“I think I think too much.”
When I saw this quote on Pinterest, I thought, yup, that’s me. According to research, I’m not alone. In fact, it turns out that more of us women find ourselves overthinking than men. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, but that’s not a good thing either.
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about logical thinking that results in positive actions or decisions. No, I’m talking about mulling things over to the point of unnecessarily stressing out. Or overthinking problems so much we’re awake all night or paralyzed with fear. Or the tendency we all have to wonder why something happened, or why a person said something, or what it all means. When by far, the majority of the time, the simple answer is: IT MEANS NOTHING. I’m talking about ruminating on a problem and endlessly analyzing it until it seems unsolvable, impossible to deal with, or larger and scarier than it is in reality. Sometimes our mind is our worst enemy.
We may even create problems that weren’t there in the first place.
For example, let’s say someone doesn’t say hello to me. Instead of assuming that person had other things on his or her mind, my first impulse is to wonder if I offended that person somehow. I replay the past few days or weeks in my mind, think of some little thing I said (that the person probably didn’t even notice) and then wonder why I always seem to say the wrong thing. After beating myself up about it, I then recall every person in my life that has rejected or hurt me and blame my thoughtless ways.
Sound familiar? Be honest. Surely, I’m not the only one. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t do this quite as much, but on occasion I’m still guilty of overthinking. So, why don’t we try to change this bad habit?
Keep these five tips in mind to quit thinking about things too much or for too long:
Keep Things in Perspective
Do you tend to overthink minor problems? If so, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Often the answer to that question isn’t as scary as what your mind has imagined. To gain perspective, ask if this problem or situation will matter to you in one month, one year, or 10 years from now. If the answer is no, then what’s the point in ruminating and torturing yourself over it now? If the answer is yes, view the problem as a learning tool or an opportunity for personal growth.
Give Up Trying to Control Everything
Sometimes you may think things through endlessly as a way to try and control everything in your life. Maybe you deliberate every possible outcome in hopes that you won’t make a wrong decision, make a mistake, or look like a fool. First of all, life is unpredictable, so this doesn’t work because you’ll never be able to foresee every scenario. No matter how much or how long you ponder about a situation, some things are simply out of your control. Second of all, this process can lead to fear. if you let fear dictate your life, you won’t take chances, try new things, or get out of your comfort zone. You’ll lose opportunities to grow. Instead of viewing something from every possible angle which can lead to procrastination, set a time limit for decisions and then follow through and take action.
Don’t Get Stuck Thinking about Things that Can’t Be Changed
Accept that sometimes you can’t change things and thinking about it incessantly won’t make a bit of difference. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” Victor Frank once said. No doubt, that includes changing your attitude. Worrying and ruminating over a problem that can’t be fixed is a waste of time and energy and can destroy your happiness. Remember, past mistakes can’t be changed either, no matter how much you think about them. You won’t be able to move forward if you’re perpetually looking in a rear view mirror. Apologize, make amends as needed, and then let it go. Stay in the moment. Focus your time and energy on something that really does matter.
Quit Worrying about What Others Think
In other words, avoid the situation I described in the beginning of the article. Maybe you’re reliving something over and over and blowing a situation out of proportion, while the other person moved on a long time ago. Or maybe no one gave what you said or did, that you’re so worried about, a second thought. As Ethel Barrett said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” The trouble with overthinking is that it can make you overly dramatic or even a bit neurotic, when the truth is, perhaps the best thing for everyone involved is just to leave it behind. If you’re constantly worrying about what other people think about you or how your actions were perceived, you can’t enjoy your own individuality or become comfortable in your own skin.
When you catch yourself overthinking, force yourself to do something else. You’re probably not thinking in a reasonable or constructive manner anyway. So use that time to exercise, paint, read a book, watch a funny movie, focus on your breathing, write in a journal, or listen to uplifting music. Spend more time with happy-go-lucky people who don’t overthink. In other words, do something that has a calming, positive effect on you. There are SO many better ways to spend your time than thinking endlessly about problems, things that could go wrong, situations that can’t be changed, or what other people think.
Chronic overthinking is a detriment to a peaceful and fulfilling life. Take these positive steps to quit this bad habit. Life isn’t that complicated; stop overthinking it!