When has it ever paid off to overthink something?
When has it ever been beneficial to “be in your head” and think about your worries, concerns, and problems?
Well, I can answer that question easily. It paid off for me in high school, college, and in the world of academia.
Like most millennials, I thought about my future all the time. There is a tremendous pressure to perform in high school. If you don’t get good grades, you won’t into college.
If you don’t do well in college, you won’t get a job. If you don’t get a job, you’ll be a disgrace to your family!
There was always this fear in the back of my mind that if I STOPPED worrying, then I would take my eye off the ball and fail some test. I’d mess up and end up regretting it later.
Worrying = Fear of the future.
This leads to you “prepare” for what could happen.
For me, worrying and overthinking things actually put me at ease because I felt more prepared for what life had in store.
To be truthful… this worked. It got me motivated about my career. It made me take life more seriously. However, it led to A LOT of anxiety.
In social situations (and dating) it was a recipe for disaster.
Just because a strategy works well in one area of your life doesn’t mean that it will work well in another.
If that were true, then all successful people would have great family lives and marriages. We both know that’s laughable. Usually, the lives of people who are hyper-successful are very unbalanced.
With this article, I want to share with you a few ways that you can stop overthinking everything and get OUT of your head.
This way, you’ll be able to live life to its fullest. You’ll stop judging yourself, stop taking yourself away from the present moment, and finally be able to be your authentic self.
Does that sound good? Keep reading!
1. Discover the present moment (no – this isn’t hippie B.S.)
In order to get out of your head and stop overthinking things, you need to physically feel the difference between “being in your head” and “being in the present moment.”
If you can’t distinguish this difference, then you won’t be able to identify when you aren’t in the present moment. It will be harder to bring yourself back to the moment.
This has happened to me more times than I could count. When I’m not focused on being in the present moment, I’ll go on auto-pilot. I’ll go through a jumble of thoughts, feelings, and make silly mistakes in my work.
In social settings, not being in the present moment will make me appear distant. It makes it harder for others to connect with me and for me to feel genuine emotions about the events that are happening around me.
I’ve found that the easiest way to grow your awareness of the present moment is through meditation. If you’ve never mediated before, it’s not what you think. I’ll include some basic instructions below to get started.
Basic Meditation Steps:
- Close your eyes and sit down with good posture. You can listen to meditation music or not. It will help a beginner to be in a quiet environment (though it’s not required).
- Your goal is to concentrate on the present moment. This is done by focusing on your breathing.
- Ideally, you should be having NO thoughts about the past, future, or of other people. You should simply be taking in the feelings of the moment.
- This is naturally impossible, so what will end up happing is you’ll have a ton of different thoughts and emotions coming to mind in the first 10 minutes of sitting down.
- You want to begin to observe these thoughts and label them. You can say “right now, I’m thinking about such and such past event. It makes me feel ___.”
- Every time you have a thought, which could be you talking to yourself, imagining a scenario, or seeing an image, acknowledge it and label it. Then, return your concentration to your breath and the present moment.
- Repeat this process for 15 minutes, continually returning your attention to the present moment.
You can set a timer for 15 minutes. After you’re done meditating, I just want you to open your eyes and observe the environment around you. Notice the colors, the shapes, the sounds, etc.
For me, meditation helps create a separation between my thoughts and myself. As I meditate, I realize that so many of my thoughts are random, cyclical, and repetitive.
Through the labeling process, I”ll gain a better understanding of my thoughts and how they make me feel. For example, I’ll be thinking about some random scenario from a week ago that causes me to feel angry.
What I’ve come to realize is that SO MANY of the emotions we feel on an everyday basis are self-generated. Many of the feelings we have are a direct result of our thoughts. These thoughts aren’t always based in reality.
Mediation will help you begin to differentiate what it feels like to “be in the moment” vs. in a mindset where your attention is on the past, future, or other events happening in your life.
2. Overwhelm the Thinking Mind
You can’t fight the brain with logic.
If you try to convince yourself why you should feel happy when your sad, it won’t work.
You can’t logically change how you are feeling.
It’s very hard to convince yourself to feel a different emotion than the one you’re feeling.
However, it’s not impossible.
As you become more advanced with emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to change your perspective on events, which cause you to change how you’re feeling.
For example, you could draw your attention to some aspect of an event which will change your outlook on it. “Rick didn’t realize I would feel X, Y or Z when he did ____. He would never do this otherwise.”
Logic can help ease the sting of emotions, but there are only two ways to truly alter the overthinking mind. That includes:
- Overwhelm the mind with “inputs” and “action”
- Communication which serves to clarify events in your mind.
What I call “inputs” are simply things that you can expose your brain to that will change your current emotional state.
Some examples are:
- Social situations
These inputs cause you to focus on something other than what you’re currently thinking about.
To give you an example, if you’re sad and you begin to listen to up-beat music that makes you smile, it’s difficult to stay sad.
Slowly, you’ll begin to feel happier and have happier thoughts. The music changes your mood.
