“Should I talk to Sean about his proposal? Maybe he wants to hear what I have got to say. But what if he already has figured it out? Maybe he will get mad at me for not telling him what I think earlier. Or maybe he will laugh at me for saying something so trivial and straightforward he could have seen it coming a mile away. Ugh, I guess I should drop the idea altogether. But I care about him, and I should tell him what’s bugging me all this time. What if he judges me if I tell him what I think about? Alright, maybe dropping the idea is better.” Yeah, that’s what overthinking looks like.
Overthinking is single-handedly beating the living shit out of us left right and center. It’s basically when you get into a verbal vomit spree in your mind and surprisingly you just keep on getting better and better in developing skills required to screw up your life.
It always surprises me to see that we are so natural in becoming good at something bad. Is it the law of nature? Entropy, perhaps? Whatever. Natural or unnatural, conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional, it’s not doing us any favor.
There has to be an off switch whenever our mind starts rambling and gets lost in the never-never land. The repercussions are magnanimous and gruesomely overwhelming. That’s what everyone thinks right? But what if I told you that there may be a flip side to overthinking as well.
Let The Treasure Hunt Begin
Overthinking may actually be beneficial
Before I start my rant of how to overcome overthinking, what if I told you that you don’t have to overcome it in the first place?
Now, I am very well aware that the general stigma around the whole notion of overthinking thingy ain’t very promising and uplifting, and people already consider it a problem. But, come to think of it, it’s kinda necessary at places.
Do you think I can write all these articles without overthinking? All the creative works, scientific discoveries, breakthroughs, inventions—the one thing they all have in common is the insane amount of thinking powers it takes.
It won’t make sense to say that people like Einstein, Newton, Tesla, Ramanujan, Aryabhatta, or even Musk think less than we do. They would outdo us in terms of thinking by a factor of I don’t know, maybe a 100? Or maybe a lot more, perhaps.
So, it makes it pretty clear that simply thinking more than usual isn’t the problem. Overthinking doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing at all. If you are thinking about something in length that’s actually beneficial to you or society, then what’s the harm?
It all boils down to what we think about and the quality of our thoughts that makes all the difference in the world. Thinking isn’t the problem, even overthinking is fine. But the ‘wrong’ kind of thinking is the crux of the issue here.
Wrong Thinking VS Right Thinking
Now comes the question that how exactly can one differentiate the wrong thinking from the right one? So, the thing is that there aren’t any set rules or guidelines that bifurcate the two. It’s kinda subjective and changes from person to person.
However, there are some common grounds that can help you distinguish between the two.
Right thinking is pretty clear and crystal and in a straight line. Wrong thinking is totally jumbled and hodgepodge. Right thinking is based on facts, figures, and ground reality. Wrong thinking is based on beliefs, notions, interpretations, and ideologies. Right thinking makes you stronger from the inside and liberates you from any kinds of weights pulling you down. Wrong thinking makes you weak from the inside and overburdens you with unnecessary stress and pressure.
As long as we stick to reality, our minds will steer clear of futile confusion and we wouldn’t have to try to overcome overthinking. So, now look into your mind and ask yourself how much of what you think is based on beliefs?
There is no room for belief in reality. You don’t have to believe that you are reading this article, you know it. But unfortunately, the majority of us think and act on beliefs, which is why overthinking becomes a pain in the ass for them.
When you overthink on the basis of what you believe in then that breeds conflict and skepticism. And we develop beliefs when we simply intake information from family, friends, and the internet blindly without questioning the validity of the source.
Now when you encounter someone or something that isn’t aligned with what you believe in, then disputes are bound to happen, which will shake up your inner world.
The simple advice to overcome overthinking, in this case, will be to stick with reality and don’t put a label on anything that you don’t know for sure. A simple “I don’t know” is a whole lot better than going through the trouble of
Stop Comparing and Caring About Being Compared
Understand this one thing. As long as you are comparing yourself to others, you can never be at peace and will always remain restless. Overthinking will surely get the better of you.
Either you will boost your ego when you compare yourself with people who are way below you or you are gonna bruise your self-esteem and self-worth when you compare yourself to people who are way above you.
So, the simple way of overcoming overthinking, in this case, is to Stop Comparing!
