In this article, you will learn how to stop excessive and repetitive thinking in its tracks and feel more relaxed and peaceful instead. I believe that repetitive and excessive thinking is a habit, possibly even an addiction.
In this article, I cover 12 highly effective ways to reduce or stop excessive and repetitive thinking, before it stops you! I’ll also talk about the reasons why you overthink things, the likely triggers and how to know the difference between useful thinking and excessive thinking.
So, if you want to stop excessive and repetitive thinking today, then this article will really help you.
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Could excessive and repetitive thinking be a habit or even an addiction? Could you be addicted to your thinking and reluctant to let go of it? Maybe you believe that if you don’t think about something fully, then something bad is going to happen.
So why is excessive and repetitive thinking a problem? Well, it makes the problem bigger than it really is. It can even seem scarier. Think about any past fear in your life. What made it worse? Probably thinking about it too much.
Now think about an unexpected event that happened in your life where you had to act quickly with little or no time to think. What was the fear like then? – Probably
So overthinking increases fear. It also reduces the enjoyment of positive things that you are looking forward to. For example, you have a party coming up and you start thinking about this party quite a lot. You think about how you will act, interact with others and how others will react to you. You then show up at the party, and you find it hard to relax and get into the party spirit. This happened because the overthinking beforehand has subtly raised your level of anxiety making it harder to relax and enjoy the party.
Excessive and repetitive thinking also keeps you out of the present. Instead, you have thoughts about regrets from the past or you’re worried about the future.
Thinking is good and is absolutely essential. It’s overthinking that becomes a problem. So how do you know when you have tipped the balance from thinking to overthinking or excessive thinking?
A normal or useful amount of thinking will help you solve a problem. Excessive and repetitive thinking keeps you in the problem, it keeps you stuck.
You now know what excessive or repetitive thinking is and how to know when you’re doing it. I will now cover 12 powerful and effective ways to help you stop or reduce overthinking.
1. Identify the Specific Fear behind the excessive thoughts
It’s time to get really specific with the fear behind these excessive thoughts. When you overthink things, your mind comes up with vague fears or disaster scenarios without really thinking about what could actually happen.
Ask yourself, what is the worse thing that could happen? Get really specific on what that worst case scenario is and how you would deal with it. By doing this, you will realize that the worst-case scenario is often not as scary as your mind makes it out to be.
2. Reconnect with your senses
When you notice yourself overthinking things, change your focus to your senses. Notice and become completely absorbed in what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and perhaps even tasting. As you notice things, don’t give them a name or meaning (you want to turn this part of your mind off for a while). For example, you’re outside and you notice this lovely flower. You look at it, really get into the detail of the flower. However, you don’t give it a name, think about what it is, or whether you like it or not. Instead, you simply notice it for what it is. Keep doing this with other things, just noticing them with your senses but not thinking about them.
Another way of reconnecting with your senses is to focus on parts of your body. This is also a great way to relax too! Start with your forehead, eyes, cheeks and jaw muscles and consciously notice and relax these muscles. Then continue with your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, stomach, back, lower back, waist, legs, feet, and toes. Focus on how each part of your body currently feels and then imagine the muscles relaxing. The wonderful thing about this exercise is that it gets you out of your head, (your prefrontal cortex to be precise!) and allows you to focus on your body instead.
I highly recommend doing this body awareness exercise regularly. Set reminders on your phone throughout the day to remind you to take a few minutes to do this.
3. Make decisions super q
The way to combat overthinking about decisions is to set short decision deadlines. If it’s a small decision such as whether to answer an email, set yourself 30 seconds to decide whether to do that now or later. For bigger decisions (ones that currently take days or weeks), set yourself 30 or 60 minutes to go through all the information then make that decision. Or decide, that you’re going to make that decision by the end of TODAY.
4. Go into the f
Ask yourself, is what I’m thinking about right now, going to really matter in five weeks, five months, or even five years? If the answer is no (and it very often is), then decide to stop thinking about it Just answering this question can help reduce the fear that drives the excessive thoughts.
