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July 13, 2015

5 Tips for Introverts who Overthink.

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It’s a shame that the phrase “Just Do It” is trademarked, because it could serve as a good rallying cry for us introverts who consistently overthink.

Introverts are inward focused. We think. A lot. And then we think some more.

In the book Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney describes a study which found a difference in brain blood flow between extroverts and introverts. When extroverted subjects were instructed to lie quietly with their eyes closed, blood flowed to areas where “visual, auditory, touch, and taste (excluding smell) sensory processing occurs.” Meanwhile, introverts’ blood “flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning.” There’s nothing wrong with either default state, and this world certainly needs people who naturally gravitate to remembering and planning. However, these default states can also be pitfalls. When someone only does what comes naturally, there’s little room for growth.

Speaking from experience, being preoccupied with thinking and planning and ruminating can lead to a lot of ideas but not a lot to show for it. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a person’s “worth” is defined by their output, I would say that we can deprive the world of our ideas and gifts by remaining silent and keeping everything in our heads.

So how can we move from always being lost in thought to being found? Here are some of my favorite tips to stop of the cycle of overthinking and start doing:

1. Put one action item on your calendar each day. What’s one thing you can put out into the world each day? It doesn’t have to be social, it can be gardening or even writing a comment online instead of simply reading.

2. Stop “third”-guessing. Second-guessing can be useful. Tempted to answer that email from a Nairobi prince asking for your bank account details? You should second-guess that one. Or maybe you tend to stand in the grocery aisle, about to third-guess which jam to buy. Just choose one quickly. Or buy both of the tempting jams. Buying jam isn’t worth a lot of your mental effort.

3. Stop perfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of anything being finished. I could spend all day trying to figure out if “Perfectionism is the enemy of complete” is a better phrase, or I could do more important things.

4. Use a timer. If I let myself I could spend hours on the internet trying to save $5 on face cream. I’ve also spent more time researching which restaurant to go to on Yelp than I actually spent eating at whatever restaurant I eventually chose. So if I know I’m entering time-suck territory, I set a timer. When the timer goes off it’s time to stop thinking/researching and time to start doing.

5. Meditate. Meditation can teach you that you aren’t your thoughts, that you still exist in between your thoughts. There are plenty of meditation apps out there and tons of information about meditation on the internet. Here’s a How to Meditate FAQ for beginners.

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Relephant Read:

Overthinking your Way to a More Mindful Day.

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Author: Thea Orozco

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Fabio Venni/Flickr

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