Overthinking: The art of creating problems that weren’t even there
Overthinking is not just over-thinking. It is thinking without a control, without a direction. If I say, thinking is like driving a car, then overthinking is not – driving the car faster. Overthinking is drunk-and-drive. And that’s why it’s dangerous.
Most of the times, we know that we overthink. But the problem is that we do not know how to stop overthinking. And to overcome any problem, we always have three steps.
1) Understanding – What is it?
2) Analyzing – Why is it?
3) Act – What can I do?
Understanding Overthinking – What is it?
This morning, I rushed from my room by 7 a.m. as I had a very important interview.
When I was in the cab, I got a call from my neighbor aunt. “Are you in the room?”
“No,” I replied.
“Why’s the door open?”
That gave me chills. The keys are in my pocket, but the door is open. How?
The other day I read it in the newspaper that burglars broke into a bungalow in my colony. And we were warned to be more cautious.
I returned back, immediately. As my neighbor said, the door was open. I didn’t dare to step in.
I asked the watchman, “Did you see anyone going upstairs?”
He gave a minute thought and said, “No, but I heard a door smash, a few minutes ago. And—” he pointed to a broken plant pot, “Is that yours?”
“Yes,” I shouted. “It’s supposed to be in my room’s balcony.”
“There must be someone. You know they jump from the neighbor’s terrace to ours. And we, watchmen have to stand in the ground floor. We never know what’s happening above the stairs. Do you having anything valuable?”
“There’s gold in the desk. And money under the bed. We’ll go to the room,” I said.
“You never know what he might be carrying!” my watchman said.
There’s a CCTV camera that captures my balcony. We checked the footage in the monitor. To my surprise, the footage says that I was on a call while leaving and forgot to lock my door. I just pushed the door keys in my pocket and stepped out. And there’s nobody in my room. After a while, the wind got fiercer and the plant pot in my balcony hit the floor and smashed my door.
We were all just overthinking—my neighbor, my watchman and me.
Understand how our mind works. An open door indicates a robbery is a primary thought that my neighbor had. The news of burglary in the colony, the door smash, plant pot strengthened the suspicion.
What’s happening is that we assume something in the first case which we fear. And our tricky mind will perceive everything in a way that supports our assumption. Remember, we only see the way we want to see.
Overthinking is fueled with assumptions. And our mind loves assumptions. Why?
Analyzing Overthinking – Why is it?
The million dollar question is Why do we overthink? If you can understand this. It’s not a big deal to find a solution for How to Stop Overthinking.
Answer: We overthink because we want to be smart—we want to be a Sherlock Holmes.
My neighbor wanted to be smart by assuming an open door to robbery. My watchman wanted to be smart by misinterpreting a door smash. We all want to be smart. Nobody wants to sound foolish and that’s the biggest problem.
There’s nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your thoughts.
You might be yelling, “But nobody said me that Sherlock Holmes was overthinking!”
That’s right. Do you remember the first metaphor I gave you? Overthinking is different from deep thinking. It’s drunk-n-drive and not driving fast. Sherlock Holmes drive fast—that’s deep thinking. That’s in fact, a positive extreme.
Whereas overthinking is going out of control, it’s a negative extreme. Driving fast is a skill. But driving out of control is dangerous and leads to accidents.
Overthinking is all about imagining things. Sometimes, it might help you in finding a solution. But many times, it only pushes you into some emotional trauma. It’s more of a problem than a way to find a solution.
Act – What can I do?
Stop assuming things.
Stop being smart.
It’s a baby definition that overthinking is over + thinking. That is thinking too much. And the best answer for: How to stop overthinking, is to Not Think.
That might sound ridiculous, but it’s practical and that’s what spiritual masters were teaching since ages. That’s what meditation is. To put a brake to that uncontrollable car.
I tell you 3 practical solutions that can help you get rid of overthinking. Remember, you can make a thousand more solutions on your own. Our ultimate goal is to Stop Thinking. I’m not telling to stop your mind forever. Push the brake for a second. The car stops. Just a second is enough.
Stop whatever you are doing. Step aside from the world immediately. Sit somewhere. Close your eyes. Drink a glass of water. Watch yourself.
Let the stream of uncontrollable thoughts roll. Do not care. Just monitor your breathing.
If you try to control your mind, you lose control. It has a reverse effect.
You cannot control your mind directly. You can do it indirectly. That is by controlling your breathing. It’s a fact that our mind alters our breathing. There’s a link.
Whenever you are angry, sad, jealous or whatever, there will be a change in your breathing pattern. We pant, we sigh, we sniff…the way we breathe is somehow related to what’s in our mind.
So, to control your mind, control your breathing. It’s a meditation technique practiced by people for ages. I don’t want to call it meditation, because that word sounds boring, at least for most of the people.
And how long you should do it? Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty?
Nah. Just a few seconds. More than enough.
Come out of everything around and become completely conscious about your breathing. Inhale, exhale…smoothly.
You don’t need to push the break for an hour, to stop the car. Just for a moment, it’s enough.
The car stops.
Just do something physical. Go for a walk, jog, play a sport, jump, dance, exercise or whatever. You need some body activity.
Remember that, whenever the body activity increases, mind activity decreases. And vice versa.
Body and mind function in a reverse manner. Now you understand, why all those meditation techniques you tried have failed. Because whenever you sit quietly, your mind becomes more and more active. Thoughts flood. But when you are doing something physical, mind gradually slows down. If you are running very fast, your mind almost halts.
So, get on your heels and do something. It’s the easiest way.
Okay. So, if you can’t win your mind, using breathing or using body techniques, the simplest, instant way is to divert it.
Divert your mind using some props.
A prop is a trigger for your mind to switch the topic. I suggest you to keep a small notebook with some pictures you love. Some memories written. Some good things that put a smile on your face. Call it a Cheer Book.
Whenever you find yourself overthinking, pull out the Cheer Book and scroll through the pages. That should instantly fool your mind and divert it to some good things that you love.
It need not be a book, but also an object or a song or any of your favorite prop. This technique is good especially if you find it very difficult to control your mind. This is simple and amazingly effective.
Note: Do not do all of these simultaneously. Try one at a time. If you think: running fast, without breathing and with a Cheer book in hand will give the best result, that’s terrible.
Overthinking is normal. We all overthink. But as long as it’s not depressing us and it’s not breaking us, it’s fine. Do not overthink about overthinking.
It’s simple to handle.
Just push the brake. And the car stops, instantly.