I am a chronic over-thinker. I mean, I don’t just do it a little. I do it all the time about everything and what’s worse is that I know I am doing it. So I analyse the over thinking which sets me off on new depths of self analysis. Oh hey, look at the first 4 letters of the word ‘analyse’. Woah!!
I plunge into the Mariana Trench that is my mind, the light gets dim and it becomes easier to keep sinking under water than swim back to the surface. Hello depression!
Some years ago, during a bout of severe depression I told a psychiatrist that I was worried about how I was so concerned over other people’s opinion of me.
He told me, ‘just stop thinking about it.’
Well that was worth £300!
I patiently explained to him that I wasn’t just thinking about what people thought of me. Rather, I was thinking about why I was always thinking about what people thought of me. There’s a difference, duh!
He smiled kindly at me and said once again, ‘just stop thinking about it.’
I have since learnt how he was giving me the solution to my depression right there, if only I would listen.
The mind doesn’t want to not think. It feels as though its only mission in life is to solve problems and to some extent that is true…
I need to be at the cafe at 2 but I have 3 things to do before then. Call Andrea and suggest meeting at 2.30. Done. Good job, mind!
But you know what it does when it runs out of problems to solve? It creates new ones…
Am I good enough? How will I overcome my fears? Do I give too little of myself? Or too much? Why am I such a twat?
We get dragged hither and thither by our hyperactive minds. The over-thinker knows the mental game of snakes and ladders played out by the mind. Eager to get answers to questions which were never asked and puzzles which never existed until you thought them up. Why?! One word….Ego!
Simply put, the ego cannot conceive of not existing. It is like a toddler who needs constant validation. It tugs on your sleeve, demanding attention, showing you how good it is. But your internal recognition of this is not sufficient to satisfy the ego and you must gather external approval too.
Hey, look at my car / house / perfect body / (fill the blank).
It’s exhausting, unrewarding and never ending. The mind just won’t stop… unless you take control.
How do you take control of your mind?
There are so many ways! And by ‘take control’ I mean just that. Sure, we can all stop our minds from overthinking if we anaesthetise it with drugs and alcohol but that’s a road to nowhere. To stop the pointless chatter you need to take control. Here are 5 great ways to do it…
1. Meditate every day, without fail.
Meditation takes many forms: yoga; breathing techniques; listening to music; running or cycling; singing. You don’t have to sit cross legged chanting ‘om’ to meditate. The whole point of it is to silence the mind. To find the empty space that unfolds once you manage those few moments of non-thinking. It could be 10 seconds, it could be 30 minutes but if you do it every day you will learn to control your mind. You will learn to just stop thinking!
If you need a guide to meditation then check out our article on the subject here…
2. Create a physical signal to stop thinking.
A really useful trick to snap out of the thinking loop is to make a signal to yourself. For example you could snap your fingers right in front of your eyes. Or maybe just saying ‘Stop!’, firmly with your hand held up in a stop sign. A friend of mine just swipes her hand in front of her face as if moving the screen on her phone across to change the subject in her mind.
When you find the thing that works, keep using the same thing because it will train your mind to recognise that you want it to stop doing what it’s doing and in time it will get better at responding.
3. Distract your mind with something else.
When your mind takes you into an argument with someone who isn’t there, or has you replaying the past over and over, simply distract it with something else. Go for a walk and actively look at your surroundings, listen to the sounds, be in that moment. Maybe you could set yourself the task of thinking of 5 things you are grateful for while you go on your walk. If you enjoy baking then look up recipes or if sport is your thing then plan a bike ride or get out there and do it.
Once again the more the mind is disallowed from indulging it’s desire to be the most important thing in the universe the more easily it will learn its place.
4. Be here now!
Just be in the moment for as long as possible. Whether you are worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, overthinking a past conversation or analysing what others may or may not be thinking, none of it is happening right now. Right now is the most important moment in your world because it’s the only thing that is real.
I don’t want to get all metaphysical on your ass but when you think about it time is just a construct and you are only happening in this present moment. Everything that went before only now exists in your mind and recorded media. The future is equally non-existent.
So ask yourself, ‘How are things right now?’
Breathe in and feel your lungs expand. Be in your body. Feel your feet on the floor, your arms in your shirt sleeves, your tongue in your mouth. That’s the extent of your existence. That is going to shut your mind up!
More than any other technique this is the most simple to apply because you’re already doing it without effort or thought. If you make a few adjustments to your breathing for a matter of minutes, you will calm down and switch off your thoughts.
Watch below for the breath hold technique of breathing in, holding your breath and breathing out. This really slows your breathing and then your mind but make sure each breath is even and calm.
When you focus on your breathing you ignore your thoughts and although your mind will find its way back to your awareness you simply acknowledge the thought and return your attention to your breathing. Just 3 minutes of this a day will really help with anxiety and over thinking.