Do you tend to overthink a lot? If you do you are not alone. Have you however thought about if overthinking gives you any value? There is a saying that goes “overthinking leads to negative thoughts” and there is much truth in this statement because all overthinking really does is that it keeps us stuck and keeps us rooted in fear and self-doubt. Speaking from own experience as I have done my own fair share of overthinking and from working with clients dealing with anxiety, and low self-esteem, I can tell you that overthinking is in most cases the main crook that robs us of our happiness. Overthinking make us miss out on so many beautiful things in life because we are too busy with focusing on the negative and the “what if´s”.
Over-thinking is the art of creating problems that don’t exist
The irony is that we overthink out of self-protection but in reality, it is causing us more misery than happiness because overthinking is usually rooted in fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt. Pay attention to this next time you catch yourself overthinking and you will see that what is going through your mind is nothing more than fear based thoughts with an expectation that a situation will turn out badly (without any real evidence that it will). Now I’m not saying that all of our fears are imagination or made up, however, they are only enhanced by our mind’s ability to grow them into bigger deals than they should be. As a Therapist, I work with a CBT approach (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) where we focus on the link and relationship between our thoughts (cognitions), our emotions and our behavior. You see the way we think affects the way we feel and the way we feel affects the way we behave and therefore our thought patterns (that are very much ingrained) have an overall impact on every aspect of our life. In a previous article, I wrote named “Why you should be picky with you thoughts” I talk about the most common error thinking patterns, in other words, irrational thoughts. When you pay attention to it you will see that overthinking mainly consist of irrational and negative thoughts. I say irrational thoughts because they are usually not based on any real evidence but are rooted in fear where you disqualify all the positive aspects of a situation and focus on the negative. The tricky thing is we tend to mistake our thoughts for facts when in reality it is just our “perceived” reality, not necessarily the truth. Our thought patterns, in turn, are very much influenced by the core beliefs we have about ourselves, about relationships and about life in general. The core beliefs we have developed can be positive or negative and stems from experiences we have had and the messages that these experiences have brought us. These core beliefs have become such a big part of our identity and natural thought patterns that we don’t even pay attention to them that they have simply become our truth (not necessarily the actual truth).
How do you stop overthinking?
You “break up” with overthinking by stop being afraid of what could go wrong and instead focus on of what could go right. I know this is easier said than done as we are creatures of habits and our thinking patterns are very much a habit and to quit overthinking is just like quitting a bad habit. You basically need to replace the negative thoughts with something else while at the same time call it out for what it is: fear. Here are a few tactics that can help take control of the overthinking and thereby be able to enjoy life much more and the present moment.
1.Acknowledging the problem
The first step to change anything is acknowledging the problem. If you feel like you can’t get out of your own head and over-thinking is stopping you from living a happy life, making decisions, getting things done or forming meaningful relationships, then you have a problem
2. Fact check your thoughts
As over-thinking is often rooted in fear and uncertainty and thereby always stems from negative thoughts, one of the first steps is to become aware of your thoughts. Something that helps is to “fact check” your thoughts by asking yourself “Is there any evidence that supports that my fear will come true?” and follow this with “Is there another way to look at this situation?”. Doing this will lead to more rational thinking and help you view a situation for what it is rather than what you fear it to be or how it will turn out.
3. Stop expecting perfection
Expecting perfection is a guaranteed way to unhappiness and quite irrational because people and situations are not perfect. Expecting perfection is not fair towards yourself or to the people around you because it is just not realistic. The sooner you realize and accept this, the happier you will be. Actually, I would even ago to the extent and encourage you to embrace imperfection, your own as well as others.
4. Get rid of fear
When I say get rid of fear I mean stop imagining the worst because of most of the time, fear is nothing but false expectations appearing real. There is absolutely nothing good that can come from spending not even one minute in worry, doubt or fear.
Although we overthink as a way of self-protection we are actually causing ourselves more harm as it is most of the time rooted in negative and hindering thoughts. Once you find a way to stop overthinking you will see that life becomes much less stressful and overall more enjoyable and this is something that you deserve! The choice is yours, my friend, we only have one life so don’t spend too much of it worrying and instead, I would encourage you to embrace the imperfection; your own imperfections, the imperfections of others, and the imperfections in life in general.
Lots of love and blessings