You hear people complain a lot about thinking too much. They’ll say that they wish they could just stop thinking for a while. People will tell their colleagues that they’re just thinking about a problem too much. Someone will tell a distraught friend that she needs to stop thinking so much.

I understand where this comes from, but it’s misguided. There is no such thing as thinking too much. You can have unproductive thoughts or even destructive thoughts, but you simply can’t think too much. It’s what we do. Don’t try to stop thinking. Thinking is what separates us from politicians.

If you feel like your thoughts are overwhelming, you need an outlet. Find a confidant to talk to about what’s on your mind or create something that expresses your thoughts. Your mind is trying to tell you that you need to do something productive or different from what you’ve been so focused on. Work out what it is.

It may also be that you need a way to shake certain thoughts loose. Meditation or exercise will alter your physical and mental state so that you can think more clearly.

Your mind may also be craving new inputs. If your only feeding your mind with junk, you may feel like your mind is poisoning you, which is why you want to turn it off. But if you give it better fuel, things will change for the better. Challenge yourself mentally, with art, literature, theatre, academic research.

Yes, you may need a break from time to time from rigorous thought. If you obsess about something mentally, you may get jammed up, and you feel the need to head out for a walk to think about nothing in particular or even watch a silly movie. That doesn’t mean you’ve been thinking too much. It may just mean that you’ve been working hard on a particular problem or project, and you need some time away from it to recharge or get a different perspective.

Don’t tell yourself or other people that you’re thinking too much. It’s bad advice. Thinking is a good thing, in fact it’s a great thing, and we need to do more of it.

Talk to me.

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