I struggle with overthinking.
The more confused I get about something, the more I force my analytical mind to work harder at “figuring it out.” I write pages and pages of notes. I spend hours mulling things over with my husband. I toss and turn at night racing through thoughts hoping I’ll get to some satisfying answer.
My desperate attempts to find clarity usually end up making me feel more paralyzed and overwhelmed than when I started.
I’ve been working a lot on trying to catch myself when I get sucked into these kinds of overthinking rabbit holes.
How to Catch the Overthinking:
One of the ways I do this is to develop my “observer” or the part of me that can step away from the situation and say “Hey! I know what’s going on here…”
Practicing mindfulness meditation
This is an amazing, evidence-based way to develop your “observer.” Mindfulness meditation teaches us how to:
- pay attention to present moment experiences (i.e. not trying to change or get rid of them)
- cultivate non-judgmental awareness so we learn to accept things as they are
Research shows one of the many benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation is a decline in ruminative thinking. This interrupts the part of you that loves to spin around in circles thinking about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about shutting off your thoughts. Rather, it’s about noticing the nature of your thoughts. Meditation is about cultivating awareness of your thoughts. You learn to choose which thoughts you pay attention to and which ones you don’t. Neuroscientists have shown that because of neuroplasticity, which is our brain’s ability to constantly create new neural pathways, we have the ability to rewire our brains to pay more attention to certain thoughts and less attention to others.
Give it a try
If you are new to meditation, I highly recommend Insight Timer (my favorite free meditation app). Try searching specifically for guided “vipassana” meditations (also known as “zen” or “insight” meditation). This specific style of meditation (from the Buddhist tradition) helps you develop a greater awareness of the present moment so you can make decisions more clearly.
Worried you don’t have enough time to develop a meditation practice? I have good news! A recent 2018 study on mindfulness meditation suggests 10 minutes is all people need. Just 10 minutes, and you can reap the benefits of meditation. These benefits include stress reduction, increased focus, and lower levels of anxiety (even if you are new to the practice).
Even using the time you have in the shower can be a great way to sneak in some daily mindfulness. You can use this time to take a few deep breaths, wash the worries away, set an intention for the day, or reflect on what you’re grateful for.
Think of meditation like a dust-buster for your brain. Instead of trying to think your way to a solution, you clear all the junk that’s standing in the way of the answer that’s already there.
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