The ability to think creatively is a gift that breeds innovation, and growth. It is the elixir that spore productivity and exciting discovery in both art and sciences. On the other side of the spectrum is overthinking – that is conjuring negative possibilities.
If you’re like everyone else on this earth, you can certainly agree that overthinking is a mental rumination that can cause anxiety, frustrations, and in more extreme cases, depression.
Living in today’s fast-paced world comes with its consequences. One of them is the overbearing of trying to solve problems as they evolve. And in most cases, most of the problems we perceive to have are mere mental ruminations of possible outcomes – things that would possibly never happen.
Overthinking has a lot of negative connotations that can hamper our growth and productivity in life. it can create a sense of insecurity and anxiety that can lead to mental self-torment and sadness. There are several reasons why we often overthink things or events but the most logical of them stems from our past experiences.
To help you to overcome the mental ruminations of thoughts known as overthinking, there are various strategies or techniques we must employ. In this article, I’m going to share with you the best ways on how to stop overthinking.
10 Effective Ways on How to Stop Overthinking
1. Start Living in the Now
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worries – all forms of fear – are caused by too much thinking about the future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” ~ Eckart Tolle.
One of the main lessons that Eckart Tolle talked about in this best-selling book “The Power of Now” is that worries are the product of not living in the present moment. Most of us spend most of our time worrying about either the future or about the past event. This act of constant worry is what creates stress, anxiety, and frustration in our lives.
Whenever you find yourself either stressed or overthinking, you should ask yourself this simple question: what is it now that is causing me stress?
This question will help you to reevaluate your situation. In most cases, you’ll find out that your worries are usually baseless or they are projections of either past event or anxiety over the future.
2. Journal your Thoughts
“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” ~ Robin Sharma.
Journaling is a powerful technique that is known to reduce stress, anxiety, and the impulse of overthinking. The power of the journal helps you to concentrate your thoughts and it ensures that you become more aware of all the blessings in your life. it helps you to see things clearly – things that clouded by overthinking.
Journaling helps you to calm the mind, and it helps it to find things that are in positive alignment with your goals or desires. It helps you to be grateful for what you have, and your present moment. Keeping a journal helps you to focus on the now.
3. Practice Acceptance
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu
Denial of your present condition or situation can be leeway to the mental rumination of negative thoughts and suggestions.
If you’ve ever tried to control your thoughts, I’m sure you’ve noticed that trying to control your thoughts always lead to more like-thoughts.
When you find yourself in a bad or difficult situation, instead of overthinking the whole thing and creating more problems for yourself, try to accept the situation and then sort out ways to mitigate it. Overthinking doesn’t solve any problem for us, it only makes it worse.
Ask yourself this basic question: what can I learn from this situation or event?
When you pose this question to yourself, you’ll find out that your mind will be reconditioned to sort out solutions rather than create more worries.
4. Understand that Everything in Life is Transient
Sure, there are days when things would go so wrong and you’ll feel bad about yourselves and your situation. These moments are part of living, and they are what make life interesting and worth exploring.
When you feel down, saddened, overwhelmed, or worried, you should understand that it is part of life and just like every other thing in life, it will pass away. Adopt this saying; “this too shall pass away”.
Don’t beat yourself up or lay blames, it would only make the situation worse which will, in turn, make you sad or even depressed.
Remember: change is constant, and your situation must change for the better.
5. Reframe Your Situation
Reframing is a powerful psychological technique that helps people to see their condition or situation from a different vantage point. It is said that we humans don’t usually see things for what they are, instead, we view things from our worldview, that is from our perspective. Perspectives are a direct result of our upbringing and associations.
To help you overcome the impulse or overthinking and the mental self-torments it creates, you should monitor your thought patterns and the things you say to yourself.
When you catch yourself indulged in overthinking and over-analyzing a situation, you should take a step backward and ask yourself these simple basic questions:
- Why are you feeling the way you are feeling?
- Are the assumptions of your situation right or logical (Maybe your negative situation might not necessarily be negative)?
- What are the lessons to learn from the situation you are in?
By challenging and reframing your situation, you give the brain the will to analyze the entire situation from a different frame of mind.
6. Practice meditation
“Your goal is not to battle with the mind, but to witness the mind.” ~ Swami Muktananda
Meditation helps us to improve our level of self-awareness.
The importance of meditation is enormous and the benefits cannot be overemphasized. One of the problems of living in today’s fast-paced world is that it comes with lots of stress, anxiety, and frustrations. The best way to calm the mind from spiraling down into overthinking, frustration, and anxiety is to practice the act of meditation.
7. Practice Gratitude
“Let us arise and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~ Buddha
Just like journaling, the act of showing and practicing gratitude opens our minds to possibilities that elude us due to overthinking. Gratitude has been known to be very powerful for ages and most religious organizations advocate for it.
Its simplicity is what makes it potent.
Practice eliciting what you’re most grateful about, and endeavor to write them down just like journaling. Do this for both small things and big things. Your goal is to write everything you’re grateful for every day.
The act of gratitude will not only help you to overcome overthinking, but it would also help you to develop a positive mindset, and it would improve your health condition tremendously.
[Related Read: Gratitude Quotes to Inspire You]
8. Create Distractions for Yourself
The overwhelming thing about overthinking is that once you get started, it can be difficult to stop. The mind will always look for patterns to associate our situation.
An effective way to help stop overthinking is to engage in hobbies we enjoy or engaging in sporting activities.
Albeit Einstein was known to play the violin to help relax his mind, Bill Gates read books to help him relax. All great minds use the technique of distraction to help them realign their thoughts and to overcome overthinking.
Look for ways you can also incorporate this technique whenever you find yourself overthinking a situation or event. Go for walks, run or go hang out with friends.
9. Question your Thought
Overcoming the mental self-torment of overthinking revolves around questioning the rationality of our thoughts and our situation.
It is a well-known fact that we humans are controlled by our emotions and not from rational thinking. We make most of our judgment out of emotions and we try to use rationality to back it up. Overthinking usually stems from the fact that we are emotionally connected to the problem or situation we are in. And in most cases, we tend to be overshadowed by our emotions and we lose touch of reality.
To overcome overthinking, you have to constantly question the rationality of your thoughts. Just like reframing, you have to ask yourself some important questions about how you feel about yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why are you feeling this way?
- What are the triggers and why does it have so much control over you?
- Are there other ways to view your problems?
- What can you do now to solve the problem? (If you can’t solve it in your present situation then you have two choices; 1. Look for someone to help you or 2. Push it aside and engage in something else)
Exercising is probably one of the last things that cross the mind when we are in a stressful situation or overthinking. However, there is notable research that demonstrates the positive effect of exercise in alleviating stress, frustration, anxiety, overthinking, and depression.
Exercise is a great way to free the mind from the compulsion of overthinking. It is scientifically proven that exercise reduces the level of stress hormones in the body – hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Exercise helps us to build our mental strength and helps us to be more disciplined and focused. These qualities are essential when it comes to controlling the mind.
Most people don’t know the dangers of indulging in overthinking, and they consider the matter to be trivial. One thing most people fail to realize is that most mental health problems stem gradually from indulgence in overthinking and framing of situations negatively.
The techniques listed above are only but a few ways that would help you combat the impulse of overthinking. Another effective way is to engage the service of a coach, mentor or anyone you trust and feel comfortable with.