We all do our best to stay positive, but sometimes we can slip into a pattern of negative thoughts that can wreak havoc on our lives. There may be times when we worry about past mistakes or constraints and think about how these might lead to negative results in the future. We can get obsessed or over-analyze experiences and regular interactions, reading into them things that aren't really there. How to stop this, how to control overthinking? As soon as something negative happens, we associate it with all the bad things that have happened in our life. We are starting to feel miserable. We may even be anxious and unable to step back from anything that could go wrong.
If you have this feeling often, you are what psychologists call a ruminator, or someone who thinks too much, and this way of thinking can be dangerous for your health. Psychologists have found that thinking too much can interfere with human behavior, and can cause anxiety and depression, especially in women, who chew much more than men on stress and disappointment.
How to Control Over-Thinking?
Many people who think too much are adorable, intelligent, value relationships, and take good care of the people in their lives. Unfortunately, they push away those same people who worry or seek support and to be reassured because they can become obsessive, anxious, depressed, and negative. It’s not a switch in the brain that can be turned off, but rather a pattern that requires commitment and works to recover. Here are some tips on how to stop thinking too much and find peace at the moment.
Accept that You Have a Problem by Thinking Too Much
If you feel like you can't get out of your head and that thinking too much prevents you from living a happy life, making decisions, getting things done, or bonding, then you have a problem. If you sink into negativity and depression when a bad thing happens, you have a problem. If your fear of the future prevents you from enjoying the present, you have a problem. If you practice ostrich politics or deny this reality, it will only make the situation worse. If you are not sure if you have a problem, ask your friends and relatives to be honest with you, because in general, they are the ones who will see it even if you cannot see it.
Forgive Yourself: Our Brain is Programmed this Way
Once you've admitted that you're thinking too much, forgive yourself, because the brain is actually programmed for a natural tendency to think too much. Intertwined, not compartmentalized. So when stressors are triggered or you enter a mood of a bad mood, it can cause an "avalanche" of negative thoughts that have nothing to do with the original trigger of bad mood.
Additionally, when something goes wrong or someone has negative feelings, they are more likely to think about negative things and also to see connections (which may not actually exist) between all of the bad events that took place in his life. The more this happens, the more the individual tends to follow the pattern of thought in the future. Even if the brain can be programmed to make these associations, once you become aware of it you can begin to solve the problem.
If our brain is programmed into this "interconnected spider web" where a bad event can trigger a tidal wave of negative associations of thoughts, how can we break this pattern?
The first and easiest thing to do is to breathe. Breathing will relax, calm you down, connect you to the moment, and connect you to Mother Earth. It sounds so simple, but often when our mind starts to fly in the wrong direction, we get manic and frantic when we need to relax our mind and body.
Lie down, take a long breath of two seconds through your nose, and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. This breathing pattern increases oxygen levels in the blood, which can relax the body and calm the response of the adrenal system to obsessive thoughts. Do it for 10 minutes or until the excessive thoughts diminish.
The many people who think too much, especially the female population, cannot help wanting to "exteriorize" when they are stressed or worried. While talking about your worries can sometimes help, it makes things worse in general, especially if the person you're talking to also thinks too much, and you will spend all of your time over-analyzing and dissecting every detail of each negative problem in your mind. Life, you may end up falling into a frenzy of negativity and feeling angry after the conversation.
This kind of co-rumination, where two ruminators come together to reflect too much on their lives, can make them sink into even more negativity and stress. For example, research has found an association between co-rumination between friends and increased stress hormone cortisol. If you really feel the need to express your problems, you can always write them down to clear them from your mind and you may be able to realize that your problems may seem silly when you read them again.
Be Active and Productive
What should you do instead of talking? Well, you already know that you have to breathe to calm the body and the mind, but sometimes you just want to dissipate this energy! In this case, it can be incredibly beneficial to do something physical, for example, you can go for a brisk walk, play with your pet or with your children, do yoga, do sports, swim, or run. Activities that are both mentally and physically captivating are best because they require enough involvement to get you out of your obsessive thinking patterns and put you in a state of circular energy.
