How to Stop Overthinking

photo of woman touching her head

Overthinking can involve dwelling on the past or worrying obsessively about the future. It’s one of the leading causes of both depression and anxiety.

Reflecting on the past and planning for the future are good. There is so much we can learn from the past. It’s good to go back and enjoy happy memories and revisit past events in our thoughts. It can be really useful to go back in our thoughts and connect with people who have died and aren’t around anymore.

Our memories can strengthen us and remind us who we are and why we are. They can help us to make sense of our life as it is right now and they can help us to work out where we are headed.

Dwelling on the past and obsessing on past failures, mistakes and losses can destroy you. It can take away your happiness and leave you stuck in a depressive rut. Overly self-critical thoughts can fill you with shame and guilt and take away any possibility of happiness in the present.

a man in red shirt covering his face

When it comes to self-criticism and self-blame, self-compassion is a way of treating yourself more kindly. By practising some self compassion you can begin to stop beating yourself up so much and start to be kind to yourself.

Being kind to yourself is about treating yourself as you would someone you really care about. How would you treat a friend who is having these thoughts and feelings? What would you say to help them feel better and to see the situation in a more balanced way?

Rather than blaming yourself and feeling shame for what has happened in the past, try to accept that it happened. What is the lesson that you can take from what happened? What can it tell you about your present life and how to move forward? There is great learning to be had from past events, if you choose to reflect on them this way, rather than dwelling on them and remaining stuck.

sunset love lake resort

A good way to practice being kinder and fairer to yourself is to explore your self critical thoughts through journaling. Try to do a journal entry as often as you can, ideally once a week. In your journal, write down your self critical thoughts. Thinking about what you might say back to someone you really care about, try to reframe these thoughts in a kinder, more compassionate way. This will start to give you a more balanced view of what really happened and help you to begin to move on.

Dwelling on times in the past when you were happier can take away your power to make yourself happy now. Yes it’s great to revisit happier times and to remember people and events but if we completely live in the past we forget to live right now.

There are so many opportunities for you to be happy right now. If you believe that you will never be as happy as you were in the past, then you never will be. If you give right now a chance and start to enjoy the present moment as well as enjoying your memories, you may be surprised what starts to happen.

shallow focus photography of man wearing red polo shirt

Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention and awareness to the present moment. By immersing yourself and being fully aware of what is going on in the present moment.

Mindfulness helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings and to let them come and go in your head. This will show you that you don’t have to pay so much attention to thoughts, and that you have more control over them than you may have realized. Mindfulness teaches you that you don’t have to be stuck with difficult thoughts and emotions and you can let go of them.

Mindfulness can involve meditation, body scans and yoga, but there are some very simple ways to begin the process. Starting to be more aware of the sights, smells, sounds, feelings and tastes around you is mindfulness.

Take a walk and immerse yourself in everything around you. How does the air feel? What do the birds and even the traffic sound like? What can you smell?

Start to become more aware of right now. Try to recognize what you are thinking and what you are feeling. What name would you give that feeling? Just accept it for what it is. Don’t give it any more headspace than it deserves.

Notice what your body is saying to you right now. Are you tired? Hungry? Lonely? Is there some pain? Attend to your body’s needs and give it what it needs right now.

Learning to be more mindful and rooting yourself mainly in the present will free you from a lot of overthinking, whether it be dwelling on the past or obsessively worrying about the future.

woman sitting in front of body of water

Reflecting and learning from the past, remembering happier times and treasuring loved ones who have passed on is of great value. Planning for the future and being ready for future events is very important and necessary. But it is when this spills over into damaging, distressing overthinking that it becomes a real problem.


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