Overthinking or rumination, as the experts call it, is when we think about something for too long.
It takes up our energy and we are then unable to partake in activities and perhaps everyday life as we are exhausted.
It can take many forms such as:
Attempting to read peoples minds and interpret their motives.
Over analysing decisions.
Trying to predict and over plan the future
A running commentary in your head
Beating yourself up for past actions
We often can confuse overthinking with problem-solving. We might believe that by focusing all our attention on something we can “solve” the issue. However, if we do not take action and move on we are caught in an endless exhausting loop which can impact our mental health.
How the Mind Tricks Us
Eckhart Tolle suggests that our minds want our attention and are constantly offering thoughts to get our focus. Just like a child showing you their drawings or toy, they want your full attention.
We may be tricked into thinking if we answer the minds query, say who the actor is that starred in the film, we will be able to let the thoughts go. But this is the mind tricking us into giving it more energy.
How to Break the Habit of Over-Thinking
When we think about something we create what is called a neural pathway in our brain. When we do this over and over we are building that pathway ever stronger. Think of a new foot trail that is created, the more people that tread that trail the more ingrained it will become. This is the same with our thoughts, the more we think about something the easier it is to go back there in our minds.
This is why the longer we have been ruminating over something the harder it is to pull ourselves out into a new way of thinking.
These are just a couple of ways to overcome overthinking taken from the book: The Depression Cure, by Stephen S. Ilardi.
1. Become aware of what you are ruminating about.
To think differently and to stop ourselves from treading the well-worn path of rumination we need to become aware of what we are thinking.
You can do this by setting an alarm on your phone, or another device every hour to prompt you to notice what you are thinking and when.
Perhaps you might like to journal at the end of your day to notice what events happened throughout the day and what thoughts they triggered.
Once we become aware of our thoughts we are able to come up with real solutions, make decisions and move on.
It may be that we recognise there is nothing we can do about what is bothering us right now. We can mentally park our anxieties and focus on our lives.
We tend to feel our worst when we have nothing else to do. The idea here is to turn your attention away from your inner world of thoughts and feelings and on to the outer world of people and activities.
When we feel insecure or anxious about something, we may want to withdraw. This is actually the worst thing we can do as overthinking becomes worse.
The best way to reduce overthinking is to take part in activities with other people.
Like all habits, it will take time to change. The key is to be kind to yourself whilst on this journey.
What Causes Rumination?
A study on stress conducted by psychologists at the University of Leeds found that the biggest cause of anxiety and depression is traumatic life events followed by a family’s history of mental illness.
If you would like support on overcoming your own overthinking then get in touch here: email@example.com