Do you ever notice your mind rushing to find a new problem to tackle while you’re reading a book or trying to relax after a long day?
You’re chilling on the couch, scrolling through Netflix for a good movie to watch as you sip on your preferred beverage. You’re in a good mood and feeling ready to just completely let go.
Suddenly, you’re reminded of a problem you had earlier that day. You shake your head and push it away, refusing to let anything ruin your evening.
But then, a few minutes up to half an hour later, you’re pondering that problem along with a new one that has come up.
What is going on?! Turns out this is a common issue linked to how our brains work. Essentially, when something we’re looking for becomes rare, we seem to be adept at seeing it more, probing for issues where there are none! This is linked to our brain making comparisons between current and recent experiences.
The issue with constantly seeking problems and feeling like everything needs to be fixed is that it puts you in a state of perpetual unease. Eventually, you find yourself unable to rest due to how much your mind is racing, even when it’s downtime.
While it may not be possible to stop problems from coming up, changing how you see and approach them can bring you a bit more inner peace.
The following are the top three habits that have helped me better deal with my problems.
1. Choose insight, not analysis. Research has shown that solving problems using insight can lead to better results than analysis.
Using insight means letting yourself think through a problem and solve it using general knowledge you already have.
Analyzing involves delving into the problem step-by-step and breaking it down in a more systematic manner.
An experiment by a research team from Northwestern University found that participants who solved the puzzle given to them with insight were correct 94% of the time, while the analyzers were correct only 78% of the time.
Changing how you see the problem-solving process can help you when you suddenly think of an issue that needs fixing.
Let’s go back to the after-work movie evening.
You’re choosing a movie and a problem suddenly comes up.
If you use insight to come up with solutions, then you’ll see the value of writing the issue down and coming back to it later, when you’re ready to let your brain wander to find a solution.
If you usually go for analysis, your brain might start trying to work on the problem right away, constantly going through all the various scenarios and potential solutions.
Next time a problem creeps in, choose to take time and use insight, rather than analysis, to solve it.
2. Take an investigative approach. Ever since I’ve started approaching my problems with an investigative attitude, I’ve been a lot better at keeping myself focused and not constantly stressed.
Seeing your problems as investigations or puzzles can help motivate you to work on finding solutions.
For example, if you’re dealing with an issue at work, rather than rush to over-analyze, take some quiet time during a break to just sit with the issue.
See it as a puzzle you’re trying to unveil, bit by bit:
What tactics can you use to solve this puzzle?
What information do you already have that can be used to your advantage?
Who in your circle has dealt with a similar issue in the past and can potentially help you?
An investigation is a lot more interesting to solve than a problem and just tweaking your view can make a huge difference.
3. Work on disciplining your mind. The one truth that has transformed how I live my life has been the realization that I am in control of my thoughts and that I can choose, at the moment, what to think.
I spent years enslaved to my thoughts and whims. The scenario I introduced at the start is one I used to be in all the time.
I’d be trying to rest but, ultimately, unable to with all the problems in my life suddenly shaking my inner peace.
This skill is a challenging one to master and may take years, but the best way I’ve found to deal with my thoughts is meditation.
Sometimes I meditate for 5 minutes, other times I manage to do it for 10 or 20 minutes, but however long you can do it for, I highly recommend it!
Research has shown that the benefits of meditation are immense, making it a great practice to incorporate into your daily routine.
When you meditate, you learn to observe your thoughts without engaging with them immediately, and this will help you when a problem you’ve been considering comes up.
Unfortunately, our brains are great at finding problems and reminding us of them at inopportune times.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t let go and enjoy your life.
Work on approaching problem-solving using insight rather than analysis, seeing problems as investigations or puzzles, and disciplining your mind to achieve more mental clarity.