Our thoughts influence our lives at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words a minute, all day, every day; it’s no wonder people can often find themselves overthinking.
In fact, a study from UC Santa Barbara suggests that thinking too much about something leads to poor judgment and decision-making.
What’s even more interesting than how many words go through our minds is that 95% of our thoughts today are the same thoughts we had yesterday. Guess what that means? It means that most of our thoughts tomorrow will be the same thoughts we are having right now. And for most people, those are negative thoughts – thoughts of inadequacy, failure, worthlessness, and fear.
That is why taking control of our internal programming is necessary to begin to live a happier life. It’s astonishing how easy it is to buy into all the negative thoughts that we process. The good news is we can control it and change it for the better.
We tend to find ourselves overthinking things when we are surrounded by the drama and chaos of outside influences. When our thoughts are mixed with everyone else’s opinions, it makes it hard to know where our’s end and theirs begin.
Taking regular time to be alone with our thoughts to gain a proper perspective on what is happening is a necessary first step to stop overthinking. It allows us to question them and understand the reality of our thoughts instead of creating a story that isn’t based on fact and can be detrimental to our state of mind.
A big part of overthinking comes by way of social comparison. It’s human nature to notice and compare ourselves to our friends, family, colleagues, and even fictional characters from the books we read and the movies we watch. We are surrounded by the opportunity to compare ourselves with others socially.
Now, sometimes these social comparisons can be good for us. They may inspire and even motivate us to achieve our goals. And sometimes, they may even make us feel better.
More often, though, the need for approval is negatively impacting our life. We overthink the things we need to do to fit in, be liked, and gain approval. Wanting people to like our results in the failure to see new opportunities, avoiding risks, and avoiding new connections for fear of being judged.
We need to start paying attention to the messages we’re telling ourselves. Our self-talk is at the root of all overthinking. We are constantly justifying our actions, downplaying our achievements, and explaining away our hard work. Doing that demeans the importance of our work and our self-worth.
How we motivate ourselves matters, too, and can help us avoid overthinking things. There’s a big difference between “I can do this” and “You can do this” in our brains. Can you guess which one is more effective?
Dr. Sanda Dolcos, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, after completing a few studies in this area, said this:
“Self-advice expressed using ‘You’ probably enables people to adopt a broader perspective, considering how a significant other might view the event, and to reproduce the kind of encouragements previously received from others.”
Now at first thought, it may seem that thinking bigger will only make overthinking worse. On the contrary, as a matter of fact, thinking big keeps us focused on big things. And when we’re focused on big things, there’s no room for the petty annoyances to infiltrate our thinking and to take over our minds.
Pushing ourselves to think beyond what we know we can do to what we really want to do, tests our strength and resolve and allows us to continue to grow. The world has infinite resources available, and when you think big, you begin to tap into the possibility.
And finally, the best tool available to stop overthinking is meditation. Meditation is a scary word to many people, but it doesn’t have to be – it all boils down to quieting the chaos that surrounds us.
Meditation isn’t about eliminating thought, as most people believe. Instead, it’s about training our brains to be more in tune with what is happening in the present. In other words, it helps us to stop overthinking things and start focusing on the things we can control right now.
Knowing that our brains are hard-wired to think constantly makes it more important to put these strategies into practice. Make one effort today to be aware…