(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #26)
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”
— Anthony Hopkins
Why are people more depressed and anxious now than ever before? Why do we feel more tired, stressed, and frustrated than happy, healthy, and fulfilled? What is the one silent enemy that often lies at the root of most of our problems?
It’s overthinking. And overthinking has become an epidemic that aims to destroy us at the core of who we are. For many people, it’s not until we’re older and have lived much of our lives with painful experiences and regrets to show for it, that we realize the greatest enemy of the self is in our mind.
We might stress about past mistakes or failures. We may over-analyze normal experiences, encounters, and interactions with people we know very well. Occasionally, we read into things that aren’t really there. We tend to associate one bad experience with all of the other bad things that have happened in our lives.
We have the keen ability to get so deep into the milieu of everyday life that it leads us to engage in thinking beyond thinking which is essentially what overthinking is. Overthinking leads to many of the perceived issues we have, many of which don’t even exist to begin with. Rationalization can be a mental killjoy.
Studies have found that thinking too much weighs heavily on the mind but it negatively affects well-being. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that constant rumination is a major cause of major depression and anxiety. Mental health decreases in its stability and strength as well leading to other emotional and mental distresses.
Overthinking also hinders our progress and keeps us back from the simplest of successes. It can cause one to hold back on making important decisions that can in turn result in a bigger problem. For example, one may not get the job of their dreams not because they are not qualified but because they stew in everything that could go wrong in the job interview. They dwell on a perceived problem instead of challenging those thoughts with solutions.
Psychotherapist Amy Morin writes in an article for Forbes.com, “It’s easy to get carried away with negative thoughts. So before you conclude that calling in sick is going to get you fired, or that forgetting one deadline is going to cause you to become homeless, acknowledge that your thoughts may be exaggeratedly negative. Learn to recognize and replace thinking errors, before they work you up into a complete frenzy.”
Overthinkers are not bad people. On the contrary, many of them are bright and genuinely caring of others. It is how they go about caring — sometimes in a worrying, obsessive manner — that often pushes people away.
Changing overthinking patterns of behavior is not easy. It won’t happen overnight. There is no on/off switch to make it magically go away. Instead, like most everything else, it takes gradual time, effort, and commitment to recover from overthinking.
Like anything else, choice is an important tool for overcoming overthinking. When we are aware of what we are thinking we are in a better position to confront and change the thoughts that don’t benefit us. Awareness is the first step to change and choice must be in play before change can take effect. Set a time limit for your thinking. Setting time limits on your thinking, just like setting time limits for most everything else, can help us make decisions and move on to do other things.
It is an inevitable part of life that you cannot change the past and you cannot control the future. All you have is right now and when you focus on this moment, you give yourself a break from worry and regret. Focus on something that is meaningful and fulfilling like your life goals. Filling up your time and using your energy for things like this will leave little to not time to think beyond thinking and ruminate about things you can’t control or things that may never happen. Merely thinking can make you depressed but doing — positive action — can keep your mind fresh and your should happy.
Interrupt the thinking process. Overthinking interrupts our lives from focusing on what is really important. When you notice yourself overthinking, change your subject of focus for as long as you need to. And then sometimes it is best not to think at all. Not thinking can rejuvenate your mental faculties and refresh your energy.
“To think too much is a disease.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky