You think too much. Although handy in a pinch, more thinking is rarely the answer.
When you’re $50 short on rent, thinking helps you make ends meet. When you’re driving from Milwaukee to San Antonio and your GPS goes on the fritz, thinking is your friend. Concrete problems that require concrete solutions–this is when your big human brain is an asset.
But suppose you sit down to eat a sandwich. You don’t need all that mental real estate in your head to eat a sandwich, but there it is. Maybe you think about your to-do list or that issue you’re having with your boss. It doesn’t help you enjoy your sandwich, and this kind of “auto-pilot” thinking isn’t going to shed new light on your employment issues. Or maybe you lay down to sleep at night. Your head hits the pillow and there your mind goes, squirming, scanning through the past. Remember that mean thing you did to that kid when you were in third grade? What made you do that? Whatever happened to that kid? So on and so forth. Many people have to exercise their brains to exhaustion before they finally fall asleep.
Here’s the problem: Thinking usually has little to do with the present moment, which is where your life happens. Your thinking mind points toward the future or keeps circling for landing in the past. But the past is already done with, and the future never comes (because when it does, you experience it as the present.) Turning your mind off–that’s the real magic trick. Google “non sexy pictures of pandas” and what do you get? Sexy panda pictures. Tell your mind to quit thinking and what do you get? More thinking.
Your mind wants to rest somewhere. Throughout the day, try to notice the rattling of your mind’s hamster wheel. Do you really need all that mental noise right now? If not, redirect your mind toward your physical senses. Focus on your hearing. Hear the trucks driving on the highway, the sound of your feet on the pavement, the gurgle of your belly. You don’t need to label or judge these sounds, just hear them. Simple. And when the mind wanders off again–and it will wander off–gently redirect it toward the sounds of the present moment.
Your mind makes a fantastic assistant, but a very lousy supervisor. If you’re not in the driver’s seat of your own mind, then you’re not in the driver’s seat of your own life. Let your thinking mind rest when you don’t need it, and it will be exponentially more effective when you do.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.