“Remember then: there is only one time that is important—now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”- Leo Tolstoy
(This article is not intended as medical advice or expertise on the topic if needed please contact your personal doctor if you need further assistance. This article is only general suggestions to encourage thought.)
The Checklist and Worksheet are linked at the bottom of the article.
Are you often called a “worrier?” Do you bite your fingernails down to ragged nubs because you’re constantly thinking of the “what ifs” in life? Is your mind always going to the worst that could happen? Do you overthink every decision?
Thinking sets humans apart from animals. That ability to think helps us achieve social, economic, and technological advances. It helps us survive but overthinking isn’t a good habit.
In fact, it’s a detrimental habit that can cause serious problems in many areas of your life. It keeps you from living your best life, from taking action or fills you with doubt. Overthinking, in fact, can lead to chronic depression or anxiety, according to this study. (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23713497)
How much are you missing out on because of the worry brought on by overthinking? The social events? Your work performance? Keeping you from building new relationships?
Most of us find ourselves overthinking some situations. That’s normal. It becomes a problem when it’s more than an occasional thing. It can take over your life and turn into anxiety.
How do you embrace your overthinking and use it as a positive benefit? There are some active steps you can take to help you use overthinking in a positive way. And that doesn’t mean ignoring the hard stuff, either. It takes practice of course and time to learn how to use overthinking after you’ve been doing for years.
This guide gives you many ideas and options you can use to embrace your overthinking habit and gain positive benefits. Let’s get started.
5 Steps to Embrace for Overthinking to Work for You
You can make overthinking work for you despite it so that you feel able to make decisions, be relaxed, be happy, and can be and create what we want.
- Channel your overthinking thoughts into activities or hobbies that help you release them or produce something. Maybe you can use it to write a book, create art or pottery, dancing, cooking, or any number of things that open up your mind to free flow.
- Accept overthinking instead of avoiding it on occasion. When you feel and acknowledge you are overthinking, let yourself be okay with it if it’s not coming from a place of fear. This removes the guilt of overthinking and lets you shift your thoughts to be in alignment with what you’re thinking.
- Talk about overthinking so that it’s helpful to you. If you’ve ever been told you think a lot, or you’re an introvert who needs time on your own to process, you should think about embracing overthinking. Talk about it in positive ways. For example, your overthinking may have helped you be more empathetic to others over the years or that it’s helped you see things objectively.
- Be aware of the patterns and triggers that cause your overthinking. Learning your patterns helps you notice when they will occur, and you can take precautions when needed.
- Find your tribe of other overthinkers so you feel less alone and help you find ways to work with your overthinking.
These steps help you control your overthinking, so you benefit from the positive effects.
28 Ways to Embrace Overthinking
Here are 28 ways you can embrace overthinking and use it to have more positive benefits in life.
Be aware of when you are doing it.
The first step in changing any behavior including overthinking about everything is to realize you are doing it. Acknowledge that you are a worrier. Becoming aware of when you are doing it helps you gain control over it.
It’s not exactly going to be easy. After all, it’s natural for human beings to admit we have a problem, no matter how big or small. However, being aware that you are overthinking things is the first step in learning to use it to your benefit.
The next time you catch yourself overthinking something, stop what you’re doing, acknowledge the fact that you are worried about the subject, and then move on. Simply by pausing and being aware can help you go back to the reality of the situation and focus on the moment.
Get out of the house.
See the world. Visit others in your community. Travel has been scientifically proven to ease stress, worry, anxiety, and depression. It gives you a new perspective on life. You’re able to put aside your worry and focus on the moment.
Visiting others in your community, exploring your local community, having a staycation, or taking part in a local tourist attraction helps you relax and put your mind on something else.
Distract yourself. Do something else that engages your brain when you find yourself overthinking something. One option is to journal about your overthinking. Put it all down, kind of like a brain dump on paper then set it aside. This helps clear your mind and allows you to focus on the problem/situation/person of what is happening at that moment.
Another option is to do some type of movement such as twenty pushups or dancing around the room. Or distract yourself by reading a fun article or calling your best friend. Just do whatever you can to get yourself out of the worrying moment. It will surprise you how quickly your overthinking thoughts will become less overwhelming when you don’t let them take over.
Don’t believe the lies your mind tells you.
It’s hard for people who tend to overthink everything not to believe every thought they have. But in truth, you have to power to control your own thoughts. When negative self-talk takes over, don’t believe it. Acknowledge it then move on.
Just because your mind is telling you to worry about something or to be fearful about something isn’t a reason you have to listen to it. You can put this into practice every time worry tries to take over and ruin your day.
Confuse your senses instead get moving.
Overthinking is a mental activity that involves your mind but not your body. Instead, when you find yourself overthinking, do something physical. This can shock your senses by taking the power away from one area of the body and sending it to another area.
When you do this, you take away the power of the thoughts and putting the focus on something else. This allows you to turn worry into a positive action. For example, when you start to overthink and feel fearful about something, smell the scents from calming lavender essential oils. The brain starts to react to the sudden change in action moving it away from the focus of the worrisome thought.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This expression has been bandied around for a while, but as an overthinker, it needs to be a daily mantra. Your life will consist of things you can control and things you can’t. It’s up to you to recognize the ones you can’t control and accept them for as they are.
