You may have been thinking over and over again about a problem you had, a decision, or something someone told you at work. Thoughts like: “Maybe I should have said this” or “What if I had done this? And when you try to” turn off “your brain , the thoughts seem to get louder and more intrusive, does that sound familiar? It doesn’t fix anything, so why do you do it?
Sometimes we think that there is a right or wrong answer to a problem and that more thought will help us make a better decision . At other times, we are looking for ways to deal with or prevent discomfort. Someone in a new relationship, for example, may look at everything another person says to protect themselves from being hurt.
Most people think too much to feel safe. As human beings, we don’t like having to suffer with uncertainty. We think too much about decisions that may have an outcome we cannot predict, we think too much about what people think of us because we cannot read the minds of others, and we reconsider past decisions that we have made because we are not sure they are the right ones. correct … But thinking this obsessively can be mentally draining and is not a healthy response to being happy. Thinking too much can lead to a negative mood and poor quality of sleep … leading to rumination, depression and anxiety.
So what are you supposed to do? If you are prone to spending countless hours replaying scenes in your head, here are some strategies to help you overcome your overthinking …
Identify words of concern
The tricky thing to worry about is that it often happens outside of your consciousness. That’s right, you may be overthinking and not even realizing it. The biggest concern is subliminal, it happens when we multitask . We worry while driving, attending a conference, showering, or doing routine work that doesn’t demand a lot of attention. We rarely pay attention to our concerns. Therefore, it can happen endlessly.
But how can you stop something when you don’t even know what is happening? The first step in curbing overthinking is learning to identify it. The vast majority of useless worries begin with the words ‘what if?’ Being aware of these words in one’s thoughts can be a help to get caught up in the act of useless worry . Once you locate it, you can have an active decision not to fall into the trap of thought.
Accept your concern
The second step of the strategy is not to try to stop, avoid or resist overthinking. Does it seem contradictory? Trying to stop worrying will only further reinforce your interest in it. Think of it this way: when you try to fight your thoughts by saying to yourself, “Stop thinking about it!” There is a tug of war: a battle between you and your conscience. This almost never works. You will likely end up feeling frustrated and more concerned about why you can’t control your fussy brain.
The most helpful responses to “what if?” Worry involves playing with worry as a form of acceptance, rather than any form of opposition. So instead of trying to ban overthinking, change the way you relate to it. Understand that, as a human, your mind is naturally unruly and sometimes it will go crazy with anxious thoughts … although you can set limits to them.
Observing is not compromising
This may seem like the opposite of accepting worry, but it is not. Unlike thought stopping, where negative thoughts are vetoed, choosing not to engage your anxiety doesn’t mean forbidding anything. Rather, you notice your thoughts and let them wander through your mind like clouds. You don’t compromise, but you don’t resist either.
If this sounds a lot like mindfulness, that’s because it is! A meditation practice is incredibly important when it comes to overthinking because it teaches us how to have mastery over the mind. Being in the present moment makes it impossible to reflect on the past or worry about the future.
Often times, what keeps people from trying meditation is intimidation or misunderstanding. Many people think that you have to sit in total silence, listen to the voice of God and levitate your pillow … but none of this. Meditation has nothing to do with transcendent perfection. It simply involves being still, noticing your mind, and being a better observer of your thoughts . By doing so, you are likely to gain some healthy distance and perspective.
Replace the thoughts that bother you
Overthinking often involves creating worst-case scenarios in which you imagine your own personal final judgment, generating endless creative possibilities for how things are going to go wrong. The concern is the misused imagination. Every time we worry about something, we are literally visualizing a bad situation in our head. The visualization part is what makes the fear feel so real.
Visualization is very powerful. The same brain regions are activated when people remember the past or imagine the future. This means that your brain cannot tell the difference between a real memory and the one you have imagined. So if you imagine something, over and over again, your brain can register it as a real experience … and it feels real as well.
If you are thinking about all the bad things that could happen, remind yourself of all the good things that can also happen. In other words, replace the worst case with the best and focus your energy on all the great things that may come up in the future.
With these strategies, you will be able to stop overthinking, unnecessary worry … and solve the problem you have in mind without obsessing over it! From now on, you will be able to feel more mental freedom and thus, feel happier and more satisfied with your life. If, despite all this, you realize that your thoughts do not allow you to enjoy life, then you will have to go to a psychology professional to help you better focus your thoughts and emotions.