We all do our best to stay positive, but occasionally we can slip into negative thinking patterns that can wreak havoc in our lives. We might worry about our past mistakes or current stresses. Or how these could lead to negative outcomes in the future. We might also associate one bad thing that happens with all the other bad things that have happened in our lives and begin to feel miserable.
Does this sound like you? If yes, then it’s time to break out of this kind of thinking pattern and adopt a new one. Here’s how to do it:
The first step to healing is acknowledging that you have a problem of over-thinking. Given that you are reading this article, it is time to move on to the next step: forgiveness.
It’s okay that you over-thought a lot of things until now. But now, forgive yourself and tell yourself that you will think in a more positive and constructive way.
Realise that what has happened has happened
If you stop seeing the world in terms of what you like and what you dislike and saw things for what they truly are in themselves, you would find a great deal more peace in your life.
– Patrick Jane, The Mentalist
Most of the time in life we have to react to events as they occur because they are unexpected. No matter how well we plan, there is always something that does not go as planned. There are delays, things break, people interfere, the weather interferes, we become ill and many other things.
In such situations, the best thing to do is to accept what is, take a deep breath and proceed to problem-solving. What has happened is already in the past now. Don’t give it the power over your present.
Solve problems NOW!
The key is being able to stop obsessing over whatever is bothering you and to move on to solving it. Or simply just letting it go if there’s nothing you can do. Over thinking won’t solve the problem. You need to be logical and act!
Or as said above, if it is something that you cannot control, there is no point in wasting time thinking about it. Whatever will be, will be. Things can go bad, but things can go right too. All you can do is hope for the best and carry on with other activities. Spend your energy where it actually is required. Here are a few things that you can do, instead:
- Think about something else
When your mind is replaying the same thoughts over and over, distract yourself mentally. Trying to stop thoughts from coming into your mind is definitely not going to happen. So instead, think about something positive, something peaceful.
For example, think about the things that you are grateful for. This day, the flower you saw outside the window, the weather, your best friend, your pet, or think about that amazing afternoon you spent with your family.
Research shows that people who can refocus on positive or neutral thoughts or activities were less depressed than those who continued to ruminate. Later, when you’re in a happier frame of mind, you can work on coming up with solutions and a plan of action.
- Don’t reach conclusions when things go bad
Worrying is a misuse of creative energy.
Yes, of course, things can go bad. But they can go well too. Keep your mind open to the good things that will come your way.
For instance, take two people. Each has to wait for a medical test result that will tell them if they have a severe illness or not. One person is worried sick and cannot stop thinking about all of the “what if’s?” The other is able to say “I’ll see what happens. No sense worrying about it now if it may not even become a problem.”
The content is the same—each is awaiting a test result. But the way they each process that situation is different.
- Do something
As simple as it is, do something. It could be meeting up with a friend(s), taking your pet out for a walk, your hobby, making a snack, etc. Anything that keeps you distracted and makes you happy, go for it.If you have to do a project, just start it rather than waiting and thinking about every aspect of it. Focus on an outcome, the one goal you want to achieve. That prevents your mind from wandering to all the other things that could have an impact on your performance.
- Be your own friend
If a friend came to you asking for a solution to the same problem, what advice would you give to them? Follow your advice yourself.
Don’t be so self-critical. Whenever self-talk goes south, ask yourself “Would a friend talk to me this way?”
You need to do some thinking because it is a big decision?
There’s a fine line between thinking constructively and slipping into a toxic thought spiral. Do not confuse “reasonable thinking” with overthinking. Overthinking wastes energy. The emotional cost and time-cost are too high and the benefit is too low.
Instead, sit down and make a list of pros and cons. Making such a list would make your thoughts much more clear on paper than they did in your mind.
The habit of over-thinking won’t go overnight. It is like training for your brain. Paying attention to the way you think can help you become more aware of your bad mental habits. With practice, you can overcome it and as a result be mentally stronger.