We all do it. Something bad has happened, either a short time ago, a few years ago, or even in our childhood, and we continue to think about it. We worry about a person or a situation in our present or future, and cannot stop obsessing about it.
If it happens every once in a while, you are fully normal; if, however, it happens constantly, then you are engaged in a thought pattern known as rumination. The pattern has to be broken, if you are going to be happy and productive, and breaking it entails developing new habits of thinking. It’s a process that takes practice and time.
You have certainly heard about the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program. Well, here is your 8-step program for curing over-thinking!
1. Identify that You Have the Problem
Here are some of the symptoms:
a. You can’t shut your brain down at night in order to sleep.
You have to relive, over and over again, a situation from the day, or last week, or last year. Or, you are worrying about some situation which might become a problem in the future or about a loved one who may or may not actually be having serious troubles. Sometimes, you invent future crises for this loved one!
b. You obsess over things during the day.
You have to keep talking about them with others or your mind keeps going over and over the issues you have had or potential issues that may come in the future. Ask others around you (those who will really be honest with you) if you do this. If they tell you “yes,” you have a problem!
2. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over This
Our brain stores all of our memories. And our thoughts are connected to those memories. You are kind of “wired” this way, so when a negative incident occurs, you will tend to dredge up old memories of similar situations and add those to your already overly-busy brain.
When you hear yourself making such statements as “I just never get anything right,” you are beating yourself up over your past, and you need to break this pattern.
3. Stop and Breathe
As soon as your negative patterns emerge in your head, STOP. Start taking deep breaths and count those breaths as you take them. Keep breathing and counting until your brain calms down. Taking deep breaths actually increases the carbon dioxide levels in your blood stream and that calms your whole boy down including the brain!
4. Stop Talking So Much
Talking about your issues, the thing that happened yesterday or ½ hour ago only causes you to obsess and over-analyze even more.
One of the ways to fix this, whether you are over-talking during the day or whether you can’t sleep at night, is to write stuff down. This has the psychological effect of “getting it out” and letting your brain “move on.”
Before I got over my ruminating, one really helpful thing was to write letters to people with whom I had had negative encounters, arguments, etc. I never mailed them, of course, but it was really cathartic, and I could then stop thinking about the incident.
5. Do Some Physical and Mental Exercise
Clean your garage or a closet; go for a bike ride; read a really good book or watch an engaging TV show; turn on music and sing along. Anything that you can do to put your thought on something else begins to break those patterns. But you have to do it the minute the old thought pattern “rears its ugly head.”
6. Live in the Present Moment
You can’t change the past, even what happened 10 minutes ago, and you cannot control what may happen 2 hours from now. You can only control your thoughts and your behaviors in this moment.
So, what right this moment can you find to praise?
“Gratitude” is a really important behavior to practice. Put it on a sign and paste it around your home and office – you need to remind yourself, when the bad thoughts come, to put your thought on the good you do have and to be grateful for it. And if you think you have nothing to be grateful for, tell that to a starving child in war-torn Somalia.
7. Learn to Go with the Flow
Life will happen, and your attempt to control everything around you and to obsess about it is an exercise of futility.
You have to learn to say, “O.K. This is the situation. I can accept it and move forward. If it requires some action on my part, fine. I’ll look at my options and pick a path.” But spending time being angry, resentful, and going over and over again what caused the situation, will not change it or resolve it.
8. You are What You Think
The more your thought energy is placed on negative things, the more negative your life will become. Even medical doctors “get” this now. When a bad memory or worry about the future presents itself, STOP, breathe, get busy, and put your thought on something good in your life!
About the author
Julie Ellis – popular blogger and Chief Editor at premieressay.com. Her wide experience in the field of education, self-improvement and psychology gives her the opportunity to help all people that are willing to make the world better. For more, follow Julie @premieressay.