Many of us have moments we suffer from overthinking. It’s hard to concentrate when we have distracting thoughts poking away at the back. Overthinking can cause depression and even worsen the symptoms of it. In this post, we’ll explore the effects of overthinking and 5 ways to combat our negative thoughts.
- The Effects of Overthinking
- 5 Activities to Try When Overthinking
- Find What Works for You
The Effects of Overthinking
Not everyone is decisive at crucial moments of decision-making. The time it takes someone to think through for a conclusive decision varies depending on the situation and personality. However, overthinking can have the following negative impact on our mental wellbeing:
Starts or Worsens Depression
People prone to overthinking tend to worry a lot as they deal with life. Thoughts about negative scenarios will eventually bring our mood down too. An increase in stressful thoughts decreases the production of serotonin (chemicals produced to maintain mental stability) in our brains, contributing to depressive states. A lack of serotonin is also known to cause various symptoms such as constant fatigue, insomnia, and irritation.
Prevents Us From Being Proactive
When we act before we think, we are faster in taking action. When we think before we act, it prevents us from being proactive. It may not make a big difference in your personal life, but overthinking in business settings can lead to lost opportunities and networks.
Increases Difficulty in Tackling New Challenges
New challenges feel difficult when we overthink them. The more time we spend thinking, the more worrisome aspects of the challenge seem apparent. Of course, thinking through could keep us safe from possible risks, but it also prohibits us from taking the risks necessary to create change.
For example, the mental exhaustion from over-focusing on the problems will hold us back from taking courageous actions or risks necessary to create change. Avoidance of actions and risks may keep us in a perpetually hostile environment that potentially breaks us. There’s always a risk for depression and PTSD for people who feel like they have no escape.
5 Activities to Try When Overthinking
People who overthink tend to be perfectionists that want to seek answers until they can convince their own logic. The following activities are helpful when thinking becomes painful.
1. Try a Physically Active Hobby
Find a hobby that you enjoy. Indulgence in hobbies can change our focus and avoid perpetual negativity.
Any hobby is sufficient, but something physically active is ideal. This is because we want to balance out the activities in our left brain (logic, thinking, and mathematics) by activating the right brain (feelings, intuition, and creativity). Exercise helps activate our right brain as we focus on physical activity, and this helps us stay away from looping thoughts.
2. Write Out Your Thoughts
We overthink because we haven’t found a conclusion. Thus, writing out all of your thoughts on a piece of paper may be helpful in viewing ideas objectively. Verbalization of internal thoughts helps organize thoughts, calms the mind, and inspires solutions.
This is a great method for people who want to improve their mental health by finding solutions.
Sleep is one way to help our brain recover from mental fatigue. If thinking through a matter isn’t helping, we can shut our thoughts down for a while by falling asleep.
For some, the mind can still continue to run wild even while trying to rest. In that case, we recommend the following activities:
- Soak in a hot tub
- Keep away from electronics (smartphones and tablets) before bed
- Surround yourself with pleasing scents using aroma oils or candles
- Read a familiar book that comforts you
- Don’t eat 2 hours before bed
4. Talk to Someone
Sometimes, we can move forward by talking to close friends and gaining new perspectives. It helps to proactively confide our feelings to someone close. Not just because of the solutions, we might gain, but the “comfort” we feel from it is as significant. The act to share our thoughts prevents isolation and makes us feel connected with society again.
5. Set a Routine Time Dedicated to Thinking
One of the reasons we keep overthinking is because we don’t know when to stop. Sometimes, stopping all thoughts can lead to better solutions.
Still, for people who overthink, letting go of their thoughts can sound like a challenge. If so, try to set dedicated routine times for thinking. It could be 30 mins before bed or the first 15 mins when you wake up. Set times dedicated to thinking each day will help prevent our minds from overrunning forever.
Find What Works for You
There’s nothing wrong with working through a thought. However, if you recognize that you’re overthinking, it’s healthy to take breaks. In this post, we introduced 5 specific activities that could combat depression and overthinking, but frankly, it can be any activity that calms your mind. The scale and depths of our issues are all different. We hope you find what works for you in facing your inner thoughts.
Looking to improve your mental health? Need someone to talk to? Try the SELF MIND app for a FREE trial!
If you’re looking for more tips on how to care for your mental health, check out some of our past blog posts!
Image：UncplashMatsumoto, M. (2005). How Overthinking Contributes to Continual Depression. Japan Society of Personality Psychology. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/amjspp/14/0/14_89/_pdf/-char/ja