Our “analytical mind” is the thinking part of our brains. It mostly takes place in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with complex decision-making, problem solving, critical thinking, and self-monitoring.
Basically, it’s the part of our brains that makes us step back and think, “What should I think here?” or “What should I do here?”
It’s a very important function of a healthy mind, but it’s also not the only function. In certain situations, it can actually be useful to calm down your analytical mind.
Sometimes being too analytical and too rational can inhibit you from tapping into other mental resources. This article summarizes the main reasons why it can be unhealthy to be too analytical sometimes.
1. You won’t find an answer to everything
The analytical mind is all about asking questions and seeking answers. This is great, except when we find ourselves continuously ruminating over questions that we don’t or can’t find an answer to.
It’s important to not get too caught up in finding an answer to everything that happens to us. Some things we can’t know – and some things don’t serve any purpose to know.
If a question is unanswerable, or if the answer doesn’t change the way you live your life, then it’s usually not something worth beating up your mind over endlessly.
Of course, it can be fun to contemplate the hard questions in life: “What is consciousness?” or “How did the universe begin?” or “Is there a God?” – but often times these questions are impossible to answer with certainty, and knowing them won’t change much in your daily living.
Not every question is worth your valuable time and effort to find out. And often there’s a certain kind of relaxation and relief that comes when you accept what you don’t know and can’t know.
2. It limits your creativity and spontaneity
When you’re using your analytical mind, it can often get in the way of creativity and spontaneity. You’re not letting yourself “go with the flow,” but instead hesitating and second-guessing yourself a lot.
One interesting study found that when jazz musicians improvise they actually show less activity in their prefrontal cortex. They aren’t thinking about what they are doing or worrying about it – they are just doing it and being it.
This can apply to any kind of creativity. Too much thinking can often spoil it, especially if you’re shooting down every idea that comes to your mind or over-analyzing every action you make.
In the same way, people who struggle with conversations and social skills often have a very analytical mind. They rehearse everything they say to themselves inside their heads, and don’t let themselves just act in the moment – so they come off really unnatural.
If you’re interested in becoming more creative and spontaneous, I recommend some great exercises here: practice improvisation.
3. It makes you negatively judge yourself and others
Your analytical mind is also the part of your brain that thinks about other people and judges them.
Often times, people consciously or unconsciously form beliefs about others and put them into categories. We may see some people as “good” vs. “bad,” or “smart” vs. “dumb,” or “attractive” vs. “ugly.”
Sometimes putting people into categories can be useful in certain situations, but we have to be careful not to think of people in a singular way overall.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but these differences shouldn’t make us see anyone as less valuable or less deserving of respect as a human being.
Also, when you hold others at a high standard, you are forced to hold yourself to the same standard, or at worse, deal with the cognitive dissonance of being a hypocrite.
You can’t judge others without the same time judging yourself by comparison. So by being less judgmental and kinder to others, you’ll also become less judgmental and kinder to yourself.
4. It takes up your focus and willpower
Thinking with your analytical mind often takes up a lot of willpower and energy.
Your brain can only process so much at once, so if you spend a lot of your time thinking and ruminating about specific things, you’re going to be sucking up a lot of mental resources that could be used in better ways.
Your mind does most of its work unconsciously, only a small portion of information is processed through our conscious awareness and critical thinking.
The more you let information get stuck there, and constantly let it repeat in your head, the less awareness and energy you’re going to have to dedicate to new information.
Ruminating about the same things over and over again takes you out of the present moment and stops you from fully paying attention to what’s right in front of you.
5. It can reduce happiness and pleasure
If your analytical mind is too active, it can also reduce your happiness and pleasure. Recent research has found that sometimes rationalization can get in the way of happiness, especially when it comes to your subjective tastes.
Don’t feel the need to justify everything you like or everything that makes you happy – just enjoy it as it is. Sometimes, it’s healthy to just like something for the sake of liking it, and not have to analyze exactly why you like it.
Thinking can often detach ourselves from our emotions. This can be useful for some negative emotions – like thinking about your sadness, anger, or grief – but it can also sometimes be destructive to positive emotions – like joy, humor, and love.
Our analytical minds can help guide us to understand our emotions, but they can never completely understand our emotions. Don’t forget that your emotions and feelings, too, are a type of intelligence and understanding.
You cannot fully understand yourself or the world around you if you only view your experiences from a completely rational and analytical mind.
Check out more advice, tools, and exercises in The Science of Self Improvement