Overthinking doesn’t sound so bad on the surface–thinking is good, right?
Now, thinking things through can be a great thing of course. But being an overthinker can result in becoming someone who stands still in life. In becoming someone who self-sabotages the good things that happen in life.
But in the past 10 years or so I’ve learned how to make this issue so small that it very rarely pops up anymore. And if it does then I know what to do to overcome it.
In this article we like to share 10 habits that have helped me in a big, big way to become a simpler and smarter thinker and to live a happier and less fearful life.
1. Awareness is the beginning of change.
Before you can begin to address or cope with your habit of overthinking, you need to learn to be aware of it when it’s happening. Any time you find yourself doubting or feeling stressed or anxious, step back and look at the situation and how you’re responding. In that moment of awareness is the seed of the change you want to make.
2. Learn the reasons why over-thinking is harmful, and let it motivate you.
Studies have shown rumination to be strongly linked to depression, anxiety, binge eating, binge drinking, and self-harm.
In one study, 32,827 people from 172 countries showed that life events were the largest predictors of stress, followed by family history, income and education, relationship status, and social inclusion.
However, the study also showed that stress only occurred if the individual engaged in negative over-thinking about the events, and it showed that people who did not do this did not become as stressed or depressed, “even if they’d experienced many negative events in their lives.”
So, worry about your problems if you wish. But don’t say no one warned you!
3. Put things into a wider perspective.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of overthinking minor things in life.
So when you are thinking and thinking about something ask yourself:
Will this matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks?
I’ve found that widening the perspective by using this simple question can quickly snap me out of overthinking and help me to let go of that situation. And to focus my time and energy on something that actually does matter to me.
4. Don’t think of what can go wrong, but what can go right.
In many cases, overthinking is caused by a single emotion: fear. When you focus on all the negative things that might happen, it’s easy to become paralyzed. Next time you sense that you starting to spiral in that direction, stop. Visualize all the things that can go right and keep those thoughts present and up front.
5. Become a person of action.
When you know how to get started with taking action consistently each day then you’ll procrastinate less by overthinking.
Setting deadlines and a good tone for the day are two things that have helped me to become much more of person of action.
Taking small steps forward and only focusing on getting one small step done at a time is another habit that have worked really well.
It works so well because you do not feel overwhelmed and so you do not want flee into procrastination. And even though you may be afraid, taking just a step is such a small thing that you do not get paralyzed in fear.
6. Develop the skill of forgiveness.
It’s no surprise that having the misfortune of being treated undesirably leads people to suppress and repress anger toward other people.
Forgiveness is of the highest of human virtues. Not because it is morally correct, spiritually mature, or deemed a commendable personality trait.
It’s special because it, single-handedly, can induce the ultimate peace in people.
Forgiveness has also been shown on many occasions to help develop positive self-esteem, improve mood, and dramatically improve health. It’s a predictor of relationship well-being and marital length, and it has even been shown to increase longevity.
7. Don’t get lost in vague fears.
Another trap I’ve fallen into many times that have spurred on overthinking is that I’ve gotten lost in vague fears about a situation in my life. And so my mind running wild has created disaster scenarios about what could happen if I do something.
So I’ve learned to ask myself: honestly, what is the worst that could happen?
And when I’ve figured out what the worst that could happen actually is then I can also spend a little time to think about what I can do if that often pretty unlikely thing happens.
8. Stop waiting for perfection.
This is a big one. For all of us who are waiting for perfection, we can stop waiting right now. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating. The moment you start thinking “This needs to be perfect” is the moment you need to remind yourself, “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”
9. Be grateful.
You can’t have a regretful thought and a grateful thought at the same time, so why not spend the time positively? Every morning and every evening, make a list of what you are grateful for. Get a gratitude buddy and exchange lists so you have a witness to the good things that are around you.
Overthinking is something that can happen to anyone. But if you have a great system for dealing with it you can at least ward off some of the negative, anxious, stressful thinking and turn it into something useful, productive, and effective.
10. Solve another person’s problem first, and get perspective.
“Serve first, seek second” should be the motto for anyone currently distressed by their perceived problems.
Your issue at hand can become so consuming that others may look at you like you’re living in your own mental world. And it takes something to break you out of it.
Helping others puts your issues in order by reminding you that we all go through tough times, some much more than you ever will.
That’s not to discount the struggles you’re going through, but helping others will restore balance and harmony in your life.
11. Spend more of your time with people who do not overthink things.
Your social environment plays a big part. And not just the people and groups close to you in real life. But also what you read, listen to and watch. The blogs, books, forums, movies, podcasts and music in your life.
So think about if there are any sources in your life – close by or further away – that encourages and tends create more overthinking in your mind. And think about what people or sources that has the opposite effect on you.
Find ways to spend more of your time and attention with the people and input that have a positive effect on your thinking and less on the influences that tends to strengthen your overthinking habit.
Thanks for reading, and Start working on yourself :D!