And if you are concerned with what other people think about you, then that’s something you have absolutely no control over. Your job shouldn’t be to somehow stop others from doing what they have been doing, but rather focus on how not to let others affect your inner world.
If someone else is jealous of you or thinks ill of you then you don’t have to beat yourself up or drown in a pool of thoughts. Let them be. They can’t possibly live a happy and peaceful life anyway if they are busy maligning you, so just leave them be.
Your Ego is the Problem
When someone does some mean shit to you, or something not so rejoiceful happens to you in your past, your problem isn’t that the ‘bad’ thing happened, your problem is actually ‘Why did it happen to me?’
If someone else goes through the exact same shit as you did, you won’t even bat an eye, but when it comes to you, you simply can’t stop overthinking about it.
“My past, my future, my problems, my hardships, my challenges, my everything.” If we can segregate the ‘my’ from our life situations, then that itself will be a big boost in helping you overcome overthinking.
We fall into the trap of overthinking whenever we include our own self in the equation. We get stressed either when we give too much importance to something trivial or when we don’t give enough importance to the things that actually matter.
You will spend your entire evening on that one tiny not-so-encouraging remark made by your friend’s father-in-law about your newest venture, and you will bury yourself under a mountain of thoughts on the fact that you are not paying enough attention to your career. Ironic, right? You’re overthinking for not thinking enough about something substantial.
The moment you forget about your own self, your overthinking spree automatically comes to a halt. You might have noticed that at times when you are immersed in nature and are appreciating and acknowledging its exquisite beauty, you kinda enter a thought-free zone. Or simply while you are asleep, you are totally free from any kind of thought whatsoever. Basically, whenever you focus on something formless, you go blank.
So, essentially whenever we dissolve our own ego, we can overcome overthinking pretty instantly. And when we enter the stage where our minds are totally calm and composed, then that’s where it’s at its maximum capacity.
A cool and clear mind can think better than a hot and entangled mind ready to burst. So, in a way, you are forgetting your own self, to take better care of it. Another irony! The lesser thoughts you carry on your shoulders about yourself, the better off you are gonna be in the long run.
Not Doing Anything might be the Solution
When your mind is stuffed with ‘I, me, and myself’, it over exaggerates anything and everything, leading to more confusion and mayhem for the smallest of conflicts in life. But, when you take control of your mind, you will come to the conclusion that the majority of times, you don’t really have to overcome overthinking.
You will realize that your mind was simply exploiting you and having fun with you by spawning problems that didn’t really exist in the first place. Your mind was simply toying with you and overhyping even the tiniest of problems.
Even if there is a problem, it will become magnanimously easier than it was earlier. All because of your own attachment to yourself.
Children aren’t Self Conscious
You can find children laughing, smiling, crying, and screaming, but you are never gonna find them depressed. And that’s because they aren’t as self-conscious about themselves as we adults are.
They don’t care how they are gonna look if they have to dance in front of a hundred strangers or recite a poem to their dinner guests. Consequently, they don’t have to try to overcome overthinking, they simply keep on flowing like a river, without looking back.
One can come across a great deal of learning from children, including not letting your ‘ego’ get in the way of your life. So stop looking over your shoulders, analyzing and worrying about every action you take, and wondering how that’s gonna affect your so-called ‘image’.
You don’t have to free your own self, you just have to be free from the self to overcome overthinking. And when you can do that, then you will essentially become one with the universe.
Spawn the Third Person to Overcome Overthinking
You must have observed that you are pretty spectacular and quick when it comes to advising your buddies or cousins, but when the very same challenge falls on your lap, you tap out and go berserk. Again, the ‘ego’ getting the better of you.
So, if you find the whole ‘dissolving your ego’ kinda complex and sophisticated, here’s a simple way to achieve it.
You just simply have to spawn a third person in your mind and pin all your problems to his head. Now, you are off the hook and all your worries and problems are forthwith his headache.
Once you go about solving the third person’s problems, you will realize that even your biggest of problems weren’t actually worth losing all your sleep over. You will also come to realize what a multifaceted prick you were. You wouldn’t give two shits about the fact that your neighbor’s company just got bankrupt but on the other hand, even if your profits didn’t grow in double digits in the III quarter, you will cry on the top of your lungs.
So, again, back to where we left. It’s imperative to minimize your association with your ego if you actually want to overcome overthinking on a more permanent basis.
