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Stop the Overthinking

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

How many times a day are you getting caught in a negative feedback loop of rumination? It’s like this one thought is a wasp bouncing around in your head, stinging you over and over with no relief.

Overthinking…I often feel it at night when I am trying to sleep. I get unnecessary thoughts stuck in my head like "I can't believe my friend said that," "why did I eat that second brownie when I'm trying to avoid sugar this week," or even "is my life path bringing me all of the happiness I desire." It is unproductive, unhealthy, and prevents me from getting my much-desired sleep, and you all know how I feel about sleep.

When re-reading Sonya Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness, I came back across her ideas on overthinking. While it is good to be aware of our feelings and investigate how and why we respond to specific triggers, Sonya discussed that while many believe turning one’s thoughts inward helps with self-reflection, there are limits and caveats.

First, one should avoid ruminating when they are feeling sad or distraught. When you are already in this state of unhappiness, adding unnecessary thoughts can leave you feeling "besieged, powerless, self-critical, pessimistic, and generally negatively biased." The more you think, the further you go in this downward spiral of self-doubt and helplessness. Your views of the world and yourself end up becoming distorted, and the subsequent opinions you form are inaccurate.

Additionally, even if you aren’t in a negative emotional state when you start overthinking, you can get there quite quickly. Overthinking can usher in negative biased thoughts and skew one's account of past actions, causing motivation to lessen and interfering with problem-solving and concentration.

So, what can you do to stop overthinking? I'll be honest; pulling yourself out can be tricky, but distraction is honestly one of the best answers. Of course, there will be times when we must experience negative aspects of life to process them but not overthink them. When you get to that overthinking stage, I suggest getting involved in an activity that pulls all your attention. For example, it could be:

- Watching a movie

- Playing a game

- Listening to a podcast

- Cooking a new recipe

- Hanging out with your kids

- Writing a gratitude list

- Completing a random act of kindness

- Or anything else that sucks up enough of your attention that there is no more room for negative thoughts.

Personally, when I catch myself in the overthinking mindset I like to do 10 jumping jacks and maybe even a few high kicks in place, something to completely change my thought cycle. I also tell myself, if it’s appropriate, the lesson from Brene’ Brown which is the sentence: “The story I’m making up in my head is …” and then I add, but that might not actually be the other person’s story.” This kind of reminds me that I can get off track when I overthink a situation.

Before we sign off, I ask that you share your overthinking distraction in a review or a DM! I always enjoy learning other creative methods from awesome people like you.

And remember, kindness is contagious! Go out into the world and be kind to someone today.

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