What Is the Burnt-Toast Theory? An Expert Explains

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by a piece of burnt toast. Whether it was the reason you were late to an important event or the beginning of a bad day, at the time, the piece of burnt toast probably felt the worst thing ever. But what if burning your toast was nothing more than just a small, minor inconvenience? And what if it could be the very reason you may be safe, healthy, happy, and alive today? Enter: the burnt-toast theory.

The burnt-toast theory is simple: it’s the idea that something as small as burning your toast could actually end up saving your life or allowing something better to happen. Maybe those five minutes you took toasting a new piece of bread saved you from being in a car accident. Or maybe those five minutes allowed you to cross paths with an old friend you hadn’t seen in ages. Whatever the case may be, the burnt-toast theory reiterates that everything happens for a reason, and some inconveniences can lead to something bigger and better — even if the originating event is as small as burning your toast.

Below, mental health therapist Courtney Morgan dives into what the burnt-toast theory is and why it can be important to remember and implement the theory into your daily mindset.

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Courtney Morgan is a licensed professional clinical counselor and the founder of Counseling Unconditionally, a Louisville, KY, mental health therapy practice.

What Is the Burnt-Toast Theory?

The burnt-toast theory is about so much more than accidentally burning your toast. Really, it’s a metaphor for any of the minor conveniences you may face during the day, like traffic, your shoes untying, forgetting your email password, your iPhone not charging, having no ice in the freezer, etc. “The burnt-toast theory is a phenomenon that suggests that a setback may cause us to avoid greater harm,” Morgan says. “I like to think of it as a mental method to get back on track after something goes wrong.”

In other words, the burnt-toast theory is a reminder to shift your mindset. Instead of looking at your burnt toast as a bad way to start the day, you can be grateful it didn’t lead to a bigger inconvenience. “The burnt-toast theory reminds us how insignificant many annoyances are. It helps us practice gratitude by acknowledging the wonderful things in our lives and realizing that the most important things are not swayed by minor inconveniences,” Morgan says.

As one TikTok content creator writes in a video about the theory, “The next time you face a failure, trust the process. Everything happens for a reason, something even better is on the way. A reminder that the universe protects you.”

The Benefits of Implementing the Burnt-Toast Theory in Your Life

It’s normal to have bad days sometimes. And while your feelings are always valid, one of the benefits of implementing the burnt-toast theory into your life is that it helps you from spiraling over something that isn’t really all that bad in the grand scheme of things. Morgan says it “helps us resist spiraling when we run into an obstacle, as it helps us make meaning of hurdles we may experience.”

The burnt-toast theory also helps with practicing gratitude, which Morgan notes allows you to be more “mindful and intentional” with your thoughts and actions. “It is so easy to get hung up emotionally or mentally when something goes wrong, and the burnt-toast theory helps you break from that.”

Perhaps most importantly, the burnt-toast theory helps you “persist through setbacks” and “maintain a healthy mindset even when experiencing a challenge,” Morgan says. It makes you mentally stronger and more adapted to facing conflict and hardship in the future.

How to Practice the Burnt-Toast Theory

The next time you feel yourself becoming annoyed or frustrated by an inconvenience in your life, try reshaping your thoughts by telling yourself why you’re grateful for the inconvenience. You can do this by speaking it out loud to yourself or writing your thoughts down in a journal. Of course, this may take some time and practice, but once you start shifting your mindset away from the negative and toward the positive, it will be easier to remember the burnt-toast theory when chaos ensues.

“Practicing the burnt-toast theory or another alternative way of thinking becomes more natural over time as your brain changes and adapts to this new way of being. Don’t be too critical of yourself if it feels impossible in the beginning,” Morgan reiterates. Because while your feelings of annoyance may absolutely be justified, at the end of the day, sometimes it really does just come down to a piece of burnt toast.

Taylor Andrews is a Balance editor at PS who specializes in topics relating to sex, relationships, dating, sexual health, mental health, and more.

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