Most people will, at some stage, partake in overthinking. Overthinking, or ruminating as psychology refers to it, is not in itself a bad thing. In fact overthinking can have its positives. However it is when overthinking becomes a daily practice then it has negative impacts.
Let’s liken overthinking to chocolate; chocolate isn’t that bad for you when eaten in small amounts occasionally. It is is dark chocolate with no sugar then it can have health benefits. However when chocolate is eaten everyday and is loaded with sugar then it has negative impacts.
Same too with over thinking. Overthinking can affect people in such ways as:
- exhaustion / low energy
- poor memory
- pessimistic and negative attitude
- inaction / lost opportunities
- guilt, anxiety and depression
- stomach issues
- tension and stress
- lack of or low self confidence
- addiction or addictive behaviour
- impaired problem solving
- distortion of information leading to inaccurate perceptions
Overthinking is something which typically happens as we get older. Young children don’t overthink matters, in fact as parents we spend a lot of time trying to teach them to do so. Young children hold the world in wonder and they are often in the moment, be-ing.
As our children enter school their beautiful, curious, child-like brain becomes jam packed with knowledge and information. Sir Kenneth Robinson, an international adviser on education, says “we educate people out of their creativity”.
He suggests that not only do we educate our children with knowledge, they also learn the stigmatisation of failure, the linear goal of getting a job done and the fear of being wrong. Thus their uninhibited creativity becomes restricted.
This fear of failure and/or being “wrong” in general contributes to the reason some people overthink. Another contribution is the amount of information we have at hand which means we are bombarded with choices.
Whilst it is important to understand what options we have, particularly when making decisions, too much choice can be overwhelming. Our decision-making process is hindered and we can become enervated and debilitated.
If you are an overthinker, please be easy on yourself. Apparently the brain is wired in such a way that overthinking is a natural tendency. Psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema explains “the organization of our brains sets us up for over-thinking”. This is because our memories and thoughts are not compartmentalised, rather they are interwoven in intricate networks of associations.
Nolen-Hoeksema says “When you are in a bad mood of some type—depressed, anxious, just altogether upset—your bad mood tends to trigger a cascade of thoughts associated with your mood. These thoughts may have nothing to do with the incident that put you into a bad mood in the first place”
Furthermore, when a person is feeling negative they are more likely to focus on negative matters as well as create negative connections, which may not actually exist. Like any habit, the more a person does this and engages in overthinking, the more likely they will do so in the future.
Mark Nepo said “No amount of thinking is going to stop you from thinking” so in order to break the overthinking habit you need to consider actions which aren’t engaging your thought processes. You also want to consider actions which will create the positive neural pathways which allow you to access your “sensible” brain; the neocortex. Actions such as:
- Breathing. Fear + Oxygen = Excitement
- Meditate regularly (and at least several times per week)
- Instead of talking it over, try writing! Writing gives us a different perspective
- Practice mindfulness; be-ing in the present moment
- Trust in yourself as well as Universe
- Thoughts create reality; what are your thoughts creating?
- Get creative; try colouring in, drawing, painting and/or pottery
- Build your spontaneity muscle; a
- Know that a choice is just a choice; if it doesn’t work out you simply make another choice
- STOP IT! Make a conscious choice not to engage in over thinking.
There isn’t a switch which we can access to stop overthinking, however it is a pattern or habit which with a little effort you can change.
If after reading this you feel you need additional support with overthinking then consider kinesiology as an option. You can find more information on our website.