Do you make yourself crazy conjuring up worst case scenarios? Do you continually re-play interactions you've had? Do you personalize every comment you hear and obsess about different clever comebacks that you failed to deliver? If so, you may be an over-thinker.
Over-thinking isn't the same as having an active mind. According to Deepak Chopra, the average human being has as many as 60,000 thoughts a day. For the over-thinker, 95% of those thoughts are the same thoughts from the day before. Furthermore, many of them are emotionally destructive.
The over-thinker takes an area of concern and conjures up worst case scenarios creating a sense of impending doom. For instance, over-thinkers may be concerned that they don't have enough money and that they aren’t getting what they need from their partners. Both are normal concerns. However, the over-thinking thought process can create problems rather than solutions.
Hundreds of times a day the idea that money and happiness are an issue can repeat and mutate until over-thinkers work themselves into a state of emotional despair. From then on, every experience is hampered by these thoughts. If money comes in, it’s never enough. A spouse’s love and affection is viewed as a kernel of attention in a sea of neglect. In essence, over thinkers view their circumstances based on their over-active thoughts.
It's a painful place to be.
There may not be permanent non-pharmaceutical solutions for over-thinkers. However, there are effective workarounds that can give them some peace of mind.
The following steps only take a few minutes and work if you are persistent and patient:
- Interrupt the thoughts. Notice when you are in a cycle of repetitive thinking. Say to yourself, "I am obsessing again." Then say, "Stop" or "Enough" or "No." Sing a song, say a poem, repeat a jingle, do anything that will further interrupt the cycle. When you stop the cycle, you stop creating and building anxiety.
- Ask for help. I'm not suggesting you call someone. I'm suggesting you ask for help from whatever or whomever you call upon when life gets difficult. It can be a higher power, God, the universe, your inner self, or anything else. Asking for help tells your subconscious mind you are ready to let go of a habitual pattern. Asking is as simple as saying, "Take away my obsession. Free me from these thoughts." Ask every time thoughts creep back into your consciousness.
- Purposely replace the harmful thoughts. Replace the thoughts that plague you with ones that are inspiring or hopeful. See yourself engaging in healthy conversations, being drawn to healthier foods, showing calm in the face of difficulty, and so on. See a brilliant outcome to a difficult confrontation. Start focusing on great outcomes, not worst case scenarios.
- Repeat. Go through this list every single time you catch yourself in a destructive cycle. The process can have a powerful impact. After a day or two you may realize that you are free of a particular train of thought. It’s that simple.
There is an old Native-American saying that best illustrates why it is worth the effort to transform over-thinking patterns. According to the saying, we all have equal amounts of light and dark within us. The one that thrives is the one we feed. Our thoughts are fuel, so if you are going to think the same 60,000 thoughts a day, choose to fuel the ones that help, not harm.
You’ll be better off for it.