Your mind is powerful. It can work to your advantage.
But it can also work against you.
Check out the video above where Prince EA tells you a story. Or keep reading for our summary.
Harry Houdini, magician extraordinaire, was famous for his jailbreak escapades. In his entire career, he managed to escape every jail cell he was ever locked in – all except one.
His M.O. was always the same. He would keep a thin, flexible wire inside his belt. He would then use the wire to unlock himself out of prison.
However, this one time, he failed miserably. He pulled the wire as usual and began working the lock. But it did not open. He tried every trick in his book. For two hours, he worked into exhaustion and failed. He tried and failed again. And again. Finally, covered in sweat, he gave up in frustration.
The cell has never been locked.
Houdini worked tirelessly trying to achieve what would have been effortless had he simply pushed the door open.
The door was never locked. But in his mind it was.
The moral of the story?
We all tend to live in this mental prison of overthinking. And we are locked inside because we choose to be, not because we can’t get out.
Overthinking and the “Worry Spiral”
Why do we have such a natural tendency to worry? Research published in the Biological Psychology journal explains the reason behind overthinking and how it comes from normal to problematic.
Psychologist Christian Jarrett at BPS Research Digest suggests that worrying is actually conducive to our productivity.
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“For most people, worrying has a purpose – whether it be to solve perceived problems of daily living, as an attempt to repair negative mood, or as a means to try and ensure that ‘bad’ things do not happen or to avoid future catastrophes.”
It’s certainly not enjoyable, but it’s not all that bad. We usually worry until we no longer have to. For most people, it’s easy to find solutions for their worries.
However, if you worry too much that it becomes pathological, that’s where the problem arises.
It becomes problematic when you have “a kind of perfectionist approach.” You’re overthinking to the point that it compels you to “work through every eventuality and solving every problem,” especially when those problems aren’t real to begin with.
This analysis paralysis then hinders your problem-solving. Instead of being open to opportunities, believing in your capabilities, and going after what you want – you dwell on the problems instead.
How to Overcome Overthinking
It’s never easy to get out of this “worry spiral.” But there are some things you can to stop your overthinking before it paralyzes you.
1. Be aware when it’s happening.
You’ve been overthinking so much that it has become a habit. It’s part of your thinking ritual and you never even notice when you’re doing it. Start becoming aware of the signs.
When you notice yourself replaying scenarios in your head, or worrying relentlessly about things that aren’t in your control, acknowledge the fact that these thoughts aren’t productive and try to let them go.
Mindfulness is the best gift you can give yourself now.
Recognize that thinking and worrying is only helpful when it leads to positive actions and outcome. Otherwise, let it go and don’t let it consume you.
2. Look for solutions instead.
Your brain is already wired to overthink, but instead of dwelling on things you can’t control, find the things you have control instead. Your attitude and your effort towards the problem are things you have complete control over.
Finding solutions to your worries can occupy your mind from any negative thoughts. Better yet, it can solve your problems so you don’t have to overthink anymore. Train your brain to react differently. Take action.
3. Reflect on your thoughts.
What is the root of your overthinking? Why do you feel this way about your problems or challenges? And are you actually just being exaggeratedly negative? Sometimes, we overthink things before they even happen. Or perhaps you are insecure about a particular thing. Try to reflect and find the reason behind it.
It’s easy to get carried away with your thoughts. So much so that it becomes “true” inside your mind. It’s really your emotions that interfere with your ability to assess situations objectively.
Don’t be locked in this mental prison of overthinking. Change your mindset. Take a step back and you’ll realize you’re not trapped inside, after all.