Are you one of the very fortunate 27% of 25-35 year olds who do not overthink? Yes, a staggering 73% of that age bracket have been identified as over-thinkers according to research conducted by Michigan University.
There are many great quotes about overthinking, but what is it and why does it occur?
Everyone has a voice in their heads – that loudest one which shouts above all other noise – in fact, it is the one you can hear right now – reading this article to you (how spooky is that? – you can’t event shut if off if you try) – see, it’s happened again!!.
Overthinking happens when a thought or experience enters our heads, the voice starts, and all of a sudden, you have created a nuclear chain of reactions which leads to a far-fetched scenario, and doom, gloom, and in turn generates other emotions. Before long, you finish a peaceful morning walk filled with anger and hate – and guess what? It was all made up – just a story.
I remember working for a company, when every time the director and my supervisor had a discussion with each other, I started to make stories up about what they were saying about me, what they were planning and plotting, and how I would be exploited. Of course, in reality, I had no idea what they were talking about, and indeed, whether I was mentioned at all. So distrust led to concern, led to paranoia, led to angst, which in turn led to anger, at which point I stopped functioning for the day, and lost all enthusiasm. Does that sound familiar?
Just one past experience or thought can lead you to generate this fairy story of worry, pumping unhealthy chemicals from these thoughts through the body. As someone once said – ‘Stop worrying about what can go wrong, and get excited on what can go right’. ‘Overthinking is the biggest cause of unhappiness’.
These false thoughts can lead you to sometimes take unhealthy or inappropriate actions, yet all you need to try to do is to focus on what you actually know – THE TRUTH, and free yourself from your own false thoughts.
Take Christmas for example. Years ago, when I was a small boy, I found a receipt in my Mothers shopping bag. Keen to see if there was a present for me behind this purchase, I researched the Argos catalogue until I found the item. Oh – a soldering kit – which obviously wasn’t for me – I was far too irresponsible to be trusted with something like that. Obviously (in my head) this was a Christmas present for my Father. We sat on my parents’ bed, dutifully watching them open their presents, yet oddly, no soldering kit for Dad. My thoughts, expectations and now a factual story in my own mind that Dad was getting a soldering kit for Christmas naturally caused me to blurt out – “so who was the soldering kit for then?”. Mum was not happy, it was for Dad, but for his birthday – which lands on December 26th! Overthinking at its finest!!
Similarly, someone cuts you up whilst driving, and you start to make stories about what would happen if it had been different and they hit your car. STOP – they didn’t hit your car, so why make up a torturous story to make yourself miserable and angry. Screaming and shouting at them may help – but guess what? Only the people in your car can hear you!
Just try to notice that internal dialogue and stories unfolding in your head. I catch myself doing it all the time – that is the first step – noticing the nonsense.
So, actions for today – notice the voice in your head, don’t follow the stories, don’t act on stories, and what ever you do, don’t ruin Christmas or Birthday surprises for your parents!