To say that having a session of overthinking—thinking too much—from time to time might not be that bad. Overthinking, that dreaded term. We know that it doesn’t really help, it only leads to headache, it’s hassling.
Yet we do it, perhaps for fear of being called an idiot for a wrong decision made.
I’ve said in other posts that I myself tend to overthink. I’ve yet to discover why. Maybe visiting someone who knows about this stuff (a shrink?) might help. That’d be an awesome experience to look forward to.
Being able to be free from the bondage of overthinking would be great. It’s also one of the most indispensable skills anyone can master—if you know you can’t pretty much do anything, you might as well consider not thinking about it at all … again.
I’ve read about a useful analogy somewhere: thinking too much is like observing your feet as you go down the stairs. The chances you’ll end up tripping would be high.
So yeah, the subject of overthinking should be taught to every kid like good manners.
But the truth is some people think too much—these people are said to have poorer memories, and they may also be depressed.
Should we make an effort to sharpen our brain, then? Perhaps, just to discourage these occurrences, or their interlinking. I’m not too sure why some people, myself included, seem natural overthinkers. But to make life better, we just obey the cliché: don’t overthink.
Interestingly, only little research suggests that overthinking actually leads to the wrong outcome. Whether someone is already thinking too much can’t even be determined yet.
If results would be the same, then there should be no reason for dwelling, especially when we’re supposed to be doing something else. (Sleep, anyone?) In short, we don’t want to stress ourselves over the outcome—we may just want to check first things first: whether we’re simply going along just fine.
But what can overthinking actually do to us?
First, thinking too much could be detrimental to human performance. I love thinking about, well, stuff. There’s just something about “thinking” that’s satisfying. Perhaps because I simply want to upgrade my brain, or debunk myths, or discover anything that could make my life easier.
But as you may know, thinking without action is zero. It’s quite sad this only really hit me, like, a couple of years ago. I ruminated on all the years I’ve worked for different companies, and asked, how much real thinking did I actually do back then? And now that I have the opportunity to think about what would’ve been bizarre back then, say, putting this blog up, how much thinking do I do? Does it help?
I learn just how to let it go, to not think too much. Who cares if I make mistakes, or even fail? Perhaps you? Not as much as I do, though, I suppose. I’ll keep learning—keeping in mind to strike a balance between thinking and taking action.
Thinking too much strains the brain. Some even say overthinking can cause DNA damages in the brain. If you have a penchant for brain games, dialing the playing down might be a good idea. Interesting to know that brain-training games are a multi-million dollar industry, all while we’re not so sure whether they’re actually safe.
Overthinking can also make us fat. A study divulged that the more intellectual an activity we’re engaged in, the larger the fluctuations of glucose in our brain are, glucose being the brain’s main fuel.
This is the reason we sometimes, if not always, get hungry more quickly when we’re just working in front of the computer than when we’re doing some field work. The brain would demand replacement glucose; we grab something to eat. Anyway, the seat is always comfy. We work hard, a bite shouldn’t hurt.
I remember wondering why I always got hungry easily when I just sat doing some paperwork for half a day, when given the same half day outside the office, drinking water would usually suffice. Luckily my metabolism’s pretty fast I tend to get skinny rather than fat.
On the flip side, a study shows an upside to overthinking. It supports the abovementioned studies, in that thinking too much is linked to neurotic unhappiness, but it’s also associated with creativity. This demonstrates that if you’re an overthinker, you tend to put your wild imagination to use … only, on every chance you get.
Overthinkers then seem blessed if they’ve been given a spot in the creative department. More so if they’ve found out at the soonest that they’re indeed among the creative breed. You might not necessarily be a fine arts student—perhaps you’re going to become an astronaut—but there’ll always be the group that creates, innovates or discovers within a company.
Overthinking is a sign of perfectionism. But like most things in life, a right dose of perfectionism should be fine; who ever said that all magnitudes are self-destructive? It’s fine as long as you keep the momentum going—as long as you watch out for analysis paralysis.
