How to control overthinking?
Many of us have this problem. This is quite more frequent and common that usually believe it .
An overly occupied mind is just like a running train. It keeps running and running. Moreover, its direction is quite random. One train of thought is followed by another and then by another and so on. the chain continues…
The thoughts are accompanied by negative emotions comprising fear, apprehension and anxiety. This cocktail is very unpleasant and behaviourally taxing.
Is this a problem?
Almost everyone feels like this in the time of some crisis. This is a very natural reaction of mind towards stress. Evolutionary psychology explains such tendencies as problem solving striving of the human mind. Our minds think too much and too rapidly when they face some problems and there is not any obvious solution. This motivates people to find out a solution so as to ascertain survival. If mind becomes slow ,we may miss solution and might get extincted .
But, no matter how adaptive be the tendency of overthinking, it is emotionally very unpleasant.
The logical explanation of the illogical overthinking:
When do our minds overthink? When we have some problem and we don’t have any visible solution in our mind. But the cognitive psychologists go one step ahead and say that the root of the overthinking is not just problem and the failure to workout its solutions. The root is the fear of dire & unacceptable consequences. What would happen? No, I don’t want this. I don’t want to think about this..and so.
Something becomes a problem when we think of the repercussions that would follow if we fail to solve it in case. When we estimate the repercussions are going to be catastrophic, we don’t want to think about it consciously but our mind is a holistic system. In this case, it starts thinking and worrying at our subconscious level. The subconscious mental processes have very strong influence on the way we think, feel and behave.
What is its solution?
If overthinking is uncontrollable, it may lead to several problems and insomnia is one of them. This is too frequent in the modern lifestyle. Insomnia in turn may cause several visible and invisible problems. You may read more about this.
As I said, overthinking is not caused by the problem per se, but how we interpret its outcomes.
For a while, just imagine that consequences of your problem are manageable. Now examine how you feel instantly- a relief. The cognitive mediational theory of emotions says that an event and its consequences are mediated by our thinking and cognition. The way we think, the way we feel. Overthinking, actually, is not thinking but worrying. Simply worrying..and this may be caused by faulty reasoning & interpretation.
Estimation of threats is done by the logical power of our mind and the beliefs about the life phenomena. This has been found in the psychological researches that people with high anxiety and fear do not follow logic in their thinking. They often exaggerate the problems. This hypothetical magnification of the problem lead to hyperemotionality.
Moreover, our core beliefs about the life phenomena play important roles in exaggeration of our emotions. Everyone, literate or illiterate, intelligent or slow, has his own theories about the life phenomena. For example, tribal people have their own theories to to understand several phenomena related to nature and people behaviours. So do the modern scientific societies.
Without theories and assumptions, we will go mad as humans are cognitively active beings. We seek meaning in everything.
The key to control overthinking:
There are four ways you can change the habit of overthinking
1. Train your mind to think like a scientist. Data/evidences based thinking. Don’t judge people, place, things, and events just on the basis of assumptions. Dare to question your own assumptions and beliefs. Test them. If you don’t find supporting evidences , let them go. Have fewer but we’ll tested theories in your mind.
2. Have realistic attitude : why do you think that life must go fully the way you plan? Think why can’t it be different? And if it is partly different or sometimes fully different, why would it be catastrophic? Just discuss about this. Educate your mind.
3. Practice on logical thinking. Work on some task involving logical reasoning. Train your mind.
4. Be optimistic: This is a basic belief that future will be ultimately beautiful. People having optimistic beliefs are found to be relatively more relaxed than the pessimists whose minds are largely reactive.
In brief, be logical, be realistic and optimistic, to control your habits of overthinking.