You’re going to have practice letting things go. It will take time but by being aware of what you aren’t able to control, it gets easier to stop worrying so much. The things that don’t really matter shouldn’t paralyze you with worry because you’re going to have bigger more important things ahead.
You don’t have to be perfect.
Go easy on yourself. Let perfectionism go. It’s often linked to overthinking and stress or by someone striving for perfectionism as a way to deal with stress. This tends to make you more anxious because you are trying to do the impossible: being perfect.
Admit and accept your imperfections. Realize no one is perfect so let go of your overthinking and give yourself the freedom to mess up.
Enjoy the scenery.
Taking pictures, especially ones of nature and landscapes is a relaxing way to calm your mind and reduce stress. When you take photographs, you are focusing on the present moment. You’re aware of the world around you and what you see through your lens/screen. This keeps you from having the time to worry since your mind can’t wander to the past or the future for that moment in time.
Another caveat to photography is how it allows you to open up and be creative. Creativity is a great stress-reducer and a good way to find a balance between work and relaxation each day. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect or professional- just photograph what inspires you.
Create a budget.
One of the biggest causes of stress and overthinking is money. It’s one of the top sources of stress for Americans. However, people feel happier and are more confident when they feel like they have control of their finances.
Pay more attention to your money if it’s causing you to overthink everything. That means creating a budget that allows you to identify your spending habits and lets you see where to cut back and set goals for your financial priorities. Creating a budget lets you put your worries into a positive perspective by getting your overthinking and anxiety under control.
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.
Meditation isn’t what most people have seen in the movies. It’s simply a way to relax that allows you to be in the moment and focused on the present. It pushes your anxious thoughts to the side.
Meditating doesn’t mean you have to have a special room or place, or specific rituals. Simply find a few minutes each day to sit silently, focus your breathing, and let your thoughts come and go without grasping onto any specific one. It takes practice to clear your mind but try to make it a routine daily to begin feeling the calming effects on your overthinking.
An attitude of gratitude is necessary for anyone who has a tendency to overthink everything. Gratitude has many benefits, ranging from physical to psychological. Your self-esteem can improve, and your mental strength can increase as well.
One way to practice gratitude is to keep a daily journal of what you are grateful for. This gives you something to look back on and reference to when you feel overwhelmed or are overthinking something. Gratitude gives you a different perspective on things so overthinking some situations become less important.
Know what causes you to worry.
Why do you overthink so much? Have you ever wondered why? Think about what the underlying reasons are that you struggle with overthinking so much. Face what’s causing your fears by finding the time and a safe space to look inside yourself so you can better understand. This helps you take control of what motivates you to overthink or get help if you need to.
There are many benefits to gardening. It can give you benefits such as relaxation and mindfulness while allowing you to vent your worries or excessive thoughts. Gardening gives you a sense of control.
The act of nurturing small seedlings into full-grown plants helps relax you and gives your mind something to focus on other than your worries. Gardening helps you embrace your overthinking and turn those thoughts into positive ones while digging in the soil, planting seeds and pulling weeds.
Turn up the music.
Put your headphones in and listen to your favorite music. Music has many healing and psychological benefits including improving your concentration, reducing stress, and boosting your memory.
Music can help you be more aware of yourself so you can more easily identify when you are overthinking. Actively listening to or playing music helps you be more mindful of this moment, so you are not worrying about other things.
Exercise can be the best cure for an overthinking mind. Exercise not only boosts your cardiovascular health, but it can improve your mood and other psychological benefits. When you exercise, you set goals that keep you focused, distracting you from your worries.
You will feel a deep sense of accomplishment when you reach your exercise goals. You’ll also be doing something good for your health and your brain health by running the worries out of your mind. Be sure to exercise outside, if possible since spending time in nature boosts your mood.
New approach to decision making.
Whenever you find yourself overthinking when needing to make a decision, step back. Being afraid of making the wrong decision is a major reason people worry and overthink. After all, who wants to fail, feel embarrassed, or some other negative outcome from our decisions.
Overthinking gets you stuck in inaction. Instead view the decision as an opportunity for learning. The right decision will be good. But if the decision turns out to be the wrong one then you learn from it and be prepared if a similar situation appears in the future.
Grab onto positivity.
You’ve most likely been in the situation where you are about to do something but are scare something will go wrong. Then your mind starts overthinking all the things that could go wrong. It seems impossible you can do what you set out to do since there is so much that can go wrong.
This cycle of overthinking only serves to fill you with doubt, and you end up doing nothing. Turn this thinking around. Change your tendency to overthink with positive thoughts. Think of all the things that might go well. Imagine everything going as planned. It’s okay to prepare for possible problems. But also notice when your mind begins overthinking, creating all the things that most likely won’t happen.
Overthinking can lead to analysis paralysis. This keeps you from making a decision and taking action. You overthink every part of what-ifs, what might happen if this will work scenarios, and never come to a decision. This overthinking-procrastination holds you back from taking action. Instead, go ahead and take action and improvise if need be.