If you listen to sad music when you’re sad, you’re likely to stay sad.
Sometimes, when I’m sad, I’ll listen to EDM music which tends to amp up my state, make a little angry, and get very focused and aggressive about whatever activity I’m doing.
The input of the music changes my emotional state.
By getting control of YOUR inputs, you’ll help move your attention away from an event that occurred and stop over-thinking it.
A good input will be powerful enough that it causes you to forget what you were thinking about previously. It interrupts your attention. A really good movies makes you forget that you’re sitting on a couch watching an LCD screen.
You can also overwhelm the thinking mind with action.
Examples of this include sports, dancing, socializing, etc.
When you’re playing soccer, not only are you releasing different neurotransmitters in your brain, but you’re also making it impossible to think about anything other than the activity you’re doing.
This will fundamentally change your emotional state and break you out of a repetitive thought loop.
We all love activities that get us out of our head and into the moment, like sky diving, hiking, sports, dancing, etc.
While engaging our mind in these activities, we don’t have the mental capacity to also worry about our own problems.
You can overwhelm your overthinking mind with “inputs” and “action.” You can also use communication.
3. Talking Makes You Feel Better… Sometimes
If you’re in your head or overthinking something, your natural inclination is to be quiet, reserved, and introverted.
When you finally do get the opportunity to talk, it usually takes the form of a “rant” where you’re outpouring all of your thoughts and feelings.
It feels better to get these thoughts off your chest and share them with another human being that is genuinely listening to you.
Talking is ONE way to eliminate overthinking, but it must be used correctly. While ranting might make you feel better because you’re “being heard” it’s not terribly effective for the actual situation.
The most productive communication will come when you’re getting more clarity on the situation that is causing you to go into a spiral of thoughts.
For example, if your significant other does something, which causes you to feel ___, then you might keep thinking about that situation throughout the day.
You will constantly analyze it and wonder “did they mean this, or that” “why did they say that” “does this mean that I’m ____.”
When you have a productive conversation and gain clarity on the event that occurred, it will set your thinking mind at ease. You’ll be dealing with REAL facts rather than your imaginings.
You won’t be trying to figure out how someone felt or thought in a situation. Instead, you’ll be able to act with real knowledge and make changes appropriately.
Lack of communication leads to overthinking, resentment, and it leads you to conclusions that are not based in reality. It’s dangerous.
4. Stop Taking Yourself Seriously – Eliminate Judgement
I tend to find that there is a high correlation between people who overthink things and people who have high personal standards.
This isn’t always true, but if that’s you, then it pays to not take life so seriously. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Set the bar for yourself a bit lower.
You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to embarrass yourself every once in a while.
This all ties back to self-esteem and self-confidence.
At the end of the road, we’re all going to the same place baby.
We all gonna die. Most of us won’t be remembered by history. Those of us who are remembered (for a brief time) will likely be forgotten anyway when the sun explodes.
This universe, one day, is going to cease to exist.
In order to eliminate self-judgement, you have to learn to not seek the approval of other people. You have to be okay with not fulfilling everyone’s expectation of who you should be.
The more that you’re able to do this, the happier you will be. You’ll also become more authentic.
Of course, there is the fear that you’ll become an asshole as a result of not giving a fuck, but since you’re probably a good person, this fear is unfounded.
More likely, you’ll just be a little bit more confident. If you do turn into an asshole, you will eventually feel bad about it and seek to correct your behavior.
Stop judging yourself. Stop taking yourself seriously.
5. Have a Sense of Humor
Lastly, a surefire way to eliminate repetitive thoughts is to have a sense of humor about it all.
There is nothing like humor. It eases the tension of any situation and it’s emotionally recharging.
Humor is an amazing tool that when used correctly, can heal wounds, make light of serious situations, and lower your anxiety.
If you are reading this article, you likely don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to your problems. They are SERIOUS. They need SOLUTIONS.
When you are serious about something, you give that thing power over your life. You allow it to affect you emotionally.
For example, let’s say you’re very serious about your job. Something goes wrong at your job. Therefore, it’s going to cause you stress at work, at home, and even on the weekends.
You’ll bitch about that stressful thing with your co-workers, friends, and family. That thing rules your emotional ecosystem because you’re serious about it.
What about something you’re not very serious about? Maybe playing a video game with your younger cousin?
You play this video game with your cousin that’s all about killing zombies. And, you die in like three seconds.
Your cousin is all mad because you didn’t do X, Y, and Z to stay alive. You forgot to use this one power up. You didn’t hit the one zombie fast enough. You could have done so much better!
You’re there laughing because it was a fun game. Yeah, you died, and you kinda expected to. Oh well. Haha. You miss when you were young and played games like this.
The reason your cousin feels anger is because he takes the game seriously.
The reason you don’t is because you have a sense of humor about your horrible video game skills.
Where to Go From Here
Overall, your success in this area of your life depends on the education you’re exposed to and your teachers and coaches.
You have to surround yourself with the right people if you want to succeed.
I hope this article has been helpful. Good luck on your journey!