5 Ways to Stop Overthinking
Overthinking is thinking too much, endlessly, repetitively, and unnecessarily considering words we have said, pondering implications for our actions, and analyzing the causes of our feelings. Some folks believe that when we are down, they should try to focus inwardly to figure out the causes and solutions to their problems. However, researchers in the field of depression have consistently found that ruminating worsens sadness, interferes with one’s ability to problem solve, saps motivation, and impedes concentration and initiative. Although people strongly believe that by overthinking they may be gaining insight into themselves and their life situation, that is rarely the case.
So what can one do to stop this alluring, yet harmful habit? Consider these following suggestions for stopping overthinking.
- Find an activity that distracts and engaged you and that will likely leave you feeling curious, happy or proud.
- Take a walk outside, listening to the sounds of nature.
- Watch videos of a stand-up comedian.
- Listen to engrossing music, even singing along.It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as it is appealing and isn’t harmful. Interestingly, although activity can seem like a trite solution, the positive emotions it triggers can help you take a more positive spin on your troubles, increase your creativity while problem solving, and even motivate you to interact with people rather than brooding alone.
Set Aside Worry Time
Allow yourself 30 minutes a day to worry to your heart’s content. Every time you find yourself ruminating at times other than the designated time, remind yourself to stop, because you have scheduled time to address your problem later. When your worry time arrives, set an alarm, and plan something positive to do afterwards. Who knows, you may find that those pressing issues are not as difficult once you have time to contemplate them.
Draw your thoughts as they are swirling in your mind. Avoid writing down any words and just focus on images, shapes, and patterns.
Picture your thoughts as separate from yourself
Imagine that you are driving your car, and your thoughts are printed on billboards that you pass by. Notice the thought, then move on to the next. Or imagine that your thoughts are balloons, which you pop with a needle one by one. Or picture yourself sitting on the bank of a stream, and your thoughts are leaves that slowly float by you. Use any imagery that works to help you recognize thoughts, but not engage with them.
Be in the Present Moment
Redirect your attention to any or all of your sensory channels; hearing, sight, touch, smell, or taste. Start narrating every sensory event that comes to your awareness. For example, you might say “Right now, I am sitting in my chair. My foot is pressing against my shoe. The air is brushing by my face. I hear footsteps downstairs. I see the sun shining in the window.” Any efforts to keep your focus on this present sensory moment and NOT on your thinking experience will help. Racing thoughts may seem productive and tempting, yet they rarely produce results. However, you can see through the empty promise of rumination and find other ways to deal with stress. Find an active way to escape the overthinking trap that works against you and enter into a place of rest.