Chaos and Ambiguity Breeds Overthinking
Too often, the biggest decisions in your life are often taken rather quickly, and the decisions you take after giving a long hard thought usually prove to be a rather not so beneficial bet. When we are absolutely clear with what actually is the situation, then we don’t have to indulge in overthinking and as a result, we become competent in taking quick actions.
But when we are in a dilemma or are unclear about what the ground reality is, that’s when overthinking comes into the picture.
That’s why it becomes all the more important for you to figure out what it is you actually want from your life, your center point, your core values which you can’t compromise no matter what. Once your mind becomes clear on that, you start making decisions at a much faster pace without falling prey to the overthinking trap.
And those kinds of decisions will always be right. Because there is no fixed right or wrong. What the world may feel right, might be horrendously wrong for you. So, it doesn’t even matter, it’s just a standpoint at the end of the day.
Simply seeing this reality itself will go a long way in overcoming overthinking. When there actually is no right or wrong, then how does it matter? You will automatically grow out of it.
Action and Acceptance
In life, you will be basically presented with two sets of problems. The first kind of problems are the ones which can be fixed by taking some actions and the second kind of problems are the ones which kinda suck as you can’t really do anything about it and you just have to make peace with it.
You aren’t gonna lose your weight by thinking all day about how fat your ass is getting, you aren’t gonna get your dream job by overthinking and stressing yourself over and over again that you are broke, you aren’t gonna woo your crush simply by fantasizing about him.
They all require actions. Get it through your head that overthinking about actionable problems is like locking yourself into prison and throwing away the keys. It’s simply stupid and doesn’t make any sense. Stop Thinking and take massive actions. Period.
While on the other hand, some problems don’t really require any action whatsoever. Some problems will come in your life where you just can’t do anything and in those circumstances, you gotta keep your thinking straight.
You can’t reform your parents’ thought process, your boss’s behavior, your partner’s habits, your relatives’ criticizing nature, or nature’s laws. So, stop trying and wasting your mental energies on something that isn’t gonna yield anything productive. You just have to uplift your understanding.
We have been taking actions where it isn’t required and don’t take actions where it’s actually needed.
Start Seeing Things Lightly
Another common jargon that people like to throw around to overcome overthinking is to simply think positively. But what does ‘think positive’ actually imply? Will simply negating the negative do the job? Is being ignorant about the real problems you are facing the way to go?
Well, the real essence of thinking positively in this scenario shouldn’t be to deny the reality, it should simply be to take things lightly. That’s a more prudent way to overcome overthinking.
Instead of labeling things as right or wrong, positive or negative, success or failure, and wasting your mental power on judging, start perceiving things lightly.
If you can imbibe this one quality in your nature, then you yourself will feel so better and refreshed from the inside that you will make this a permanent habit.
We start the whole avalanche of thoughts ourselves when we take sides or judge situations or people. The situations you think are good and the people you think are helpful when they change their course of action, you will end up doubling your inflow of thoughts.
Taking things lightly wouldn’t result in you overwhelming your mind with unnecessary and redundant thoughts. It will empower you with the ability to see through whatever life throws at you and grow the hell out of it at lightning speed. Since you will feel absolved with thinking too much, you’d either take massive actions if you can do something about it, or you will drop the whole thing like a hot potato when it’s something that’s out of your control.
Simply understanding the fact that both good and bad, positive and negative, are nothing but two sides of the same coin will help you start taking things lightly.
Got Fired? That’s ok, just look for a new job.
Broke up? About time dude.
Did business go bust? Good, even you weren’t using your product.
Your best friend is pissed at you? Awesome, if not your best friend then who else?
See what I mean? Even if you don’t, who the hell cares! (SEE!)
The Simple Trick to Limit Overthinking
Now, earlier on we established the fact that thoughts are not the problem, thinking isn’t the problem, and even overthinking in the right direction (when under control) isn’t the problem. Overthinking becomes a problem when you lose control over your mind, and your thoughts start bungee jumping from one point to another randomly.
The simple track to gain back control and to become aware of where your stream of thoughts is taking you is by simply asking, “Let’s see what’s going on in your mind?” The very second you ask this question, the mind lays down its weapons and you start regaining control.
Go on, try it, right now.
Now, if your first attempt of performing that simple activity helps you in overcoming overthinking by at least a certain degree, just imagine the effect it is gonna have if you can become consistent with it!
