11 Ways To Overcome Mental Laziness – Backed By Science (2024)

Mental laziness is exercising a lesser potential of your mind. 

Instead of mentally tackling the issues you need to, you may sometimes choose an easier path — to not think too hard.

And in a world full of answers through a simple internet connection, it’s easy to develop mental laziness.

But you can defeat it with the following proven strategies.

Let’s dive right into it.

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1. Contemplate Your Vision

Mental laziness can be caused by a lack of vision in your daily life. If you don’t have a purpose you look forward to, it’s easy to drift into lazy thinking.

But when you possess a vision and remember it every day, you can destroy mental laziness whenever it creeps in.

That’s because having and working towards a vision requires lots of thinking. You have to first figure out how to accomplish that long term goal and then — live every day, articulating the next step to the next level.

An overview of team effectiveness studies revealed that when people with aligned goals make up a team, their cognitive activity increases. This is because they possess a shared vision that drives them to activate their minds.

Therefore, if you don’t have a vision, find one. And then, ponder on the things you need to do every day to reach there. 

2. Restrategize Your Long Term Goals

Yes, you might have a vision. But when things get tough and plans fail, it may be easier to ditch it altogether.

However, this is a sign of mental laziness settling in. Since you don’t want to trouble your mind with an altered plan, you wish to succumb to a lesser potential.

But neuroscientists believe planning is essential to creative thinking, which ensures cognitive flexibility and helps subdue mental laziness.

So choose to reevaluate your goals and create new ways of executing them. Your mind will become active.


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Most types of meditation drive you to think even when you don’t want to. And while you might think that’s stressful, remember that one of the benefits of meditating is alleviating stress.

Compiled research on the effects of meditation on cognitive functions show that the practice increases cerebral blood flow and improves cognitive functions.

Meditation combats mental laziness by:

  • Expelling anxious thoughts which are mental noise subduing helpful mind activity
  • Introducing new perspectives for issues you’ve been avoiding
  • Improving self-awareness
  • Boosting your imagination
  • Prolonging your attention span

In a world full of distractions, you could use some meditation to clear your thoughts and face stressful situations with an open mind.

Yet you don’t have to be a monk or an expert to do it right. Even meditation enthusiasts like Oprah Winfrey started as amateurs. You can check out this meditation guide to get started.

4. Practice a Healthier Lifestyle

If you practice poor hygiene, eat junk, barely sleep, and live a sedentary life, chances are, your mind will be lazy. 

And even though scientists confirm there is a connection between physical and mental health, you also can testify that whenever you’re watching too much TV while snacking — barely getting out of your pajamas, you don’t think productively.

Therefore, to defeat mental laziness with physical health:

  • Get sufficient sleep — the national sleep foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep
  • Pick a balanced diet and minimize eating processed foods
  • Freshen up in timelines that work best for you
  • Pursue an active lifestyle

Don’t forget to listen to your body as well. If you’re feeling unwell or overworked, don’t assume you’re mentally lazy but simply fatigued. Get your body in better shape and exercise your mind’s full potential.

Related: Signs You Are A Deep Thinker – Pros & Cons

5. Avoid Multitasking

According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, multitasking slows down the brain. 

While we think we’re multitasking to save time, it’s sometimes a result of laziness. Since deeply thinking about each task seems too hard, doing two at the same time even at the expense of quality becomes a more desirable option.

But when you choose to multitask, you throw away the chance of fully activating your brain on a particular role. So your mind gets used to task automation, spreading minimal attention to numerous activities hence becoming lazy as a result.

Think about it:

Instead of attuning to your friend’s emotions while they’re narrating a significant life incident, you’re also checking out emails on your phone. In this case, you’re missing a chance of boosting your emotional intelligence which demands deep thought into your friend’s issue so you can understand.

It happens a lot in different ways. You don’t want to “trouble” yourself so you choose to be less attentive — by multitasking.

But if you avoid it, you can defeat laziness whenever it wants to take root in your mind.

Related: Why Do I Zone Out So Much? 12 STOP Strategies

6. Refrain From Escaping

Escapism is the tendency to seek diversions from bothersome realities.

You might binge-watch movies to keep yourself from thinking about a major life struggle. You might drown yourself in your office job to avoid working on your relationship. 

Escaping is avoiding something you know you should be thinking about working on.  

You know that when you think about a problem in your life, you have to brainstorm solutions for it. And that’s tasking. So you avoid it.

But as humans set up in an imperfect world, problems have to exist. Those who avoid escapes and face truths make it to their goals. And those who feed on escapes, end up doing nothing, further fueling lazy thinking.

You don’t want that.

So ditch the remote and start planning for that goal. Stop overeating and find help to stop anxiety. Pause the overconsuming of self-help content and move on to DOING what you were going to do.

You have to escape the escape now!

7. Make Small, Manageable Goals

Mental laziness stems from the mind’s perception that something is hard, right? Then trick it into thinking it isn’t hard then. 

Easier said than done, you think? Well, I’ll explain it further.

See, your brain releases a chemical known as dopamine which makes you happy whenever you engage in a pleasurable activity. This could be eating great food, volunteering for your favorite cause, having sex, and even accomplishing a goal.

Think about it; how do you feel when you’ve done what you said you’ll do? Amazing, right? Well, that’s because your brain rewarded you with feel-good chemicals. 

But while you know you’ll feel good about finishing something, it’s easy to only see the hardness of the task, especially if it’s about accomplishing a big goal. So you have to trick your brain by using dopamine to your advantage as Ralph Ryback puts it in this Psychology Today article.

Break down your huge goals/tasks into micro ones. Since these will take you a short time to accomplish, it’s easier to subdue mental laziness enough to reach a dopamine release.

