Deep Thinking: Embrace It, but Don’t Chase It

Half an hour ago I left the house to go on a run, in search of the evasive blog post topic that had been sticking its tongue out at me for much of the morning.

Unfortunately, all I could think of at first was “the runner’s high.”

I have yet to experience “the runner’s high.” I’ve experienced “the runner’s ‘why oh why?’” and “the runner’s ‘I’m going to cry’” and “the runner’s ‘I think I’m going to die.’” But never “the runner’s high” — not yet, at least.

For me, though, running has become one of the psychological, emotional, and even spiritual tools I can harness to clarify the deep thinking I’m so prone to as an introvert. It’s an intentional activity I can count on to come through for me when my thoughts just aren’t coming through quite right. There’s something about the change of scenery and the physicality that cleanses the mental mess every time and sets the stage for answers.

That’s exactly what happened just now. For at the very end of my run, when I, ahem, kicked it down to the finish, it occurred to me: “I think I’ll write about thinking <pant, gasp>. Especially since thinking and reflection <huff, puff> are such an important part <cough, spit> of every introvert’s existence and well-being.”

It’s too easy for us introverts to fight ourselves when it comes to thinking. We don’t fight thinking per se; I’m not sure we’re actually capable of that. But we’re susceptible to digging in our heels and bullishly thinking about something, without moving, for hours even when the only result is muck. It’s our equivalent of stubbornly holding our breath until we turn blue in the face, just to prove we can.

We don’t need to change our propensity to think deeply. That’s something for us to embrace, not face. Sometimes, though, we need to intentionally change when we’re thinking, or where, or even what we’re thinking about and how. We might need to table something for an hour, do something completely different, perhaps even bring someone else into our thinking instead of going it alone. We need to do something to give ourselves the temporary control-alt-delete we need to clear the psychological air and begin anew.

Whenever I’m stuck on a clue in The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, I walk away for a while. Inevitably when I return to the clue a few hours later, the answer comes to me. Not because I gave up on thinking about it, but because I gave up on the way I was thinking about it.

Sometimes we have to walk away for a while in the rest of life, too. Or in my case run, trusting that “the runner’s high” will show up in the form of … a blog post topic.

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