In addition to physical exercise, engaging activities that stimulate the brain can also be effective in redirecting obsessive thinking patterns. Playing cards, learning a language, or playing all the different types of games can be a good distraction. Or you can always learn a new hobby, make art, draw, paint or make crafts, like making jewelry, clothes, dream catchers, hair extensions, really whatever you want. You might even discover a hidden talent, or be able to start a new career or meet new people thanks to that. Is it possible to think quickly and well? Why do some people deemed less intelligent than others do better in life? Think quickly and well.
Intelligence and Reflection
As you will probably have understood, intelligence can sometimes (and even more often than we think) be a hindrance to our progress. Misused intelligence can waste its owner's time immensely. And this by two main means: Too much thinking about where to be useful and concretely effective it should have been limited.
The fact of having developed an opinion resulting from a deep reflection, to then take it for granted and sticks to it firmly even at times when this opinion would need to be reformed to take into account new data. Intelligence is also considered an antonym of instinct. However, we can easily understand here that when it takes precedence over instinct, it can become a real obstacle to opportunities that sometimes require more intuitiveness and less rationality.
This is where we will distinguish intelligence from thinking. Intelligence is a state (more or less subjective moreover) or rather a faculty. While the reflection would be more like the methodology that governs it. To reflect, would then literally mean "to return thought to itself by opposing it and subjecting it to its reflection". Therefore, "thinking" allows us to expose our intelligence critically to cause it to transcend. In other words, it is through reflection that intelligence can progress.
To better understand, take the example of creativity. Intelligence, like education, alone does not necessarily produce a creative spirit. Or if it allows it at first, it will produce very limited creativity. It is by activating the mechanisms of reflection that creativity will express its potential for constant renewal and innovation. It would, therefore, be good to understand how thinking works and see if it is a function that can be improved in order to learn to think better.
The classic conclusion to which our education system leads is that analysis and reasoning constitute the basis which it suffices to feed through instruction (the acquisition of knowledge). And only then do we consider it to be the act of thinking.
Except that if you look more closely, the instruction retrieves a lot of data that has been produced by science. Apart from science, it has not confined itself to producing an analysis or reasoning on a knowledge base, it has rather developed by putting forward hypotheses that have enabled it to go beyond the knowledge already acquired. It is, therefore, the ability to criticize and question the knowledge base that has advanced science and the arts and not the intelligence that it generally relies on conceptual acquisitions. We can conclude that it is the combination of intelligence and reflection that produces creativity.
Perception - a fundamental element of reflection
The first step here is to understand that everything lies in our initial perception of things which is the starting point for good or bad thinking. Not only are they able to see the big picture, but they can take the time to verify that what they are doing is in line with this vision. It's not only that, what makes the difference is also being able to integrate new information. Most of us are too busy running from point A to point B to really take into account the information that is coming.
An interesting discussion to have with friends is to try to ask them to take 30 minutes a day to do something interesting for them; it might be doing a little exercise, practicing an instrument, or a language. Depending on the person’s interest, an activity and a new habit take little time to set up. However, the answers will invariably be the same: I can't do it, I don't have time. When we think about adding children to this already impossible to change schedule, it’s a disaster. Considerable?
Finally, decision-making is often complicated by grey areas and uncertainty. Keeping in mind that in any case, no solution is completely perfect and that you will have to be content to do your best:
- List the solutions then take one at random and advocate for this solution to test it.
- Take the simplest solution and explore its rationale.
- Imagine yourself in court to defend each solution in front of a loved one.
- Evaluate the solutions that seem to us the best in order to stop the psychological influence that these solutions have on us to the detriment of the other solutions.
- For a moment forget all the possible solutions and dream of the ideal solution, then look in the possible solutions for the solution that most closely resembles it.
- Think about the ideal context of a solution then compare it with the context and the real situation to help you decide.
- Consider the solutions in the form of hypotheses by starting your reflections with the formulation "what if" which will bring out the true nature of the possible choices.
- Compare, in tabular form, the solutions with the expectations, then ticking the boxes where the solutions meet the expectations. This allows an overview of potentials.
- Based on the previous table, add a note (out of 10 or 20) next to each box checked according to the relevance of each solution in response to expectations, then add up the total of the scores (or the average) to make highlight solutions with higher potential.
- Attempt to analyze the solutions under the filter of the 3 most determining factors in decision-making: "fear, laziness, and greed".
This is only a brief summary of some of the solutions proposed. Valuable information and analysis to optimize his way and speed of thinking and thus save considerable time on a daily basis.