Mind is an extraordinary gift that we have been given. The mind can help you to make your dreams come true if used purposefully or can imprison you leaving you feeling stuck, negative and limited. So what makes such a difference between the ability to tap into our mind’s potential and setting a slow self-destroying mechanism?
As mentioned earlier mind is an incredible tool, the main issue is the level of awareness that we have towards what is going on within us. For example, have you ever thought about something over and over again and just couldn’t stop yourself from obsessing over it? We all did, the question is, have you done anything about it? Let’s explore what is happening within us and how we can create a perfect balance within ourselves.
The main issue with the mind that the majority of us will be facing is overthinking. Perhaps you have heard an expression of what you think you become. Many of us however will have a negative overthinking tendency, which will negatively impact our reality and life experience, why?
There are a variety of triggers that can induce overthinking. These vary for different people but can include: stressors (e.g., getting fired); a traumatic event (e.g., abuse); perfectionism; low self-esteem; facing fear; being reminded of a past mistake or failure, etc. The Regrets and resentments might fall into this category – have you found yourself wishing you had taken a different path in life or made a different choice at a certain crossroads? On a different scale, perhaps you keep thinking about the embarrassing thing you said to a partner or friend last week. Regardless of what it is, you may be overthinking the past in ways that is not helping you in the present or future.
Overthinking and loss of energy
Overthinking is also considered energy-consuming,. We can always find ourselves overthinking or putting too much energy into scenarios/thoughts/worries that we shouldn’t. It can be very depleting and dragging us down as it is closely related to our feelings. For example, we might not be doing much of physical activity but thinking all the time and find ourselves feeling exhausted. In comparison for example when the mind is concentrated, clear and focused we might be doing a lot of physical activity too and still have lots of energy left. For that reason, meditation is one of the key practices, to bring your mind into a peaceful calm state to increase your energy source and well-being.
Thoughts and feelings
Another important aspect is that overthinking directly affects our state of being. Research has found a strong association between overthinking and mood, in particular, future-focused worry has been associated with anxiety, while past- and present-focused repetitive thinking has been associated with depression. For example, when a person is in a depressed mood and overthinking, they are more likely to remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.
The preoccupation with problems also makes it difficult to move beyond to allow for a focus on problem-solving. This can become a cycle where the more a person overthinks, the worse they feel, which then contributes to more overthinking. That’s why being able to reflect on live events rather than overthink them is more effective as the reflective component refers to a purposeful turning inward to engage in cognitive problem-solving to alleviate one’s depressive symptoms for example.
Thoughts and Fight and Flight state
One more very significant aspect to pay attention to when dealing with overthinking is Fight and Flight state. In addition to physiological reactions, there is also a psychological component to fight or flight response. Automatic reactions include a quickening of thought and an attentional focus on salient targets such as the source of the threat and potential avenues for escape. Your brain switches on the fight or flight response whenever it thinks you are in danger. It does this by thinking that it if can help you run from the danger, or fight against it, it will help you to survive. Therefore thinking in fight and flight is most likely to have a scary, negative, danger-fear-based pattern.
It is very interesting to observe when working with clients seeing their thought patterns being absolutely different from when they are in a fight and flight state and when they are in a calm state. Even if they would be addressing the same situation from a different state of being, the perception of the situation is very different. Recognising when you are in a fight and flight state and knowing that it might affect your thinking and perception is a great step in preventing yourself from falling into a negative overthinking approach.
Taking responsibility for your thoughts
Overthinking everything can also cause physical damage to our brain functioning system. Overthinking leads to create an imbalance in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, etc. that can harm the brain’s memory and feeling systems. So as we can see, the lack of awareness of what is going on within us in terms of overthinking can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being.
It is understandable that we just allow thoughts to run wild, however, if we want to have peace of mind we have to start learning to take responsibility for what is going on inside our heads. At first, it might be not pleasant to realise that we did allow our minds to be polluted with unnecessary thoughts, worries, etc. Still, with time it can become very empowering to realise that you are the one who can sort your mind out and bring it to a clear and peaceful state of being.
How to bring peace of mind
A good place to begin is to pay attention to your tendency to overthink. Next, you can incorporate various approaches to help you to prevent this pattern such as: grounding exercises; adjusting your expectations; practicing mindfulness; focusing on more positive memories; trying to deliberately recall times when things worked out even with challenges; trying to separate different problems or break down larger problems into smaller parts tackling one issue at a time; practising gratitude; practising body awareness (body awareness can help us shift our attention to the present moment, which can help reduce overthinking), reducing the focus on the self (psychology research shows that paying too much attention to the self can play a powerful role in mental illnesses. Meditation and mindfulness can help reduce this self-focus and instead transform it into self-awareness); practicing self-compassion (practising self-compassion can alleviate overthinking); working with professionals. There are so many things you can do about it!
At the end of the day, it is your mind, and you can have it as you want it. If it requires an effort then do it, invest your time into yourself and you will be amazingly surprised what can come out of it!