Think less. A two-word statement that sounds easy enough to implement, right? Wrong. If you’re anything like me, those two words often feel nearly impossible to put into action. How could anyone think less in a world full of constant stimulation and uncertainty?!
But if you can master the art of thinking less, you will find there is more room for growth and joy in your life. And instead of feeling stuck in analysis paralysis, you will be able to confidently navigate the ebbs and flows of life with a sense of overwhelming peace.
This article will show you how you can go from feeling stuck in a swarm of buzzing thoughts to learning how to harness your thoughts to create the life you want.
Benefits of not over-thinking
Have you ever felt like your mind was clear and focused on the present moment? Yeah, me neither.
In all honesty, though, I do occasionally have brief moments where I feel clear-minded and fully present. But it takes a concerted effort for me to get into this state.
And the reason I aspire to spend more time not thinking is because I know the benefits are countless.
Studies show that if you invest in developing the skill of thinking less you can reduce your stress and stave off anxiety and depression. And better yet, having a clear mind will let you devote your focus to whatever task is in front of you instead of feeling distracted and unproductive.
Whenever I find myself thinking a zillion thoughts at once at work, I find that I really can’t do my job well. And people can sense when you are lost in your head. So learning to think less has proven invaluable for helping me not only become more productive at work, but has also helped me not get caught up in the overwhelm that can sometimes accompany the work environment.
What happens if you’re stuck in analysis paralysis
When you get stuck in a cycle of overthinking, you may experience what many call analysis paralysis. You think and think and think and think some more. And in spite of all that thinking, you’re no closer to actually making a decision or taking action.
The research found that the more you think about something, the less satisfied you are with your choice in the end. This has to stop and make you wonder why we waste so much time thinking things over in the first place.
I experience a major case of analysis paralysis almost every Friday night when my husband and I try to decide where to eat. We list a slew of options and the pros and cons of each. And an hour later, we’re hangry-er than ever and usually end up going with our first choice anyway.
5 Ways to think less
So if you’re ready to feel the freedom that comes from abandoning analysis paralysis, give these five easy steps a try!
1. Set a deadline
If you find yourself thinking excessively about something and unable to just let it go, it’s time to give yourself a deadline.
This can be used for both big and small decisions you have to make.
Remember the example from above about my husband and I spending too much time being hangry every Friday night? Well, it turns out the solution was to use a timer on our phones.
We literally set a timer for 5 minutes. And by the end of that 5 minutes, we have to have come to a conclusion about where we are going to eat out or make something at home. And who honestly feels like cooking on a Friday night after a busy week?
This method is also helpful for more important decisions like choosing a job or deciding where you want to move. But I would argue that where you eat on a Friday night could potentially be a life-changing experience if you’re a full-blown foodie like me.
2. Do something you enjoy
Sometimes in order to escape the vicious cycle of overthinking you have to distract yourself with an activity that makes you happy.
When I find myself overthinking, I choose an activity from this list to get myself into a better headspace and let go for a moment:
- Watch a movie.
- Call up a friend that you miss.
- Play fetch with my dog.
- Draw or color.
- Read a chapter in a book.
- Find and make a new recipe for a baked good.
Your list is totally allowed to look nothing like mine. But if you can alter your focus, you may find that when you return to the thing you need to think about you can do so in a more efficient and way less overwhelming manner.
3. Move your body
If I’m thinking myself into a tizzy, I find that moving my body usually does just the trick.
I personally choose to go to the rock-climbing gym or I go for a run outside to bathe in sunshine. By doing either of these activities, I’m forced to get into the present moment.
And then my subconscious mind - which is the better mind to do the thinking anyways - is able to go to work.
I can’t count how many times I’ve used this method to get out of my head.
It really doesn’t matter what form of movement you choose. It could be yoga, salsa dancing, or wiggling your big toe. Just start moving!
It never fails that after moving my body in one way or another, my mind is clear and I feel like I can fully breathe again.
4. Ground yourself in the present moment
When you read that statement, do you automatically think of a bald guy standing barefoot in the grass?
For some reason, that’s the image my brain defaults to when I hear the phrase grounding. What that says about me, I’m not sure. Here's a better article explaining what it means to be grounded.
And while I don’t mind standing barefoot outside, I personally ground myself by using a phrase. My phrase is “wake up”.
I say this phrase to myself because it reminds me to wake up to the magic that is my life experience, right here and right now.
I’ve told my husband and my best friend this phrase. This way when they catch me getting too wound up in my thoughts they can say it. And just like Pavlov’s dog, I’ve conditioned my system to be present when I hear those two words.
You don’t have to choose a phrase. Maybe you want to go join the bald guy standing in the grass barefoot or maybe you want to use an action like drinking a cup of tea to ground yourself.
All I know is bringing yourself back to the present moment will help you to think less.
5. Identify what it is you’re afraid of
If you really feel like you can’t stop thinking, you might just be avoiding the real underlying issue.
Oftentimes we overanalyze a situation because we’re avoiding fear of something deeper.
Let me give you an example. Right when COVID hit, my husband and I had to make a decision about where to move.
We had a pretty clear choice from the beginning, but did we just make the decision and go about living our happy lives? Of course not.
Instead, we were hyper-focused on all the pros and cons and what could go wrong. It wasn’t until we both addressed our fear of losing our good friends and our fear that we wouldn’t be able to establish new relationships because of COVID that we were able to make the decision.
Once we realized it wasn’t anything about the location itself that was causing the issue and that fear was causing our analysis paralysis, we were able to face the fear head-on and stop thinking about it.
We moved and just like most things in life, our imagined fears did not become realities.
So if you find yourself stuck in your thoughts, try to dive deeper. Face your fear and find freedom from your thoughts.
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If you enjoy wearing your thinking cap until the cows come home, then please be my guest. But if you want to take it off and experience the weight that is lifted when you think less, then follow the steps outlined in this article. So let’s take that two-word statement and make it a four-word mantra: think less, live more.
Do you know how to think less now that you've finished this article? Or do you want to share a tip of your own that has helped you think less? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!