Thinking too much about something often involves more than words—overthinkers conjure up disastrous images, too. Their minds resemble a movie where they imagine their car going off the road or replay distressing events over and over again. Overthinking is exhausting. Thinking too much prevents you from getting anything done. And, it wreaks havoc on your mood. If this feels like familiar territory to you, here are simple ideas to free yourself from overthinking.
Take a deep breath, meditate
Overthinking can become such a habit that you don’t even recognize when you’re doing it. Start paying attention to the way you think so you can become aware of the problem.
When you’re replaying events in your mind over and over, or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge that this isn’t productive. Thinking is only helpful when it leads to positive action.
You’ve heard it a million times, but that’s because it works. The next time you find yourself tossing and turning over your thoughts, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Developing a regular meditation practice is an evidence-backed way to help clear your mind of nervous chatter by turning your attention inward. All you need is 5 minutes and a quiet spot.
Do something nice for someone else
Trying to ease the load for someone else can help you put things in perspective. Think of ways you can be of service to someone going through a difficult time. Realizing you have the power to make someone’s day better can keep negative thoughts from taking over. It also gives you something productive to focus on instead of your never-ending stream of thoughts.
Just like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice, but over time, it can decrease overthinking. There are classes, books, apps, courses, and videos available to help you learn mindfulness skills.
Dwelling on your problems isn’t helpful—but looking for solutions is. If it’s something you have some control over, consider how you can prevent the problem, or challenge yourself to identify five potential solutions.
Sometimes, you might go over the same thoughts repeatedly because you aren’t taking any concrete actions about a certain situation.
Stop waiting for perfection
This is a big one. For all of us who are waiting for perfection, we can stop waiting right now. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating. The moment you start thinking "This needs to be perfect" is the moment you need to remind yourself, "Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress."
Whether you're afraid because you've failed in the past, or you're fearful of trying or overgeneralizing some other failure, remember that just because things did not work out before does not mean that has to be the outcome every time. Remember, every opportunity is a new beginning, a place to start again.