You've likely heard of overthinking, where you overanalyse even the most trivial of situations and are consumed by indecision. And research shows that overthinkers are at an increased risk of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.

But are you familiar with underthinking? And can it also affect your mental health?

What is underthinking?

As the name suggests, underthinking is the habit of not giving situations very much thought at all.

While overthinkers often obsess over little details, underthinkers usually don’t give too much thought to the consequence of their actions. They are more likely to act impulsively without taking time to fully consider what they’re doing, or how they’re feeling.

The effects of underthinking

Underthinking isn’t without its perks. As an underthinker, you don’t often spend time excessively worrying and instead direct your time and energy towards other things. But there are certainly downsides.

1. Poor decision making.

While it can be good to be spontaneous at times, underthinking can often lead to poor decision-making, and sometimes means you overlook important details and hurt other people without meaning to.

According to the famous, "marshmallow test", if we don't make impulsive decisions as children, we are more likely to be successful in life. So learning to think things through is an important skill.

2. Stress issues.

Due to their poor decision-making skills, underthinkers may often find themselves in stressful situations that can tall a toll on their mental health.

3. Relationship issues.

Underthinkers are often seen to be flaky, unreliable and unsophisticated by others, which may negatively impact their self-worth in relationships over time.

3. Self image issues.

Left unchecked, underthinking behaviour can result in poor self-image, if you are increasingly aware your lack of thoughtfulness is letting other down.

On the other hand, it can also be a sign that your self image is too high.

Underthinking and narcissism

Underthinking can be related to narcissism. A 2019 study found that narcissists are less likely to use critical thinking skills. They tend to struggle with problem-solving, often basing their reasoning purely on gut instinct.

The study reasons that this may be because narcissists often feel overconfident about their intellectual abilities so don't bother to think things through.

How to handle not thinking enough

How can you prevent your tendency to think too little from affecting your mental health? And ensure you give your life the forethought it deserves?

1. Get analytical.

Underthinkers often make decisions based on how they are feeling. While emotions can give us great insight, it’s important to really look at the details too. When you have a big decision to make, you might like to jot some thoughts down in a journal, or consider making a pros and cons list.

2. Give yourself a time frame.

If you’re used to jumping the gun and committing to something right away, setting a decision-making time frame may seem like an alien concept. But give it a try.

You might for example allow yourself 24 hours to really think things through before replying to a job offer, or wait a week before making a big online purchase.

3. Think about what you really want

Taking time to get really clear about your goals and priorities in advance may actually allow you to make decisions more easily. And could encourage you to give more thought to the decisions that really matter.

For example, if you decide that fostering healthy relationships with your friends is important to you, you’re less likely to commit to plans with them without first checking that you’re actually available.

4. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows us to tune into how we really feel. It’s the process of getting very still and focusing solely on the present moment.

Researchers even found that mindfulness and meditation can improve our decision-making skills.

5. Learn to think of others as well as yourself.

Worried that narcissism might be behind some of your thoughtlessness?

Then remember it’s not all about you. The decisions each of us make impact the people around us.

If you’re basing your decisions on a sense of superiority, self-reflection could be key. Take pause and notice how your choices could affect others.

Need help to organise your thoughts and be more proactive in life? Find your perfect therapist now to cheer you on using our easy booking tool.

Victoria Stokes is a Belfast-based wellness and lifestyle writer.

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