Solve problems, make decisions: just do not think about it!


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Much does not always help a lot: When making important decisions and solving problems, it pays to breathe from time to time and just do nothing. Why that is so, explains the science.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Sleep for better decisions

One often hears “sleeping one night over” when important decisions have to be made. In fact, sleep actually helps to make such decisions, precisely because you go about it rested: when you are resting, information is processed unconsciously. At least that's what scientific studies have shown.

The Greek doctor Dimitros Trichopoulos, for example, found that if you sleep at least three times a week in the afternoon for more than 30 minutes, you reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by 37 percent. The study was published in the US magazine "Archives of Internal Medicine".

Sleeping helps to reduce stress

For six years, scientists studied the sleep habits of 23000 Greeks between the ages of 20 and 86 years. Participants were only allowed to participate who did not suffer from cardiovascular diseases or cancer at the beginning of the study. The researchers asked the participants if they slept regularly at noon, and if so, how often and how long. Furthermore, the subjects were asked about their dietary habits and gave information about their sporting activities.

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The result: nap helps reduce stress, which makes him so healthy. It has long been known that stress can affect the health of the cardiovascular system both in the short and long term. But only those who sleep regularly in the afternoon, prevent this risk. It's best to sleep half an hour every day. Only then does one benefit from the protective effect and reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Good ideas instead of switching off

But sleeping offers even more advantages: it serves as a kind of incubation period for creativity. This is also the reason why inspiring ideas sometimes come at an unexpected time - for example, when you relax and think about something completely different (or nothing at all).

Rather seldom do such good ideas come about when, after a hard day at work, you are still racking your brains over the project. But science says even more: Not only sleep helps to solve problems. But just switch off!

The more we think, the worse it gets

Psychologists Neil Roese and Jeff Kuban conducted an interesting experimental study with 200 students at the University of Illinois. They had their subjects calculate math problems and measured brain activity. In a first pass, they gave the realistic timings of 15 minutes per task. In a second run, they gave 30 minutes of time per task, again at the same level of difficulty, with the goal of taking full advantage of the time. Any calculation errors should be eliminated in detail.

The result: Due to the additional time, the calculation results did not improve significantly compared to the first round. However, the researchers had observed that the brains of the students drove all the faster, the longer they occupied themselves with a task. In addition, almost all students stated afterwards that they found the tasks in the second round more difficult. Roese and Kuban concluded that people perceive tasks as fundamentally more difficult the longer they deal with them. Say: less is more! So that means:

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Catastrophizing makes the problem infinite

The longer and more in-depth we ponder a problem, the more difficult it will be to solve the problem in the end. As a result, we imagine the consequences of our actions to be much worse than they are - we “catastrophe”. Panic arises. We are afraid to make the wrong decision, to do the wrong thing. And then we often make the same mistake:

Instead of simply stopping and dealing with something else, we ponder even more: we want to try to find a solution quickly. However, things usually get worse, we spin around in circles, can not think clearly, get even more fear and panic - a vicious circle.

Problems take their power: 5 tips on decadastrophizing

Realize that things may not be as bad as expected. For example, also linguistically: One tends to exaggerate like "this is totally terrible". Because, for convenience, our brains are quickly categorized to process new things faster. Such exaggerations also stress us. What helps here?

  1. You have to realize that it is not so bad if you make a mistake. That 80% are often good enough.
  2. If you realize rationally that it does not necessarily lead to a better result, to make more effort, you can let it be.
  3. What also helps: Just take a deep breath. Make it clear that the problem may not be as bad as you thought.
  4. Outsmart the brain. Questioning where exactly you see the problem now. Less black and white thinking.
  5. To divide the problem mountain that you may see in front of you. This makes the problem smaller, one entkatastrophiert.

Physical exercise helps to switch off

Since this is not so easy, exercise can help to simply switch off: doing sport that physically exhausts you. Relaxation exercises or yoga. So that you can bring your stress hormones back into balance. In any case, ventilate the brain. This mechanism can also be made clear with a simple signal. The following exercise is designed to make you aware of when to slide into brooding and to break through this pattern of thought by opposing a conscious reaction. It is called "thought stop":

  1. In the first step of the thought stop, just say “stop” out loud when you realize that you are starting to ponder. If you're not alone, say it softly but forcefully - or at least think so. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale, relax.
  2. You can continue to push it and slip a rubber band over your wrist, which will pull you apart and snap back to stop your thinking. No matter how, the main thing, you distract yourself from it.
  3. If you have nothing to do right now, do relaxation exercises or quickly find a little work to do. The important thing is to think about something else.

The solution: Just stop pondering

So the next time you catch yourself pondering, pay close attention to this process: In the beginning, you may still have clear thoughts and are relatively sure of yourself. Then come the first doubts that make you look at it from a different perspective. Very good - but you should leave it that way, even if you have not found a solution yet.

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If necessary, think about the topic later. Because if you continue to brood, you will always have more doubts, the thoughts seem to become independent. If you allow the brain a break at this point, you will occasionally be surprised to find that the topic will do itself.


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German edition: ISBN 9783965962668

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English version: ISBN 9783965962675 (Translation notice)

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Buy a book on the topic at a discount: Do you like this text and want more information? There is also a book, including this text, and you can purchase the book title here directly in two languages, as a member even with a 20 percent discount. Would you like to take a look at the book first? You can do this by previewing the book look at and then buy directly on the book page.


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