Which is why I try to limit my choices now whenever it’s time to make a decision. Limiting them to what I perceive as the best, within a reasonable (read: shorter) length of time. How would I know they’re the best? I wouldn’t. And sometimes I still get reluctant in accepting that I wouldn’t, especially if I’m on to something perceived-by-me amazing.
In that case, no one would ever know whether they’re my best options. I wager even if I had a mentor who’d watch over me 24/7, he or she still wouldn’t know. What I do know, however, is that if they’re not the best, I’ll find out one of these days, and move on to other alternatives.
We don’t have full control over anything. I used to believe we do over our mind, but I’ve become convinced we really don’t. Our mind is the only thing we can control the most, but completely control? I don’t think so.
I doubt my mind, I doubt my brain. It thinks whatever it wants, even though I don’t want to think it. I can only develop myself in dealing with it, first of all by being self-aware.
You’ve got other things to actually do and experience—this is what life is all about. You can only think too much whether it’s a go or no-go, for a nicely carved out thirty minutes of your life, and just do it.
You only push your peace of mind away if you allow the vexing thoughts all the time. So come on, take a deep breath—even meditate on it if you want—and stop thinking too much. Enjoy the now. Enjoy making your plans in life happen.
Fears will ever be present. However, running away from your fears may only stall you. If you think about it, how you deal with your fears affects your self-discipline. Giving in to fears is but another form of excuse. If your fears slow you down, or worse stop you, then you only have to face them—there are no shortcuts to this.
I’ve found that facing my fears turned out to be the best decisions I’ve made. Decisions that not only lead to better outcomes, but also to knowing myself more and more along the way, which has been astoundingly rewarding.
So forget about fears. I remember a post by Michael Hyatt, in which he says just do the next best thing. Don’t worry about the outcome. Of course it doesn’t make sense to just “forget” about the big goals, but stamp fear, stamp the thoughts that bog you down—by merely doing the next best thing.
Overthinking evolves from a domino effect. You may have done some overthinking on what you should wear on a Monday, or whether you just spurted out an offensive remark, or the possibilities if you walk your way home late at night. Before you know it, you’re already overthinking the littlest of your concerns. What more when faced with bigger ones?
If you keep experiencing such domino effect, then maybe it’s about time you stopped one of the dominoes from falling. Be more aware of yourself and in the moment to watch out whether you’re already overthinking. It would all boil down to building habits—mental habits even. Transform that previous exhausting domino effect into uplifting mental habits.
Think about it this way: overthinking evokes negative energy—change that negative energy into one that would motivate you instead. You only have limited energy to do so much within a day—use it wisely.
I remind myself from time to time that all my life I’ve been allowing myself to think too much, but it’s okay if I still can’t stop. I used to think it was normal to deal with things that way. But then I’ve learned that I can turn that around. I can change my thoughts, I can change my beliefs, I can change my life. What you believed to be true all your life is not always true.
Sometimes I’d miss thinking too much. I still haven’t gotten used to the routine—of not overthinking. Sometimes it gets boring; routines are meant to be boring.
Last week, I thought too much about my future. Hah. The big word.
I was thinking whether I should move to another place for a better working environment. That if I did that, maybe I wouldn’t see my nephew that often anymore. What would I be doing in the next five years?
I thought too much I felt awful. So awful that the awfulness started from nothing but just me “thinking.” Because of that, I took a two-day break just to continue thinking about it. (I’ve already started anyway so what the hell, right?)
But I’m glad I did. I’m glad I was blessed (or cursed) with this kind of brain that reminds me to overthink once in a while. After each episode, I’d feel great—ironically—as if I were living my first day as an adult again, ready to take on the world.
Somehow it gives me a new perspective every time, especially in realizing I’ve let time pass just toying with things that aren’t within my reach yet, or worse those that will possibly never be within my grasp.
I have no idea. But after I think crazy, the horizon gets a bit clearer. I move a step closer to the collage of things I want in my life—I’m not sure whether I truly want them at this point, but whatever they are, they conjure a certain kind of motivation I need to move forward.
Maybe I’ll think about it again before I retire tonight.
(Top Image: Juhan Sonin)