Thinking, especially our ability to connect the dots and our amazing memory is something that distinguishes us from animals and maybe some aliens? However, in this society, our species became so good at thinking that it is almost safe to say that we became obsessed with thinking and many of us turned into overthinkers.
I first want to address what overthinking is and why I believe it serves no good. In the second part of this article, I will highlight 10 ways on how to deal with overthinking so you can live a more mindful and less stressful life.
What is overthinking?
Well, there are several definitions. To me, it means that we as humans analyse, comment, and repeat the same (negative or in some cases positive) thoughts over and over again. We don’t act, we overthink. This doesn’t serve a purpose because you basically go over and over the same thing and make yourself slightly miserable with negative thoughts.
When we examine overthinking a bit deeper we can break it into two main categories: the past and the future. Both categories of overthinking are likely to cause unnecessary worries, stress, and anxiety. Welcome to our overthinking society!
Overthinking the past.
So, let’s dive into overthinking the past. This happens when we feel insecure about something that has been said or done to us or that we have said or done to someone else. Do you catch yourself saying things like, ‘Why did I say that to her’, or ‘What did he mean when he said that my hair looks nice today’? Basically, overthinking the past is when you can’t stop thinking about an event, a person, something that happened in the past, or on a problem. Instead of looking for a solution, taking initiative and being active, you just keep thinking and cannot get it out of your own head. This doesn’t sound healthy right? And it’s not! However, it’s very likely that we’ve all experienced this at one point our lives, some of us more than others.
Overthinking the future.
The second form of overthinking is in the future. While many have been praised for this ability to predict economic, political, or cultural happenings, I believe that many of us should stop overthinking about the future; especially negative overthinking. We are not fortune tellers, and we shouldn’t even want to be fortune tellers, as life would become quite dull if we would know what would happen next. However, we humans like to have control over the future, and therefore we love to analyse the crap out of things. Oh no the weather forecast looks like shit! Our entire weekend will be shit! Or, oh no I have a headache! My meeting in 3 hours will be horrible! These are all unnecessary thoughts (overthinking) that cause us to feel miserable. If you just take a paracetamol now, your headache will be gone in 3 hours!
What about overthinking the Present?
It is very possible to overthink the present. Take for example worrying or complaining about something like the way your hair looks today or when someone screams ‘asshole’ at you when you’re in their way. These moments are potential overthinking moments. Take for example the naughty person that dared to scream ‘asshole’ at you when you were cycling to work. In that split second, you judge him, ‘Man he was an asshole’. This is a totally relatable reaction. However, if this experience comes back to you several times during the day, that is overthinking; your present afterthought just became a past overthink. And from experience, this serves no good purpose. So, while it is possible to overthink the present, people are more prone to overthink the future and past.
You are not your thoughts.
The big problem of our current society is that we are trapped in our minds and are therefore continually simulating past and future events. Many of us believe that what we think is true and identify ourselves with what we are thinking. Additionally, more often than not we take our overthinking selves waaay too seriously. Living this way restricts us from living our best lives. Eckhart Tolle, a bestselling author on the Power of Now says, ‘Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be’.
Once I was able to grasp what he was talking about my whole life changed! So, whenever I hear myself overthink something and therefore get myself in a negative thought spiral, I can now laugh about it, because I don’t take my thoughts serious. They are in my head, yes, but that doesn’t mean that they represent who I am. So, who am I then? Well, if I can catch myself overthinking something, then I am the one who caught myself overthinking, right? So, I am the awareness behind the thought, the one that can catch it! I am the thought catcher! It is important that you get this because once you do, and you are able to take your thoughts less serious, you will be able to become more aware of the overthinking and live a healthier life in the now!
Make the NOW the primary focus of your life!
So, what about the NOW? Eckhart Tolle (he seems to have figured this stuff out), has another amazing quote that says, ‘Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life’. So the NOW is all we have. All we actually can control. So, many of us are occupying ourselves with the past and future in our minds and the now is not being lived. And that my friends is a huge shame!
Being in the now is the easiest and the most difficult thing out there. Easy because it is accessible for all immediately, and difficult because many don’t know how to access it.
Read about 10 ways to be more in the NOW here.