When we are overthinking things, we may start to over analyse our thoughts which can lead to unwanted behaviour. Then you can believe your thoughts are controlling you rather than you controlling them.
Whether it is something that happened in the past or a future event you are worried about, overthinking and negative thinking steals your well-being and happiness, which may, over time, lead to depression, anxiety, panic or low self-esteem.
Why do we overthink?
- Sometimes we are trying to find a resolution
- Sometimes we anticipate something will go wrong and try to avoid a bad result
- Sometimes the neurons in our brain are muddled and we cannot think clearly.
- Sometimes it is just a bad habit.
The problem with overthinking is that you dwell on things going wrong instead of how to find a solution to work out how to get it right. So, for instance, at work you get praised regularly for your efforts and then one day make a small error; all you will dwell on is the one thing that went wrong and forget the 99% of things that went well.
Stopping this type of overthinking isn’t something we are very good at
Tell someone not to think about a pink elephant and all they will think about is that pink elephant. That is because there is no “stop” button in the brain, so to stop one thought you need to turn on a different thought in its place.
Below are 4 ways that may help you to stop overthinking
1. Take part in an activity that makes you feel happier
Feelings are always proceeded by thought, so if you overthink (and it’s usually negative), you will feel anxious. However, behaviour can change emotions, too. If you do something that you know generally makes you feel better—going for a run, calling a friend, watching your favourite movie, or meditating—you can raise your mood. When you are in a better mood, you can think more clearly and you may see things from a different more positive viewpoint.
2. Grab and piece of paper and a pen.
Why? To write down all the things you fear will happen. It has been said that 80% of all the things we worry about, never actually happen. Then there is another 15% we can’t do anything about. So think about it, we only have 5% to deal with… which is not so bad, is it? Once you stop and think about it.
3. Jot down why even if the thing you feared did happen you would still be OK.
Having a contingency plan if the thing you feared did happen may enable you to put your fear to one side. However, if you keep thinking about your fear you are in danger of putting so much emotion into it that it grows bigger and bigger. Difficult things happen to many people each day, but they survive. How well you handle challenging situations depends on you focusing on your strengths and not your weaknesses.
4. Look at things differently
When you have a contingency plan, you will have both diminished the need for your mind to go over and over your worry and give yourself something positive to focus on instead.