Look at the bigger picture.
Overthinking keeps us looking at the small problems. These small problems seem like the end of the world to us. Instead, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Will the small problem you are overanalyzing matter later on in a month? Six months? A year? Five years? Most likely it won’t. Once you take the time to see the bigger picture, you’ll realize that overthinking this doesn’t matter in the overall scheme.
There is no perfect time.
Overthinking causes you to believe there will be a perfect time to do something. The problem with that belief is that it only leads to procrastination.
Maybe you want to start a business, but you overthink it with different scenarios: what if I don’t have enough skills? What if I don’t have enough capital? What if I don’t get any customers? Am I smart enough to start a business?
When you accept those thoughts as facts, you won’t feel confident or optimistic enough to take a calculated risk and give your dream a shot.
Accept that there is no perfect time to do anything: to start a business, get married, have kids, move across the world, write a book, or anything else. Overthinking keeps you from doing it. So just do it.
Put a time limit on it.
When you need to make a decision and you know you are an overthinker, set a time limit for making a decision. Once the time limit is over, you can stop thinking about it, make the decision, and then move ahead with action on your decision.
It’s fine to think about all the possibilities, outcomes, problems, or what you might have left out. But if you set a time limit you won’t go for hours, days, months, or years without making a decision. One way to help you reach a decision is to use a pros and cons list to compare and see what needs to happen.
You have control over you, not the future.
Realize that you have no control over the future. Overthinkers spend a lot of time worrying about how things will turn out in the future. Job security, business failures, relationship failure are just a few of the things that might happen.
But worrying about them doesn’t help you in any way. It actually stops you from enjoying the now. Accept that you can’t control what happens in the future. You can control what you do at this very moment. Focus on doing things that bring you joy and happiness right now.
Practice the art of living in the now.
Overthinking is a result of looking at the past over and over or it’s about worrying about what will happen in the future. Neither one helps you live in the now. Think about what is going on right now instead of what happened or is going to happen.
Be fully aware and present in everything you are doing. If you are eating, focus on your food and chewing, the taste, and feel. If you are taking a shower, focus on the water and how it feels running down your body and the temperature.
Mindfulness helps you keep your thoughts from racing. It forces you to focus fully on whatever is taking place at that moment, using all your senses.
When you find yourself overthinking and becoming overwhelmed, sit down somewhere quiet, take out a notepad and a pen. Think about everything that’s worrying you: work problems, business snafus, relationship problems, family dramas, financial problems, everything that’s troubling you. Write them all down on your notepad.
Now create another column across from this one. Think of what you can do about each worry. Write it down if there is something you can do. Create a schedule and a plan of when you can do it.
On the other hand, if there’s nothing you can do about it, remind yourself not to worry about it and let it go. This type of introspective thinking helps you realize that things are not worth overthinking about.
Take a walk.
If you find yourself overthinking and can’t seem to break free of it, get outside and take a walk. There’s something about taking a walk in nature that calms down your mind and relieves it from worry.
Head out to the park, down by a river, or onto the beach. Connect with nature by feeling the fresh air and the sun on your skin. Let your mind clear by focusing on the sights, the smells, the sounds of everything around you. Listen to the birds, the ocean waves, or a waterfall to distract your mind and soothe you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all overthink when we are too hard on ourselves. You crave success, for example, but you can’t forgive yourself for the last time you failed. You can’t embrace the overthinking of positivity if you are always being hard on yourself.
Accept that things will go wrong sometimes. Forgive yourself when you are responsible for the outcome and learn from the experience. This helps you be less afraid of failure and you end up more confident when you don’t make the same mistake in the future.
Useful thinking wins.
The things we tend to overthink on are normally things we don’t’ have control over. That means that worrying about them is useless thinking. What you should be doing instead is thinking usefully.
For instance, you want a promotion at work. Useful thinking is something like “what do I need to do in order to get a promotion?” Then you work on your skills or education in order to get the promotion. But if you have useless thinking you might worry about whether or not the boss will promote you. Focus your thoughts on thinking usefully to win at the overthinking useless thoughts game.
Overthinking about the future might come from your feelings of insecurity about yourself. When you lack confidence in your ability to hand situations or feel inadequate or doubt yourself you tend to overthink. Instead begin trusting in yourself that you have everything you need to manage most situations you’ll face in life. Build your confidence so you believe you can address situations and make good choices.
Do you best and forget the rest.
Finding yourself in new situations can cause you to worry that you’re not good enough to take control of the problem and make good choices. This type of overthinking hinders your ability to actually face the situation even though you are able to do so. Instead, focus on giving your best effort. Don’t worry about the outcome. Do what you can do with the best of your ability and don’t worry about what happens.
Do This Now
When overthinking becomes a frequent occurrence, it’s time to take action to prevent it from ruining your life. You need to understand and accept that many things are outside of your control. Overthinking is a method we use to try and get control. One of the most important ways to embrace overthinking is by being more mindful of our present. Focus on what you are doing at each moment to stay in control.