Excessive rumination or over thinking has been proven to lead to depression. Being able to notice it when it happens is much easier said than done, let alone being able to stop it in its tracks. Simply trying not to think about an anxious thought can be enough to induce anxiety in itself. However, there are some simple strategies that have proven to be effective in disrupting negative patterns of thinking, not only preventing anxiety but allowing oneself to live a more relaxed and stress free life. Six ways to stop over thinking and focus on more productive thoughts include the following:
- Distract yourself – Mindfulness meditation is essentially a form of distracting the mind from its regular rumination. By focusing on a sound or an image such as a flame, you can effectively prevent your mind from wandering and slipping back into its negative thinking patterns.
- Remember that thoughts aren’t real – Overthinking about the future leads to rampant speculation; with enough repetition, it is possible to convince oneself of practically anything, leading to more anxiety and even self-sabotage. Focusing on sticking to the facts and not going down the slippery slope of speculation can not only keep you grounded and reduce anxiety but allow you to make more sound decisions as well.
- Go back to the future – There is a fine line between criticizing the way you handled something and obsessing over it. Overthinking about better ways to do something in the future most often leads to anxiety and an increased likelihood of avoiding that situation altogether.
- Do something – It doesn’t have to be fun or extravagant; virtually anything that engages your mind can be an effective means of disrupting negative thinking, whether it is playing a sport, driving a car or even watching TV. Inhaling and exhaling deeply can be an effective means of clearing one’s mind, reducing anxiety and interrupting any obsessive thoughts.
- Remember that you have options – It’s easy to get anxious about a commitment that you no longer want to go to. Studies have shown that anxiety and depression are caused by perceptions of a lack of control; remembering that you always have a choice can go a long way in helping you avoid stress and overthinking.
- Pick a gameplan – The only means of avoiding overthinking more effective than distraction is by avoiding overthinking altogether. Being able to accept that you ultimately have no idea how a situation will unfold and simply sticking with a strategy to handle it in the future can be the closest you will get to having closure on whatever thoughts you are obsessing over.
Overthinking is like running on a psychological treadmill when we think we are running through a maze. Being able to take a step back and assess the situation objectively can allow you to catch yourself in the act and start finding a productive solution to the issue.