Trying not to overthink is like trying not to think about a green colored chicken. Now, since I have mentioned a green colored chicken, you just can’t stop thinking about it, right?
The human mind seems to be unable to process a negative, which means it can’t not think of something you tell it to forget or ignore.
The implication of this is that overthinking cannot be solved by self-discipline or trying harder.
This is a hard one for the human intellect to wrap itself around, because the intellect works in one direction only: more doing and more thinking.
Whatever problem you throw at your intellect, it will always thinks about it more.
But if our aim is to reduce the amount of thinking we have going on, what options do we have?
It seems to me there are two general approaches, neither of which require self discipline or trying:
1. You can redirect your mind to something else. When you notice yourself overthinking, distract yourself with something that takes your mind off the overthinking. Note that while this approach is easy to implement, it can easily lead to a coping mechanism that you end up being reliant on (i.e. a bad habit). 2. Find the “mental latch” you can pull that allows you to let go of your thinking. This can take several forms, and you can choose whichever feels right for you:
- Acceptance: Accept that you are overthinking. Accept that you don’t know what’s going to happen or what to do. Accept that you feel insecure and unsatisfied. If you can’t accept something, accept that you can’t accept it. The more you accept your situation, the more easily your excess thinking about it falls away.
- See it all for what it is: If we feel anxious or insecure, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something on the outside caused it. All it means is that we have anxious or insecure thinking. The more you see that your entire experience of life made up of nothing but thought, the less sense it will make for you to take it so damn seriously.
- Be in the now: Overthinking requires the concepts of past and future to happen. If you simply focus on the present moment, overthinking doesn’t have the ammunition it needs to live. You can do this either as a form of mindfulness (just focus on whatever it is you are doing and feeling right now) or a more structured meditation.
YOU MAY ALSO TRY THIS: THE LAW OF REVERSE EFFORT (Which is part of acceptance)
Let’s say you are working on a project. A second later a thought pops up. “Alert – Call your girlfriend”.
Now, the project you are working on is important, so you consciously stop yourself from calling your girlfriend. The more you stop yourself, the harder it becomes. Guess what ? Doing this sends your brain in a frenzied stupor.
And the end result will be you end up talking on the phone with your girlfriend for hours and you are unable to allocate your time to the projects at hand and all hell breaks loose.
The reason(s) for this is that your brain switches on the ‘Law of Reverse Effort’.
- Over a century ago, Emile Coue wrote : ‘When will ( conscious mind ) & imagination are in conflict, imagination ( subconscious mind ) always wins
- Emile – described it in mathematical terms to make a point.
- “The power of imagination ( subconscious mind ) = (Power of Will)x(Power of Will)
- If you try 200% times as harder to stop yourself from calling your girlfriend, you will be prompted 400% times more to do it!
- Therefore – the more effort you put in your will ( Not to call your girlfriend ) , the more the power of your imagination ( I will find something interesting to talk about ) increases & at an escalating rate.
Therefore, “I will find something interesting” wins while you scratch your head thinking why this happens every time. Just remember this, the more consciously you will something the more you increase the opposing power.
Imagine that green colored chicken again. Imagine it running towards you. Now stop thinking about that green colored chicken. Try deleting that image from your imagination. Focus hard to stop thinking about it.You just can’t get rid of that Image can you?Your mind doesn’t know how to ‘not’ think about something. Your mind doesn’t have a ‘delete’ button.
The trick is to let it happen.
Your conscious mind needs to allow your subconscious mind to do it.
The moment you let it happen, without conscious retaliation will allow your subconscious mind to lose it’s power over you and you won’t feel like calling your girlfriend. (Until another reminder pops up.)
The less you identify with your personal troubled thinking, the less sense it will make for you to hold on to it. As you let your thoughts just be, your mind naturally begins to relax. No doing required, just a surrendering to what is.