I'm a huge overthinker.
I analyze the crap out of stuff. I see things from every angle.
Thinking... I love it. And you probably do too. People like us love to think think think. And relish in our imaginations.
But here's the problem with overthinkers. Our minds gets stuck in an endless loop instead of moving forward and taking action. We live in our thoughts rather than reality with the people around us. And we struggle with living in the present moment.
Overthinking completely affects our ability to make friends. We overanalyze conversations and sabotage ourselves. And we end up overthinking andfiltering too much of what we say. We become prisoners of our thoughts. Rather than enjoying things for what they are.
So here are 3 practical tips for how to stop overthinking and start being present in the moment.
1. MOVE YOUR BODY
The first thing is simple.
When you overthink most your energy is going to your brain. So shift your energy into your body. Your arms, legs, breathing, sensations, etc.
The easiest thing is to simply MOVE.
Change your body position, stand up, and do something physical. I like to walk around or even do a little dance.
The reason physical action is great is because it forces your mind to concentrate on your body and the task at hand. Dancing, running, gardening, cleaning... Even something as simple as stretching your arms or rubbing your hands together.
It gets you out of your mind and into your body.
2. ZOOM OUT TO THIRD-PERSON
We often feel like our thoughts (and feelings) define us. "I think therefore I am" right?
You are NOT your thoughts.
Let's take your thoughts for what they really are. They're just random pictures, sounds, words, and stories passing through your mind. They may or may not be true. So don't automatically believe them. Don't automatically accept them as reality. In fact, you don't even have to pay attention to them. This is important for overthinkers.
In psychology there's something called "cognitive defusion." The goal is to lookAT thoughts rather than FROM thoughts. To notice thoughts, rather than be entangled in them. To zoom out and observe them from the third-person.
Imagine this: You're walking down a busy street. The street represents your mind. And each person represents a thought.
You walk past hundreds of people every day. Some are cool, some are crazy. They come from everywhere. Broken childhoods, dysfunctional relationships, failures of the past, worries of the future...
Now let me ask you. Do you sit down and talk with every person? Become best friends? Assume they're all telling the truth? Think they love you?
Of course not.
It's the same with your thoughts. Hundreds will pass through your mind every day. But that doesn't mean you have to engage with each one. Some are good, some are crazy. They don't define you.
Simple observe your thoughts, acknowledge them, maybe even say hi. But let the bad ones go by. The less attention we give them, the more space we have for the good ones.
3. SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY
What happens when there's a pesky thought that won't let go?
For example "I'm such a loser, nobody likes me."
Here's a fun technique to attack it.
Sing your thoughts aloud to the happy birthday melody (seriously!). Or the ABC's. Or Jingle Bells. Or random notes. Whatever tickles your fancy.
What this does is change the normal context of your thoughts.
Attacking bad thoughts with playfulness can be very effective and liberating. The point isn't necessarily to change how you feel, but to take the power away from them. Realize that these are thoughts, and what you do with them is up to you.
You can also try saying them:
- Very slowly (one word per breath)
- In a different voice (high pitched, low pitched, kermit the frog),
This exercise will help you catch your thoughts from a different perspective. Rather than being entangled in the reality they create.
Remember, thoughts are just random pictures, sounds, words, and stories passing through your mind. You're under control not your thoughts.
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