5 Reasons To Stop Thinking So Much

I work with so many people who have a hard time turning off the thoughts in their minds.

  • Thoughts about what happened in the past (earlier today, yesterday, or years ago)
  • Indecision or worries about the future (tomorrow or beyond)
  • “What If” this … “What If” that
  • Never ending “To-Do Lists”

Thinking concept in word tag cloud on white backgroung

When you start overthinking, it’s appropriate to stop thinking so much. Here’s why:

1. Overthinking keeps you stuck. Thinking about your problems or your “To-Do’s” is an effective way of tackling them when you can consider the situation, identify and evaluate alternatives, make a choice, and proceed into action. You can tell when thinking turns into overthinking because you’ll usually get stuck. It’s hard to imagine a solution or impossible to choose which of several options is the so-called “right” answer. You don’t know what to do so you think about it more! This wastes time and energy.

2. You magnify problems. Thinking about things over and over tends to make mountains out of mole hills. You can overestimate the importance of small details. You start “catastrophizing”, imagining the worst case scenarios. Problems become exaggerated and feel overwhelming.

3. Negative thinking leads to negative mood. Overthinking most often involves negative thinking. Negative thoughts release brain chemicals which affect how you feel and adversely impact your emotional state. There’s a direct correlation between your thoughts and feelings. Feeling bad on top of thinking negative thoughts causes unclear thinking and even more worrisome thoughts. You can easily get caught up in a vicious cycle.

4. Overthinking often leads to self-blame. People who worry too much or get stuck in analysis-paralysis also tend to feel like something is wrong with them because they can’t stop thinking like that. This leads to self-criticism and negative self-talk that only makes the problem worse. When you are blaming yourself for something, you are LEAST likely to be able to change the behavior. What you resist, persists.

5. Your thoughts create your reality. What you think affects how you experience the world. When you believe that the glass is half empty, it’s very difficult for it to ever become full. More to the point, even if it becomes full, you’ll be seeing it as half empty or waiting for something bad to happen so it depletes to half empty again. Worry creates more worry. Indecision creates more indecision. Focusing on To-Do’s makes more To-Do’s become apparent. What you focus on expands.

What To Do:

  • writing-stencilKeep a Thought Log. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a great first step. They lose power once you shine a light on them. Identifying your pattern of thinking is a prerequisite to changing it.
  • The “Stop” Technique. One short-term technique is to say out loud “STOP” when the thoughts are swirling. While it’s not a permanent solution, it can give you a sense of some control and open the way to longer-lasting methods. You might try putting a rubber band on your wrist and then snapping it when you find yourself overthinking, along with the verbal reminder to “STOP.”
  • Distract Yourself. Even a few minutes of healthy distraction can have long-term effects in breaking the cycle of overthinking. Try walking around the block, gardening, moving to another room, working out, or doing a crossword puzzle.
  • Set Aside Time to Ruminate. Instead of pondering things endlessly throughout the day, choose 30-60 minutes (NOT right before bed) as “Thinking Time.” When the urge to ruminate about something appears during the day, tell yourself that you will put it aside and save it until your Thinking Time. When most of your day is free from ruminating, things seem less overwhelming and easier to handle during the designated 30-60 minutes.

Overthinking is a habit (a habit of thought)- one that has likely been there for a long time. Like breaking any habit, it takes time, commitment, and perhaps help from an objective third party. Try the strategies above to get you jump started!