STOP THINKING TOO MUCH! GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO YOUR HEART AND REAL LIFE
What holds people back in life?
I believe it may be because of one very common practice which is thinking too much!
We humans are meaning making machines and we spend far too much time living in our thoughts and identifying with them far too much.
We overthink every little problem until it becomes bigger and scarier than it actually is. Similarly, we overthink positive things until they don’t look so positive anymore!?
The problem is we often overanalyze and deconstruct things so much that the happiness that comes from just enjoying something in the moment disappears and we lose out on what we could be enjoying.
Now, thinking things through can be a great thing of course. But being an overthinker can result in becoming someone who stands still in life or becoming someone who self-sabotages the good things that happen.
10 Simple Habits
Here are 10 habits that can help people hugely in simplifying things, thinking smarter and living a happier and less fearful life.
1. Spend more of your time in the present moment.
Get in the present moment and enjoy everything in your everyday life rather than thinking about a past event or a possible future event that has not or may not actually happen. You end up thinking about this and are not present to what you’re actually fully doing in the here and now.
You can replace more and more of the time you usually spend on overthinking things with just being here right now instead.
Three ways that I often use to reconnect with the present moment are:
Slow down. Slow down how you do whatever you are doing right now. Move slower, talk slower or eat more slowly for example. By doing so you become more aware of how you use your body and what is happening all around you right now. Think about what is happening now. For example whilst eating, savour the flavours, textures and smells. Chew more and wait between mouthfuls before putting more food on your fork/spoon. What do you see, feel, hear, smell and touch at this present moment. Re-connect and concern yourself with this and nothing more.
Tell yourself: Now I am… I often tell myself this: Now I am X. And X could be brushing my teeth. “Now I am brushing my teeth”. “Now I am taking a walk in the woods”. “Doing the dishes”. This simple reminder helps my mind to stop wandering and brings my focus back to what is happening in this moment. Let your inner voice commentate on what is happening now in the here and now instead of thinking about past/future and not enjoying the present activity you are engaged in. Put your thoughts, senses in the present.
Disrupt and reconnect. If you feel you are getting lost in overthinking then disrupt that thought – in your mind – by shouting this to yourself (mentally): “STOP!” Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just 1-2 minutes to focus fully on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, hear it, smell it, see it and sense it on your skin.
2. Become a person of action.
Be in the game, rather than thinking about the game. Play and be in the game of life. When you know how to get started with taking action consistently each day then you’ll procrastinate less by overthinking.
Setting deadlines is one thing that can help to become much more of person of action. However, don’t worry when things take longer than planned, just be in action, stay in the game.
Taking small steps forward and only focusing on getting one small step done at a time is another habit that works really well. It works well because you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and think about the future. With one step at a time you do not flee into procrastination. Even though you may be scary, taking small steps is such a small thing that you do not get paralyzed by fear about it.
3. Do not get lost in vague fears.
Another trap that we can fall into which increases our overthinking is getting lost in vague fears about situations in ones life.
Thinking about what COULD happen or getting attached to what MUST happen can get our mind running wild, creating future disaster scenarios about what could happen if I do something or do not do something. Ask yourself honestly, what is the worst that could happen? When we figure out the what the worst that could happen actually is then its never usually that bad and we can also spend less time thinking about what to do if that pretty unlikely thing happens. The worst case that could realistically happen is usually something that is not as scary as what our mind is busy running wild with vague fear, producing more fear about the future. It is also one way to deal with future over-thinking. Finding clarity in this way usually only takes a few minutes of time and bit of energy and it can save you a lot of time and suffering.
4. Spend more of your time with people who do not overthink things.
Your social environment plays a big part on forming who you are. Not just the people and groups close to you in real life. But also what you read, listen to and watch. The blogs, books, forums, movies, podcasts and music in your life.
So think about if there are any sources in your life – close by or further away – that encourages or tends to create more overthinking in your mind. And think about people or sources that has the opposite effect on you. Spend more of your time and attention with the people and sources that are good for you and have a positive effect on your thinking and emotions. Spend less time with/on those that influence you negatively and tend to strengthen and produce habitual overthinking or negative thinking.
5. Set short time-limits for decisions.
If you do have something to think about set a time aside to think it through and/or give yourself a deadline to come up with a decision. You will think quicker, smarter and free up over-thinking time spent. Not having a time-limit for when you must make a decision and take action can keep you turning your thoughts over and over, around and around, viewing them from many angles in your mind for a very long time.
Become better at making decisions and get in the game and spring into action by setting deadlines in your daily life. No matter if it is a small or bigger decision.
Give yourself 30 seconds or less to make a decision, or for bigger decisions, 30 minutes or by the end of the workday.
6. Realize that you cannot control everything.
Our battle to control everything can occupy so much of our time. Trying to think things through 50 times can be a way of trying to control people, situations and events. We attempt to cover every eventuality so we do not risk looking foolish, making a mistake or failing.
But things we cannot control are a part of life. Learn to let go. Living a life where we are truly stretched out of our comfort zone is good for us more often than not. Think of those you may admire and you think may be living a life that inspires you. Ask yourself if they may have made mistakes?
In most cases we can see mistakes and failings as valuable feedback to learn from. The things that may look negative may have taught them a lot and have been invaluable to help them to grow or make room for something new. It's the same for us all.
Stop trying to control everything. Trying to do so simply doesn’t work because no one can see all possible scenarios in advance.
7. Say stop in situation where you know you cannot think straight.
Sometimes when I am hungry, tired or when I am lying in bed and I am about to go to sleep negative thoughts start buzzing around in my mind.
In the past they could do quite a bit of damage. Nowadays I have become good at catching them quickly and to say to myself:
“No, no, we are not going to think about this now”, or I thank my brain for its interesting contribution or say something like “Well isn’t that peculiar”… and I move on.
I know that when I am hungry or sleepy then my mind sometimes tend to be vulnerable to not thinking clearly and I am much more susceptible to producing negativity.
So I follow up my “no, no…” phrase and I say to myself that I will think this situation or issue through when necessary or at a better time.
It takes a bit of practice to get this to work. It is like any habit, it has to be repeated in order to form a new habit and for it to become the way you work. I have become good at postponing thinking in this way and have had coaching clients adopt this with positive effect. I know from experience that this works.
Regular exercise and activity makes one feel more decisive and if you’re an over thinker then it can easily become a “go-to” method of changing your headspace into a more constructive one.
Your exercise of choice whether its running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, pumping iron can not only distract you from thoughts and put you in a better head space if it can activate better thinking and a better physical balance that in turn helps you mentally.
Not only that a healthy body can assist a healthy mind and healthy thoughts. Stress hormones and the physical state of stress can become less overwhelming or damaging with proper diet and exercise.
When you are over tired you are more likely to have stressful over thinking and you cannot think properly.
Healthy sleep is important for several different reasons. You can do many things to help ensure that you are getting the right amount of restful sleep. Amount of sleep, your sleep environment and what you do before you go to bed will all play a role in determining how beneficial your sleep is and how good you cope with the next day.
Get the right amount of sleep, not too little/too much, make sure your bedroom and eating habits and end of day activities are helpful for a good nights sleep.
10. Put things into a wider perspective.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of overthinking minor things in life.
So when you are thinking and thinking about something ask yourself:
Will this issue really matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks? Or maybe even 5 days?
Widening your perspective in this way by using this simple question can quickly snap you out of overthinking and help you let that situation go. You can then focus time and energy on something that actually does matter.
Regularly, Be still and know…