Merely doing it for 5 min daily will have a profound impact on your life and you will realize that this technique indeed is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It will give birth to an entirely new way of living itself.
Right now, we are unaware of the mental activities that are happening, not conscious enough of our surroundings, and have little to no control over our actions. But consistently and patiently practicing it will make you more aware of everything happening in and around you. The more aware you are of your thoughts, the less power they have over you.
Workout Overcomes Overthinking
Now for those who don’t want any sophisticated mental solutions or simply feel a bit athletic, taking physical actions is probably the most convenient and effective way to overcome overthinking.
Whenever we pass our threshold limits physically, the frequency of our thoughts takes a dip. Take note of it next time. If you spend too much time at the gym or run a couple of extra miles or simply do a dozen burpees more than your usual limit, you just run out of your mental energy to uphold any kind of overthinking.
After a good sweaty and smelly workout, you just simply wanna go have a shower or lay down on the couch and watch SUITS. Although it isn’t a long-term permanent problem solver, it surely helps at times when nothing else makes sense. So, give it a try.
As soon as overthinking overpowers you, maybe go for a jog, do 50 pushups, or burpees or situps, or any kind of physical workout or play any sport. Just move your body a bit.
Time is the Mother of Overthinking
Now, let’s shift to some permanent answers. If you think about it, time is the sole owner of the company ‘Overthinking’. We either overthink any past incidents or future possibilities. Can we ever think about the present while being in the present? We can’t. The very definition of the present is something one can’t hold onto.
So, thoughts related to your past and future are what hamstrings your inner growth and keeps you from reaching your full potential.
Now, people say that the past can’t be changed, but I beg to differ. Past can be changed. There is no physical past that actually exists in reality, it only exists at our psychological level. Basically, a string of frames attached one after the other, which plays itself like a movie in our mind is what constitutes the past. It’s nothing more than a story you have told to yourself.
So, whenever you feel like changing the past, you simply have to change the underlying meaning of the past stored in your memory. You are the editor and director of the film stored in your mind, so if you can direct it once, you can direct it again.
If you stored the memory of the past as a horrifying, daunting, painful, and gut-wrenching experience, then you can very well alter its meaning to that of a learning, wisdom, fun, and growing experience. Because make no mistake, you can only overcome overthinking about the past, when you are content and peaceful with the past.
And you can never feel gratified with the past as long as your past is associated with a ‘negative’ experience. It’s actually so simple to apprehend.
Think about it this way, if something positive happened in the past, well and good, and if something not-so-positive, then even better. You have room to learn from that particular experience, ultimately transforming it into a positive one.
Trying to Get rid of Thoughts is not the Solution
The more you try to get rid of your thoughts, the more you run away from them, the more you try to forget them, the more overwhelming and excruciating they will become.
Stop getting into the ‘why’ of everything. “Why did my boss fire me?”, “Why did she leave me?”, “Why don’t my parents understand me?”, “Why did God screw me over?” and so on. So, instead of dooming over it, immediately take a pause and ask yourself what you learned from it and move the hell on.
It might come as a surprise but even thinking and remembering too much of your past’s ‘positive’ experiences can also be problematic. If you are not learning from your experiences, then even your positive experience is negative, and if you are, then even your negative experience is positive.
So, if you keep on reminding yourself of how amazing your life was back in school or college but aren’t learning anything from it, then you are basically gonna trip in one of your own traps sooner than later.
The more you keep reminiscing about your past, the more likely you are to draw a comparison between your kickass old life and your dull present life, and that will escalate into a new predicament. You will again find yourself incompetent in overcoming this kind of overthinking, which began because of your own slackiness.
In a nutshell, learning is the way to overcome overthinking in this case.
So, to kinda sum it all up, the crux of the reason for us being prey to overthinking is because of the fact that we never accept reality as it is, and instead, superimpose our own notions, beliefs, and interpretations over reality which leads to all the conflicts in one’s life.
Whatever happened to you in the past or is happening right now is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. But we, instead of accepting it, get lost in our own mind maze. We snub what happened and focus our attention on ‘what should have happened’ which is a guaranteed way of depreciating yourself via overthinking.
If you really wanna overcome overthinking, start seeing things as it is, without any filters, instead of seeing it the way you want to see.