We all have an inherent tendency to overthink. When we ruminate, worry, plan something contentious, or are anxious, we overthink. We get trapped in a negative stream of thoughts. This is a widespread problem. There is a famous research on this subject. The University of Michigan, USA, found that 73% of individuals in the age group of 25 to 35 overthink. Likewise, 52% of people from 45 to 55 years also overthink. Interestingly, the study has found that people who overthink justified their overthinking. They believed they did the right thing by thinking the same. However, overthinking can harm our mental health, especially with negative and distressing thoughts.
An overthinker mostly finds themselves trapped in endless cycles of worries and repeated cycles of thoughts. They think of various scenarios and possibilities of the same issue. This tendency often impacts their mental health. This article provides practical strategies to help overthinkers and improve their mental health.
Before touching on the strategies, let’s understand what overthinking entails. Overthinking is a mental habit where thoughts seem uncontrollable. They mostly revolve around fears, stress, or imaginary and hypothetical problems. It is a common issue affecting a broad spectrum of people.
Dwelling on negative experiences may be the most reliable indicator of mental health. This has been established in a recent UK study. The study involved over 30,000 participants. These experiences were mainly those of self-blame and rumination. When a negative thought enters the mind, it draws in further distressing thoughts related to it. The vicious loop of overthinking is maintained when we entertain harmful, dreadful, or destructive thoughts. The negative energy lasts longer than positive thoughts. We find ourselves in the same circumstances of overthinking whenever the same thoughts are resurfaced.
Strategies to Stop Overthinking
Relaxed Awareness: We need to confront the thoughts intruding into our minds. When we confront them, their negative energy is reduced. This may take time. An easy yet potent “relaxed awareness” exercise accomplishes this challenging task. We must observe our thoughts and emotions in a nonjudgmental, neutral, and objective way. All we need to do is sit comfortably, relax, and acknowledge anything that comes to mind. The negative energy will gradually fade. The energy will not have its regular source. We will observe the negative thought pattern begin to break. The more we stay in this relaxed awareness, the less frequent and intense negative thoughts will arise.
Mindfulness and Meditation:
Mindfulness meditation is powerful for those who want to stop overthinking. It helps bring your focus to the present moment, reducing the space for reflective thoughts. Mindfulness can be practiced through
Guided meditation, or
Being aware of sensory experiences.
Overthinkers often get caught up in ‘what if’ scenarios. It involves breaking down a problem into manageable parts. Then developing concrete steps to address the problem. This method provides clarity and reduces the tendency to overthink.
Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT):
This technique is quite effective for overthinkers. This involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns with logical, positive alternatives. By doing this, overthinkers can rewire their thought processes.
Exercise is beneficial not just for physical health but also for mental health. Regular physical activity can be an excellent outlet for pent-up mental energy. This will help clear your mind.
Writing down troubling thoughts can be a therapeutic way to deal with overthinking. Journaling helps in organizing thoughts and can provide a new perspective on worries.
Seek Professional Help:
Another preferred course of action is to seek professional help. This can be from a psychotherapist or counsellor. Therapists can provide personalized strategies and support to manage overthinking.
Overthinking can be hard and challenging to handle. Achieving a more peaceful mind is possible with the right strategies and a commitment to change. We need to remember that improving mental health is a journey. It is not a destination. By adopting certain practical strategies, we can manage overthinking. We can find inner peace and a path to a healthier, happier life.