8. Focus on Progress Instead of Perfect

Mental laziness seeps in when you try to justify your fears. You might succumb to doing nothing while you wait for certainty, enough resources, or the common “just the right amount of inspiration.” 

But while thinking lazily will make you feel good about distracting yourself while waiting to perfect, the climax is usually frustration, guilt, shame, and all sorts of bad feelings towards yourself.

However, you can again take advantage of dopamine, depending on progress instead of perfection to feel good

So whenever you feel like settling for less mentally, choose to determine an imperfect but progressive solution to the problem you’re having.

9. Refer to Your Strengths

Naturally, our minds like dealing with the familiar, the easiest. That’s why if you know you can dance but not code, you’ll choose to do a dancing challenge instead of a coding challenge.

This tendency reflects cognitive fluency, the ease or difficulty of processing particular mental tasks. And it’s all based on our strengths and weaknesses.

That’s why, if you want to defeat mental laziness, you need to focus your energy on the strengths you have for tackling a particular task.

So let’s say you’ve been wishing to lead your design team for some months now. An opportunity arises but the problem is, you aren’t good at designing this type of project. Instead of letting this chance go as you think of the hardness of the design part, think of how you can use your excellent management skills to get other designers to execute the project.

It’s the art of working with your mind, not against it.

We tend to focus on weaknesses and fears, and yet if we could glance in the direction of strengths, we’d see great things we can do.

10.  Seek Your Kind of Motivation

What motivates you? Is it self-help books, inspirational videos, the Bible, your family, a workout, the thought of a reward? What usually makes you feel like, I should do this thing I’ve been putting off for so long? Do that.

According to Kou Murayama, an educational psychologist from the University of Reading, motivation matters when prompting action. Yet not all motivation yields the same results in different individuals.

So whatever motivates your brother might not motivate you to end mental laziness. You have to think about ways in which you were motivated in the past for you to determine how you can effectively motivate yourself today. 

And I get it, you might be frustrated that you don’t hold onto motivation for long. That you drop back to the now stubbornly ingrained lazy thinking a day after you feel motivated.

Well, in Zig Ziglar’s words, I’ll tell you:

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”

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The one thing that mental laziness harbors most is distraction.

The mind can’t stay void so the only thing to do so you don’t go insane is occupy yourself with something else.

But one powerful instant strategy you can use to subdue the laxity in your mind is by forcing consciousness to it.

Observe what’s happening around you and in your head. Feel the taste of the food as you eat. Experience your environment fully. 

As your senses awaken and your mind stays alert, it’ll be easier to battle the urge to not do what you should be doing.

Your Mental Laziness Questions Answered 

Check out every answer to common questions I receive from my clients about this topic.

What causes mental laziness?

Laziness of the mind is caused by various psychological influences. They include:

  • Fear: You fear something will happen if you start thinking so you choose not to until the situation is more favorable — it still worsens. 
  • Lack of purpose: You don’t have a strong reason why you should do something.
  • A biological issue: If it’s been happening for a while you could be sick and it’s affecting your mental health as well.
  • Depression: This condition can manifest as sluggish thinking as well.

How do I know I am mentally lazy? Symptoms of mental laziness

Well, how do you know that your mind doesn’t want to think as it should? Here are some signs you’re mentally inactive:

  • You refuse to think about what you should be deeply thinking about.
  • You depend on other people to provide solutions you should be coming up with.
  • You make excuses about situations you can think out of.
  • You indulge in too much entertainment so you can numb the thoughts you should be having.

Intellectual laziness vs. physical laziness

While mental/intellectual laziness is a refusal to push your mind to work as it should be, physical laziness involves the body feeling tired, and yet isn’t sick and hasn’t been subjected to demanding work.

Since the mindset is where it all starts, physical laziness can be caused by intellectual laziness.

However, to understand their differences, I’ll give you an example of two sales professionals: Zara and Scott.

Zara used to work with Scott in the Trident International company until 6 months back. They both wanted to execute the idea of moving out of their office jobs where they were overworked so they could create individual consulting businesses.

But it involved a lot of research, strategy breakdown, and pitching — basically, lots of mindwork. Scott dipped his toes in the idea and thought it was too hard. Zara broke down the vision into short term goals and persevered through the complex information digestion and application involved in setting the business up. Now she enjoys working normal hours for herself while reaping huge profits.

As you probably noticed, Scott is mentally lazy but can physically do hard work. He is ready to be overworked and earn minimal wages but not engage in active thinking for an idea that could get him out of that undesirable situation.

I believe you understand the difference now.

How do I stop being mentally lazy?

Firstly, you need to know that mental laziness isn’t an identity set in stone. It’s a state anyone can be in whenever they’re avoiding to deal with something mentally tasking.

However, some do it more than others to the point it has become the main theme of their subconscious.

But by practicing the above 11 tactics for subduing mental laziness, you can keep your mind active and get the most out of your life.

What is lazy brain? The lazy brain syndrome

Naturally, our brains if given a chance, seek the easiest way to solve anything.

And in this fast-paced world where answers on the internet are a google search away, many people have developed what many self-help gurus refer to as the “lazy brain syndrome.

Most people have enabled a lazy brain by indulging in cognitively non-stimulating activities hence making room for the development of automation mechanisms for many bad habits.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales claim that if you don’t engage in complex mental activity, a major part of your brain would shrink twice. That’s lots of wasted space if you ask me.

So, how do you activate a lazy brain?

You can use the strategies for overcoming lazy thinking that I outlined earlier to also activate the brain and take charge of your life.

Mental Laziness
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Mental laziness is a killer of not only short-term productivity but also long-term self-improvement. However, you can subdue it by applying the powerful strategies in this article.

So tell me in the comments. Do you think you’re mentally lazy? Why? Also, remember to share this piece with your friends and change more lives.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.