9 Ways To Stop Overthinking Everything
If you’re someone who spends a lot of time “in your own head” mulling over things ad nauseam, you may think you’re alone. You’re not… Not by a long shot!
Overthinking is a natural part of life for many of us, even when we’re not aware we’re doing it. Research has shown that overthinking is prevalent in young and middle aged adults, with 73% of 25-35 year-olds identified as overthinkers. More women (57%) find themselves overthinking than men (43%), which is a significant difference. This means the majority of women are overthinkers, and the majority of overthinkers are women.
I’m not a woman, but I am an overthinker. So I guess I’m in the minority… a vocal minority. If you find yourself spending an unreasonable amount of time thinking through something, twisting it around in your head until you’ve seen it from every angle and possibility, chances are you too are an overthinker.
There are very few benefits to being an overthinker. Being logical (and therefore unemotional) about taking action has a lot of merit and can have positive results, but there’s a difference between thinking about something just enough – and thinking about something to the point of analysis paralysis. The short of it is, you don’t want to be an overthinker!
Overthinking can occur as a consequence of a decision that needs to be made, big or small, and is typically exacerbated in stressful situations. It’s not limited to decision making however, as it can also rear it’s ugly head whenever something has the ability to cause any level of anxiety or worry. It’s the proverbial thing that “keeps you up at night” and stems from an actual or perceived lack of control over some aspect of life. With a lack of control comes a feeling of helplessness. Overthinking is frequently the direct result. The worst overthinkers actually spend time overthinking seemingly meaningless things to the point that they’ve spent more time thinking about the thing than the time it would have taken to address it completely. What a waste of time and energy!
There have been a number of studies over the past 20 years that challenge the view that overthinking equates to better decisions and therefore improved happiness and success. Specifically these studies have found that overthinkers are more prone to sustained sadness and negative thinking. And though it may seem that thinking through problems to the extreme would result in better decisions, overthinking has actually been shown to impair problem solving and rational thought, and interfere with initiative and motivation.
What’s worse is that people aren’t clued in to the dangers of overthinking. Most people feel they’re making progress while cogitating endlessly, but in fact they’re permeating negative thoughts and fostering a pessimistic view of the situation. As we know, “we are what we think”, and for those stuck in the cycle of overthinking, they’re reinforcing this adverse thought process and letting it trickle into other areas of thought.
If you got this far, chances are you’ve identified yourself as an overthinker. Which means right now you’re probably wondering what the heck you can do about it? If you were to stop reading right now, you’d probably go off thinking that you have a problem – and then spend the rest of the week wondering how this affects your thinking, what you could do to “fix it”. And again, you’d be overthinking it!
Overthinking isn’t something you’re born doing, it’s a learned habit you form over time, probably as a defense mechanism to the possibility of failure. So before going any further, let’s see what we can do about it.
If you find yourself overthinking, you need to change the channel in your mind immediately. Simple, right? It mostly is. The caveat here is that while the solution is simple, putting it into action takes ongoing practice. But just like most things, the more you do this, the better you’ll get at it next time and the time after that. Here are some ways you can change your current thought process: