine that magical thinking is something the creative people at Disney do, as in “Magical Thinking in the Magic Kingdom.”

But magical thinking can be unhealthy for our mental well-being if we take it too far. Most of us do a little of it now and then, such as believing (or semi-believing) in superstitions. Do you avoid walking under ladders and stay out of the path of a black cat? Do you try to be more careful on the 13th of the month when it falls on a Friday? How about adding “knock on wood” to a statement where you want something to continue as is?

According to, magical thinking is defined as “believing you can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the actual circumstances.”

My guess is that you’ve seen posts on social media that go something like this: “Repost this and great wealth will come your way next week.” Or “Comment AMEN and watch the blessings flow into your life!” Well, reposting and commenting AMEN (even if in all caps) are examples of magical thinking.

Magical thinking sometimes shows up in people who suffer from OCD. They may believe if they don’t say a word a specific number of times or if they don’t follow a certain routine or don’t touch a lucky item in a certain way, that they will bring forth negative consequences.

A video of an interview with a “doctor” (doctor of what was not revealed) showed up online last week. The guy proclaimed to know the “secret” of curing Coronavirus: Vitamin D. Yes, some studies show that strong levels of Vitamin D may help fight off this virus, just like it helps fight off other viruses. And with Covid-19, people with low levels may experience worse outcomes.

But that wasn’t this man’s hypothesis. He wanted viewers to believe that a strong level of Vitamin D is the ONLY thing you need to avoid Covid-19 infection. No need to wear a mask, wash your hands, or social distance. Nope, he proclaimed all we have to do is stay out in the sun or in tanning beds!

As his “evidence,” the charismatic speaker told us to consider that nursing homes (where people are typically inside) had high rates of the virus, but homeless people (who by their very definition are usually outside because they don’t have homes) just weren’t getting the virus!

Supporters had left comments such as, “We need to listen to this man!”

Really? I guess neither he nor his supporters had bothered to check out the validity of his “evidence.” Covid-19 has run rampant at homeless shelters in sunny California since the early days of the infection hitting the West Coast.

Believing that, “I won’t get Covid-19 if I have a high Vitamin D level” is just more magical thinking.

Yes, absolutely we each should maintain a good level of Vitamin D all the time because a deficiency causes health issues and the possibility of a poor outcome if we contract ANY virus since Vitamin D is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses.  How to get it naturally? 10-15 minutes of sunlight will fill your daily requirement if you’re light-skinned. Darker skin requires more time. Being a melanoma survivor of over 30 years, I monitor my sun exposure time to as little as possible to reap the benefit.

Vitamin D is found in foods such as fatty fish (salmon and tuna are two), fortified dairy products like milk and cheese, and egg yolks. And supplements are a choice as well.

So, before we decide to follow the next NEW advice that promises an easy way out of a problem, let’s consider whether it’s evidence supported or just the next version of magical thinking.


US News & World Report on Vitamin D studies relating to Covid-19

Why tanning beds don’t help with Vitamin D production