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3 powerful hacks to stop overthinking so you can start living again

By February 25, 2018 No Comments

I have a confession to make. I’m an overthinker, and my overthinking has consumed my life.

My overthinking is characterized by non-stop thoughts, even when I’m absorbed completely in the present moment.

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It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. My mind runs rampant.

Over the last decade, I’ve been aware of being an overthinker and I’ve tried to defeat it with countless mindfulness techniques, including the following:

  • Meditation, to try and quieten my overactive mind
  • Exercise, to exhaust the body so that my mind finally slows down
  • Yoga, to create a better connection between my mind and body

None of this has worked.

Instead, I developed three powerful hacks to stop overthinking from getting in the way of my life.

The key insight has been to stop trying to “fix” my overthinking. Instead, my overthinking has shifted from being a problem to fix into one of my most powerful allies.

Trying to stop my thoughts is like trying to swim against the current. It’s simply impossible (at least for me).

I explain the three hacks in the video below.

If you can’t watch the video now, keep reading. I’ll explain the worst advice you can give an overthinker, followed by the three hacks.

The worst advice for an overthinker: just “be present”

One of the most common pieces of life advice that I regularly come across is to “be present”. Yet for an overthinker like me, this is one of the most confusing mantras to try and embrace.

You see, what does it mean to “be present”? Does it mean to quieten the “monkey mind” and use my physical senses to observe, smell and hear my surroundings?

Or does “being present” mean that I need to connect more deeply with my thoughts?

Either approach is a recipe for disaster, because it sends me down a spiral of thoughts where I question myself and my ability to connect with the present moment.

This article was inspired by two ideas shared on Ideapod’s social network. The first is by Leena, where she shares how frustrating it is to be an overthinker. I can relate to her words, particularly the way overthinking causes her to keep on questioning herself.

The second is by The Wandering Butterfly where she shares how overthinking is toxic:

“It can ruin almost anything. It can ruin one’s mood, one’s day and oftentimes, one’s everything. It’s very easy for people to say that one should stop overthinking or stop being so worried so much. Truly easier said than done.”

I realized that there are many others like me who struggle to deal with overthinking. That’s why I want to share these three hacks that I’ve developed to turn overthinking into one of my most powerful friends.

1. Create different identities for yourself and embrace them

This is going to sound a little crazy, but I guarantee you that it’s going to reduce the impact of overthinking.

You need to create different identities in your mind, and embrace them fully.

For example, residing in my mind is the “insecure Justin” who always questions what I’m doing, particularly when I’m talking to a girl I like or I’m about to go into a business meeting.

There’s also the “angry Justin” who gets pissed off at all of the injustice around, or when bullies overpower people to get what they want.

There’s a different Justin for almost everything.

Whenever I find myself overthinking, I just stop and listen to all these different versions of me. I hear them out.

What I find by doing this is that I create a different relationship with my thoughts. Instead of me actually becoming the “insecure Justin”, I feel a little more separated from this identity.

I don’t reject that side of myself as there’s often a valuable lesson to learn. I listen to these thoughts. But I know the thoughts aren’t me.

2. Learn to meditate with this simple “trick”

Check out the video below where I explain a simple “trick” to meditation I learned from Alan Watts.

The trick here is to enter the meditative state by being aware of all of the sounds around you. Listen to the sounds the way you listen to music. When you listen to music, you don’t identify the specific chords but rather you enjoy the way the music enters you through your ears and into your body.

It’s the same with all of the sounds around you.

The next step is to do exactly the same with your thoughts. Recognize that you are not the thoughts. The thoughts are like sounds that just arise spontaneously.

Treat the thoughts as you would the chords in a song that’s playing in the background. Enjoy that they’re present and then let them go.

This way you can disassociate from the thoughts and just observe their presence.

3. Enjoy the struggle of being an overthinker

When you can create these different identities inside yourself and detach from your thoughts, you’ll have made significant progress in creating a different relationship with your overthinking.

The final step is to start enjoying the struggle that comes with being an overthinker.

I realize now that my overthinking is one of my most powerful allies. I’m a very analytical person and I’ve transformed this from neuroticism into one of my strengths.

Ideapod was born from my overthinking. I needed a place to house all of the ideas I had where I could also connect with people who thought in similar ways.

Probably the biggest change in my life is that I’ve started to enjoy being an overthinker. I realize that I enjoy spending time with thoughtful people. I like that I’m always analyzing what’s going on around me.

I now have a different relationship with all of these thoughts running around in my head. I like the struggle that has come from overthinking.

Are you also an overthinker? Has overthinking created massive challenges in your life or have you managed to turn it into a powerful ally? Connect with me on our social network and let me know what you think by responding to my idea. Or you can follow me on Facebook.

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm the CEO and co-founder of Ideapod, a platform for people to connect around ideas. I'm passionate about people thinking for themselves, especially in an age of information overload.