Thinking too much is exhausting. Paralysis by analysis is one of the main problems of our time. Thinking too much is one of the main reasons why we feel frustrated and have little energy in our daily lives.
Analyzing a situation and studying the pros and cons is necessary and healthy when making good decisions. However, on many occasions, we think more than necessary in our heads without reaching a concrete conclusion or solution.
What’s more, sometimes we jump, without pausing, from one argument to another that contradicts each other or we move quickly from one emotion to another. For example, we go from feeling excited about a new job opportunity to starting to list everything that could go wrong or projecting possible unfavorable scenarios. Thus, in most cases, when we surprise excessively, we go from showing positive emotions to negative ones such as guilt or fear.
Research shows that overanalyzing things has a series of negative effects on our body: it increases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), reduces creativity, clouds judgment and prevents decision-making. However, there are ways to stop overthinking things. In this article we will see the best tips to stop overthinking endorsed by psychology.
What is the pattern of overthinking?
Overthinking is common; However, this does not mean that it is positive. Overthinking manifests itself mainly in two ways: rumination (repetitive negative thoughts that have no real solution) and projection (making often catastrophic predictions about the future).
People who think too much don’t just use words to evoke their thoughts. They can also imagine situations and events (usually catastrophic); For example, they may imagine their car going off the road or losing their job. Regardless, however they do it, the habit of overthinking and overthinking things ultimately prevents them from doing anything productive.
Besides, Overthinking can have negative consequences for our mental health. A study carried out by Harvard University recently demonstrated that excess brain activity is responsible for the depletion of an essential protein in our body. This means that excessive thinking can reduce our life expectancy.
Important psychological consequences of overthinking are also collected. For example, “rumination”, that is, repetitive thoughts, can lead to anxiety or depression, binge eating, and in more serious cases, self-harm. Overthinking in its most severe form (when it manifests itself more intensely than usual) is usually a symptom of an underlying condition, which must be treated.
Due to our behavior patterns, we all think too much from time to time; In fact, worrying is part of the human condition. However, we were not born thinking too much, this is a result of our development. Both good and bad patterns of behavior are learned through life experiences over time. And just as we can learn them, people can also unlearn these harmful patterns by changing our behavioral habits.
Guidelines to follow to stop overthinking
Before learning to stop overthinking, you have to understand where the problem comes from. Sometimes, thinking too much about things is a consequence of a lack of security; this can have its origin in certain mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. If this is the case, it is essential to consult with a health professional to treat the problem.
In some cases, excessive thinking only appears when making a complicated decision or when faced with certain insecurities. Although, at first, analyzing complex situations in detail is a good way to reach satisfactory solutions or conclusions. Overanalysis is not part of rational thinking since it does not respond to any specific objective, it is simply a way to delay a decision.
Whatever the reason for overthinking, there are different techniques that can help relieve stress derived from excess brain activity. One of the first questions we should ask ourselves is: “Why do I think about things so much?”, and depending on our answer, explore the different solutions that allow us to change this pattern of behavior. However, this is not an easy task, so here we list a series of tips to achieve it.
1. Identify our harmful patterns
As we have seen, when we worry too much or ruminate on problems for too long, our thought processes can become destructive. This is often caused by negative thought patterns that manifest when people are under stress or experiencing conflict (external or internal). Two of the most common harmful patterns are rumination and projection.
Rumination is the act of thinking continuously and without reaching any conclusion about pessimistic or dark topics. This type of behavior can cause people to become isolated and even depressed. Rumination is particularly common in perfectionists, although anyone can experience it. Projection is similar to rumination, but it is focused on the future: it involves anticipating that something will go wrong. These negative thought patterns are deeply related to limiting beliefs and past experiences.
2. Change the story we tell ourselves
The stories we tell ourselves about who we are have a significant effect on our lives. But, the key question is whether these stories we tell ourselves slow us down or allow us to move forward. Overthinking causes people to develop a whole series of statements about ourselves., such as “I’ve always been an insecure person” or “I’m more anxious than everyone else.” These limiting beliefs can be very difficult to change if we never ask ourselves the right questions, such as: “Why do I overthink things so much?” or “Why do I worry so much about making mistakes?”
In order to overcome these thoughts about ourselves – which keep us trapped – we must first identify them. Next, every time we detect that we are repeating one of those old stories, we have to try to replace it with a positive one, like “I am able to control my emotions.” By changing the story we tell ourselves, we can change our mindset.
3. Let go of the past
Typically, people with a tendency to overthink focus a lot of energy on the past, thinking about what could have been or should have been. However, these thoughts do not provide anything useful (what is past is past). The only thing we can change about the past is the way we interpret it.
Leaving the past behind allows us to change our history significantly. This means that bad experiences do not control our present emotions and that mistakes do not influence future decisions. Furthermore, forgiving others and reconciling with our past also allows us to let go of any repressed anger or bitterness.
4. Focus on the present moment
One of the most effective ways to avoid rumination and excessive worry about the future is to learn to live in the present moment. However, most of us are not able to do it.
Being aware of the present moment requires constant focus. What does the world around us look and sound like? What are we grateful for? By practicing daily rituals like meditation and conscious breathing, we can slowly learn to live in the present instead of worrying about the future. Numerous studies have shown the power of meditation on our brain and reducing stress levels.
5. Accept our emotions
Excessive worry is usually caused by facing some type of fear, for example, feeling like situations are not under our control or that we don’t have the life we want.
Contrary to what most people believe, Living in the present moment does not mean burying our negative emotions, but rather addressing them.. So, we need to learn to identify the causes of our emotions, and the first step is to recognize them. Only when we are able to accept our feelings, even the worst ones, can we deal with them appropriately.
6. Focus on solutions
We have to remember that no one controls our lives but ourselves. Focusing on solutions involves: identifying the problems in our lives that cause us stress and anxiety, and once we do, working to solve them instead of dwelling on them endlessly.
Only by taking control of our lives can we permanently stop overthinking.. For example, if our negative thoughts are related to the stress that comes from work, we may need to consider changing companies or careers.
7. Do not get carried away by negative sensations
As we have seen, thinking too much can cause us to stay stuck and not be able to make decisions. This often occurs because the fear of making a wrong decision. When this happens, it is important to note whether this feeling is rational or comes from unjustified fear. To solve it, we can focus on our body, breathe deeply and imagine making the decision. Doing this is a way to know what feeling is guiding our behavior, and what is the best way to move forward.
By learning to live in the present instead of thinking too much, we can considerably improve our happiness and, above all, our peace of mind. To achieve this we must remember that life is not something that happens to us without us being able to act; This means that even negative emotions can lead to positive results. By treating these emotions as part of our growth, we can make the most of them.