This is also a great way to identify whether the thinking is useful or excessive. If the answer is no, then you know that it’s just a minor worry that you can let go of.
5. Realize that you cannot control everything
Overthinking is often used as a way to attempt to control every possible outcome or scenario. Or, to avoid making a mistake. However, it’s impossible to predict all possible scenarios in advance, Everyone, even the super successful, make mistakes and that’s okay. Making mistakes is how you learn.
Become more comfortable with making mistakes. Let go of the fear of doing things incorrectly. When you do that, the emotional need to overthink and control every possible scenario will reduce. It’s also very energy draining, so the more that you can let go of control, the more relaxed you will feel.
6. Have trust in a larger process
This larger process will be unique to you and could include God, a universal power, or simply the confidence that you will naturally do the right thing. It could be believing that the right thing will happen naturally.
Alternatively, focus on the what and forget the how. Get really clear and specific on what you want to happen, but be very open and flexible to how it happens. If this fits in with your belief system, then imagine that a higher power will work out the how for you.
7. Know your triggers
Habits and addictions require a trigger to set them off. This trigger can be a situation, person or a time of the day. So, if excessive thinking is a habit, then there will be situations, people and events that trigger this too.
Notice what the triggers are and write them down. Is it a particular person or situation? Once you know what the triggers are, ask yourself, “what can I think and do instead that will make me feel happier and more in control?”.
Meditation is great because it helps you to observe your overactive mind and any excessive and repetitive thoughts. It also allows you to step back and observe your thoughts. It helps you to realize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the presence behind those thoughts.
Here is a great meditation exercise to help you slow down and reduce the excessive and repetitive thoughts. Imagine you are watching a busy road from a safe place. It’s rush hour and you see the cars going past bumper to bumper. It gets later and later and the number of cars starts to
Any type of meditation will work because it focusses your mind on one thing. This could be your breathing, a mantra, a visualization (like the car example above) or someone’s voice (if listening to a guided meditation). By focussing on one thing, you can take a step back and realize that you are not your thoughts, you are the presence behind your thoughts.
Imagine that you are about to do a parachute jump. You are on a plane, looking down, ready to jump and you’ve never done this before. You will probably notice emotions in your body right now. It may be fear or perhaps adrenaline.
Now, imagine the same experience on a movie, a TV screen or even your smartphone screen. See yourself on the plane getting ready to jump and notice how that feels. It’s likely that any feelings will be less intense.
The technique of imagining watching an experience on a screen is called disassociation. It’s a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) term. You can use this in any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. In that disassociated state, you will often get new insights on how to deal with the situation. It will give you the space to think about it more logically.
10. Change Life Goals
Setting unrealistic life goals can force your mind to spend too much time trying to figure out how you’re going to achieve them. In this case, the solution is to make the goals more realistic. I often set myself goals that are very challenging and have really noticed how easy it is to think excessively about how I’m going to achieve these goals. I’ve seen how this can negatively affect my mental health, so I’m a little more realistic now.
11. Notice thoughts, but don’t judge them
Notice your thoughts and become really curious about them. However, don’t judge these thoughts. Even if a really negative thought comes up, just notice it for what it is, just a thought.
Then ask yourself, “is this thought helpful and productive, or is it getting in the way?” If the thought is getting in the way, ask yourself, “what could be a more helpful or productive thought?”.
For this to work best, become really curious about your thoughts, have a sense of fun and playfulness about it.
12. Say “At this moment, I am okay.”
When you notice yourself thinking excessively or repetitively about something, say “At this moment, I am okay“.
In the vast majority of situations, this will be true. Saying this mantra or affirmation will also help you to let go of thoughts about regretting the past or worrying about the future.
You could also say to yourself “right now, everything is good and I am safe and comfortable“
So these are 12 wonderful ways to help you overcome excessive and repetitive thinking once and for all. I encourage you to practice and apply these methods and find out which ones work best for you.
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