Thinking is good, right? People who think deep and think a lot are usually pretty smart so obviously thinking a lot is positive, yeah? Well not necessarily! While overthinking may not sound like a huge issue, it really can become one if you let it get out of control. People who spend too much time thinking often find themselves dealing with sleep disruptions, trouble with decision making or “analysis paralysis”, and even diagnosable mental health issues. So while common knowledge is if you don’t dwell on negative thoughts and double down on the positive you should feel better. The science shows that it isn’t always the kind of thoughts you dwell on, but really the amount of time you spend thinking in general that really has an effect on your mental health.
Your thoughts don’t define ‘You’
The first step toward curbing your inner monologue is accepting the fact that you are not your thoughts. Philosophers and all-time great thinkers from Marcus Aurelius in Rome to Eckhart Tolle in modern times have spent an innumerable amount of time and ink waxing poetic on this fairly straight forward concept. Acceptance of the concept is so paramount to curbing that nasty thinking habit because too many people over-identify with their thoughts. If your thoughts are you and you are your thoughts, than if you were to stop thinking you would no longer exist. But, why don’t you try it right now? Clear your mind, stop thinking about anything, and I bet you will find that you are still there totally existing. Therefore, you are not your thoughts.
Living within your thoughts and spending too much time thinking means you aren’t living in the now, and that’s what tends to create an unhealthy amount of worrying. Cutting thoughts off as they occur and not following every thought through to the end is crucial to letting go of an unhealthy thinking habit. Spending too much time thinking is what has you living in the “what if” instead of existing in the now.
Throwing a wrench in it
Thinking is a tool, right? You wouldn’t use an electric screwdriver all-day. So, why would you spend all day thinking? When your mind wants to get rolling down a train of thought that isn’t going to be helpful, you have to make the conscious decision to not let it. You have to throw a wrench in the works and drag yourself back into the present. Like any tool, thinking has its purpose which means like any other tool you should only use it when you need it. So like the electric screwdriver, you have got to let your brain turn off throughout the day.
Controlling your thoughts
One strategy that can help to limit your thoughts is to designate a specific amount of time every day toward thinking. Either spend a bit of time journaling, or setting goals for the next day, and let that be the time you spend living in the past or future. Giving yourself permission to spend that time thinking will make it easier to consciously spend more time in the present throughout the day. Adding time for thought to the daily routine is a proven way to nip overthinking right in the bud, and really focus on being in the now.
Becoming more aware
Being more aware of your thoughts and observing them as they happen will help you to cut them off before they go too far. If you are working on something and you find your mind slipping off into things that are not directly in front of you, it is important to drag yourself back to the now. Spending too much time concerned with the past or present will take away from the overall quality of your life and mental health. So really being cognizant of when you are slipping off into thought and away from the now is critical for your mental health and stability.
Happiness Is A Choice
You have to choose to be happy every day. Now that doesn’t mean you should smile through pain or sadness. It means that you get to choose whether or not you will let pain and sadness define you. You may not have the option of being happy at all times. No matter what bad things will happen. But it’s ultimately your choice whether or not you live a happy life.