How to Stop Overthinking When You’re Drowning in Information
Overthinking does not pair well with access to unlimited information.
We often are perfectionists when we make our decisions.
We chase the ideal future with a burning passion and will absorb any information that may help make the “right” choice.
Your wheels begin to turn as you weigh your options.
What if this happens? What if that is a factor?
You dive headfirst into a deliberation process that, in its own way, is kind of satisfying.
Having more information provides a false sense of security.
Feeling well-informed gives you a certain level of inflated confidence.
“For many people knowledge has the remarkable power of producing confidence instead of measurable aptitude.”
Being saturated with information inflates our ego.
Then, after all the research…. Nothing changes.
In actuality, the pleasure was not about acting on an idea, but entertaining the idea.
You loved the idea of doing that. You loved the identity of someone that does this.
Loving ideas is appealing because it takes little effort and fills our heads with plenty of dopamine.
Just by imagining potential futures, our ideas can be a source of short-term happiness.
You can boost your happiness by planning a vacation even if the vacation never happens.
Having a dream about your team winning the Super Bowl would also boost your mood.
What goes on between our ears has a profound effect on our lives, regardless of external circumstances.
But our mental state is a double-edged sword.
Pursuing internal happiness, in lieu of tangible action, can sabotage our external world.
The danger is that, eventually, our external world undermines our happiness as a result of standing still with our heads in the clouds.
It leads our minds to go to places that are not real.
Pondering the logistics of change gives us an illusionary sense of happiness in the same way that social media gives us an illusionary sense of inferiority.
Information can lead us away from the truth.
Being saturated with information deceives us.
Information saturation can also paralyze the decision-making process.
Sheena Iyengar discovered this in his 1995 study. His finding was that between two jam stores, one with 6 jam flavors and one with 24 jam flavors, the store with fewer options was dramatically more successful. The store with 6 flavors sold jam to customers 30% of the time while the store with more options had an abysmal 3% success rate.
But why was that the case?
Because being saturated with information prevents us from making choices.
Variety can only spice up life to a certain point. After that, it’s just tiring.
We can’t contemplate a multitude of options without becoming fatigued.
If the decision-making process is lengthy, then we are likely to make no decision at all, which, when you’re thinking of meaningful ways to improve your life, can be quite devastating.
Change is needed!
So how do you combat a deluge of information?
1. Be humble when considering how information affects your thoughts.
Information can make us over-confident.
We need to be aware of this and understand that our thoughts are not us.
Our thoughts are not destiny.
We are more than them--and thoughts, no matter how great they might be, are no substitute for action.
2. Guard your heart.
You need to be selective about the information you choose to consume.
Bad information is like bad food. It will contaminate your life. It affects everything.
Bad information can be the useless, misguided, unnecessary, or even cynical. When you consume positive, accurate, and useful information, you are priming yourself for success.
The internet has given us a great deal of information, but not all information is equal.
It’s your responsibility to evaluate what you give your precious attention. The unfollow button and the unsubscribe button should be used gratuitously.
Your heart is worth guarding.
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”
3. Simplify your choices so no energy is wasted on gathering information.
Choices require energy, so we need to stick to brass tacks.
What is most important?
What are the vital pieces of information?
Especially regarding superficial choices, we need to be willing to settle for the “good enough” option.
There is no need to consume extra information for the sake of petty matters.
4. Reduce the number of choices in your day.
Information may supply plenty of decisions to make, but that does not mean we need to ponder every little detail.
Wasting energy on meaningless choices takes away energy that is needed to make important choices.
5. Adopt great routines. Make decisions ahead of time.
“Anxiety and Depression cannot be easily treated if the sufferer has unpredictable routines.”
— Jordan Peterson
Routines can be your worst enemy or your best friend depending on how you handle them. Good routines will apply the two previous points.
By having routines, you can make simple processes in life automatic and reduce the number of decisions you have to make.
We are limited by our working memory in moment-to-moment decisions. Anything decided ahead of time takes the strain off of our working memory, allowing for other more pressing issues to become our focus.
Think in advance so you don’t have to do as much in the moment.”
6. Be comfortable with educated guesses.
You don’t have to be perfect.
You don’t have to predict every outcome.
Your life is a series of educated guesses, so don’t get discouraged.
Good guesses are sometimes wrong, and that’s OK.
You are not responsible for unpredictable events.
All you can do is accept what arrives and adapt to whatever life throws at you.
Paul Repko is a Master of Social Work candidate at UT-Knoxville studying to become a licensed therapist. During undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill, he first began to understand the symptoms of his depression and anxiety. As a result of 2 hospitalizations in the spring of 2017 and traumatic experiences within his family, he has made mental health and the treatment of it one of his missions in life. His objective is to use therapy and writing as ways to help others thrive in whatever situation they may be enduring.
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