The Millennial Pilgrim: Set aside time for intentional thinking 

Cut down on over-thinking. Invest time in intentional thinking if you really want to be productive and solve the crucial problems of your life

Somi DasUpdated: Thursday, June 16, 2022, 08:48 PM IST
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A large chunk of our time goes into thinking. It could be in the form of daydreaming, catastrophising, planning, and fantasizing. Hours fly by when we indulge in these forms of passive thinking. But they do not necessarily solve our problems or improve our productivity. Thinking is the most predominant activity we perform each day, yet it turns out to be of little use. And those with the propensity to over-think or prone to negative thinking end up in a worse mood due to this activity. This kind of passive thinking never stops. We may indulge in pleasurable activities to get the voices in our heads to stop or to distract ourselves from them. But they are so habitual that they refuse to go away. The only way to then take charge of your thoughts is to invest time in intentional thinking, which is different from all forms of passive thinking like daydreaming and fantasizing. Intentional thinking requires us to take one thought and stick to it for a good amount of time. Unlike fuzzy thinking in which we go from one thought to another. It requires you to logically, examine all sides of it, explore your ability to find inner strength, and resources to solve existential problems in your life just by the means of thinking. 

For example, you may have a burning desire to quit your job and maybe there is this constant voice inside you that’s asking you to quit. You may temporarily engage with it and immediately remember that you have bills to pay. Moments later you would go back to scrolling on your phone, or ordering biryani from a food delivery app, to keep such thoughts at bay. You may even fantasise about a scenario where you are writing your resignation letter and giving the most satisfying exit interview. These can have temporary release. But they do nothing in solving your problem except for highlighting that your job is a problem and that quitting it has even consumed your fantasies. 

This is the reason why the scene from The Family Man in which the protagonist Srikant beats up his obnoxious boss is so popular. It is the ultimate fantasy of every tormented employee working under a difficult manager, without realising the manager too has their own share of problems and is only a cog in the wheel. Instagram rant reels against corporate culture, toxic workplace, and difficult clients also act as comfort. Such so-called relatable content which gives your feelings temporary release is a huge waste of time. Neither over-thinking, fantasising nor acts to distract you from these disturbing thoughts like mindless scrolling will help you with your tricky job situation. Motivational speakers go to the other extreme. They negate thinking and urge you to jump into action right away. Go quit that job, confess your love, etc. This strategy too could have an adverse impact. Without clarity of thought, the right action is impossible. 

Clarity of thought comes from a combination of things. What is your hydration level, are you hungry, did you eat too many carbs, did you drink alcohol last night, and did you get enough sleep? All these factors will decide whether you are capable of thinking clearly and taking the right action. Now, if your biological parameters are decently at the base level, you can indulge in intentional thinking. Sometimes plain breathing exercises can bring you to base level i.e the sweetness of optimum stimulation without agitation. 

If you are properly hydrated, have had good sleep, and have had some kind of physical activity, you can sit in a calm room and indulge in thinking one thought at a time. Take up the issue that has been bothering you. What is the source of the problem? How is it making you feel? Are you overestimating the negatives, and underestimating the positives of a situation? Are there certain blind spots and assumptions that you are not able to take into account? Go on. But remember to stick to that one thought. 

Also, it is essential to be non-judgemental in such thinking. Whether you are trying to write a Facebook post or merely solve a problem in your life, it is essential to meditate over it rationally before concluding for it to turn into fruitful action. 

The other name for intentional thinking is meditation. Contrary to what we believe mediation to be — emptying of the mind, it is arriving at the clarity of thought with the use of non-judgemental reasoning. So, let’s cut down on overthinking and use all of that mind space and energy to indulge in intentional thinking. 

(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter.)

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