Practice Perfect 919
Just Let It…Thoughts on Thinking

This one is for all of you thinkers out there. Those of you who spend a lot of time and mental energy thinking about all those things going on in your life. Whether it is family, work, or just random topics that come up, you spend lots of time thinking. Anyone who knows me is aware that I spend a good deal of energy thinking. This is probably the reason I have been able to write an editorial every week for the last 19 or so years. Whether my thinking leads to any quality in these editorials is up to you as the reader to decide. However, for good or ill, I spend a good bit of time thinking about things. In that case, let's explore thinking about thinking.

This is actually a well-known and reasonably well studied field of psychology called metacognition. Analyzing how one thinks can be very helpful, picking out errors or biases in thinking, and is very helpful particularly for students of any field to learn better. This can help us to remain accountable for our thoughts. However, at times this can be a burden with thoughts popping into the mind unbidden. Go away pesky thoughts; I’m trying to sleep!

Just Let It…

When those thoughts arrive to interrupt you, I’ve found a slightly Zen-like approach to be helpful with the phrase “just let it…”

Just let it in – Why bother fighting it? These thoughts are coming from your mind, so it’s not like you can actually avoid them. Something may be important to cause the thoughts to come to you, so just accept them and think them through.

Just let it be written down – A helpful suggestion I learned years ago is to keep a pad and pen at your bedside table. When those thoughts interrupt your sleep, write them down quickly so you can come to terms with them during the waking hours. There’s something about the physical act of writing the thought down that helps clear it from the mind, at least temporarily.

Just let it not compete – Since we receive so many inputs during our waking lives, those thoughts can end up competing with everything else, creating a cacophony of unhealthy mental noise. I often notice this while driving to work during my 45-minute to one-hour trips. I’ll usually listen to a podcast, and several minutes will go by before I realize I didn’t pay any attention at all, lost in my thoughts. Over time, I’ve learned to recognize when this happens, and I pause whatever I’m listening to and think the thoughts while driving. Letting them run their course typically allows me to return to the prior inputs and enjoy that interesting podcast.

Just let it be questioned and organized – Instead of simply letting the thoughts run wild, I’ve found it useful to interact with those thoughts. Have a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself to consider various aspects of the topic. Work through it, looking at the topic from various mental perspectives. You might find that you actually created a solution to the problem.

Just let it not control you – For many people, uncontrolled thoughts can be an aspect of anxiety. In cases like this, the thoughts can be distressing due to the lack of control. If these become too problematic, it may be helpful to speak to a mental health professional.

Just let it breathe – Taking slow deep breaths in and out is a well-documented relaxation technique that can be done anywhere at any time. Closing the eyes may also be helpful, but just don’t do that while driving!

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Finally, remember that some of those thoughts may actually lead to something actionable and productive in life. It all comes down to attitude. Who knows? Your next thought could be genius, so don’t let it go unheard.

All my best.

Jarrod Shapiro, DPM
PRESENT Practice Perfect Editor
[email protected]

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