Final Thoughts On How To Train Your Brain To Stop Overthinking
Thinking too much is a familiar phrase people use to describe their anxiety. If youre thinking too much, you probably deal with fear and worry. Its important to find ways to stop your thoughts from running away with you. Try some of these suggestions to stop overthinking. Begin with one or two suggestions, then work your way through another one until youve tried all of them. Find out which ideas help you the most to avoid overthinking and find freedom from an overactive mind.
Slow Your Breath Slow Your Mind
With your breath, you have a ready-made tool to relax your body and slow down the thoughts that keep you awake. Try this: Place a hand on your heart and feel its rhythm. Breathe in deep for 4 seconds, then take a long, slow breath out. Repeat this pattern until you can feel your heartbeat slow down. Your thoughts should soon ease up as well.
Simply Put You Stop Trying To Answer The Worry Question
You leave it unresolved.
Allow the uncertainty to be there. Dont research the question online. Dont ask your friends and family whether everything will be okay.
Eventually, you will get used to uncertainty and your anxiety will dissipate naturally. Over time, you will get used to uncertainty in general and worry less overall. This answer might sound a bit confusing and maybe even crazy right now, but stay tuned for my next blog post, when I will explain the solution in more detail.
Want to learn more about how to stop overanalyzing, worry, and anxiety? Check out my self-help video series, How to Stop Overanalyzing, with over 3 hours of content covering the skills I teach to almost all of my clients in the first 5 therapy sessions.
About Dr. Stein
Dr. Michael Stein is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and OCD. He is the founder and owner of Anxiety Solutions, a group private practice that serves clients with anxiety and OCD both online and at its offices in Denver, CO Reno, NV and Boise, ID. He is the author of the self-help video series, . He is passionate about both helping his own clients overcome anxiety and OCD and expanding access to quality care for these problems.
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Massage: More Than Just Relaxing
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that full-body massage relieved pain and increased mobility in patients with arthritis in their knees. Therapeutic touch has also been shown to decrease pain and increase the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients. Not just those getting a massage see benefits, either: Giving a massage also offers positive improvements to personal well-being.
The benefits of physical touch
The Problem With Ruminating
The problem with ruminating is that most often you are focused on things going wrong instead of how to generate the solutions to resolve the situation and make things go right. If your boss got angry with you, you may be ruminating about what you did and worrying that if you do it again there might be serious consequences like losing your job. You might replay the scene with your boss over and over in your head, or worry excessively about what would happen if the worst-case scenario did come to pass. This kind of thinking activates your fight-or-flight response which actually shuts down your creative problem-solving thought process. In order to find the resolution that will allow you to let go of the problem, you need to disengage from the ruminative thought pattern.
Stopping thoughts, however, isnt something we are very good at.
Psychologists refer to this as “the white bear problem,” because deliberate attempts to suppress thoughts can often make them more likely to resurface.1 If I say to think of a white bear, and then tell you to stop thinking about it, chances are the white bear image will stay in your mind. The reason it does is that there is no “Off” button in the brain. To stop any single thought, you need to turn on or activate a different stream of thinking.
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Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day is one of the pillars of sleep hygiene those guidelines sleep docs recommend for ensuring a good nights sleep. It helps the mind, too. If you try to go to bed early, when your brains not ready to sleep, it will focus on other things, Breus says, which keeps the brain excited and awake.
How To Get Better At This
A complete rundown of Living in the present skills would be too big for one article, but we have a very clear starting point: the path back to the present moment lies in paying attention to physical, concrete details. Your body, your clothes, the air, the background sounds, the surface youre standing on.
Physical things only exist in the present. Keep your attention on something physical and that means youre keeping it on something that is actually happening.
Basically, the mind will run its mouth off whenever it gets a chance, which is virtually all the time, except when:
a) Youre doing something that demands you attend to something physical. This is why people like death sports, because you are forced back into the present But its also why we go see movies youre parked facing a fifty-foot screen, everything else is blacked out, and a well-engineered story is blasted at you at pant-shaking volumes.
b) You make a habit of returning your mind to something physical whenever you notice its wandered off. The only place it can really wander to is your thoughts, because everything else is part of the present moment.
Your thinking mind is an absolute wizard at drawing your attention away from the present. It can run circles around you. But it cant stop you from practicing putting your attention where you want it, which is on somewhere in the real world.
If youre interested in living more in the present
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How To Stop Your Brain From Thinking
So how do you find the off switch?
In my own experience I needed to find mine because I needed to switch off the doubting thoughts I was having about setting up a blog and writing a book these thoughts were holding me back and making me feel incapable of taking any action. They needed go ship out and clear off!
In Andy Shaws Bug Free Mind books I learned how to regain control of my thinking again. It all started with thinking about something nice from my life, and holding onto that thought for 15 seconds. Sounds really easy until you try it. So try it.
I chose a thought about my cat trying to eat my dogs dinner out of her bowl. My dog picked her bowel up and trotted off to the other side of the room. Good plan you might think, but unfortunately she tipped the bowel practically upside down and left a trail of food across the floor. The cat did well out of this. Well, I found it funny..
So this was my thought, I chose it because I felt happy when I thought of it. And thats what you want here something positive.
It took me over 10 attempts to hold onto this thought, without being interrupted by all the other crap that kept rushing in like you havent go time for this or what shall I cook for dinner tonight?
This is a very peaceful and tranquil place to be. It takes practice to get there. Any new skill takes practice to acquire. Is your peace of mind worth giving this a go, and keeping at it until you can switch the row off?
How To Stop Anxiety And Unwanted Thoughts
- Persistent, unwanted thoughts are common in all forms of anxiety
- With obsessive-compulsive disorder, unwanted thoughts are one of the primary symptoms
- Examples of the types of unwanted thoughts can vary considerably
- Its possible to use small, easy to implement strategies to reduce or stop unwanted thoughts
- When those smaller strategies do not work, a more comprehensive anxiety reduction strategy will be necessary
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Ongoing Brain Activity Changes What We Hear
Let us look at another example in which our perception varies from one time to the other. Imagine your mom is calling you from downstairs. But while you may have heard her call and reacted the day before, you may not hear her this time round. When investigating hearing, researchers found that ongoing brain activity contributes to this variability and is one of the reasons why you may not hear your moms voice.
- Figure 4
- Activity in response to the faint sounds in the auditory cortex, specialized for hearing .
To summarize, brain cells are continuously active, even when they are not busy with specific signals, thoughts, or actions. This ongoing brain activity is shaped by our past experiences and, in turn, influences the way we act and perceive the world around us at every moment.
Hesselmann, G., Kell, C. A., Eger, E., and Kleinschmidt, A. 2008. Spontaneous local variations in ongoing neural activity bias perceptual decisions. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105:1098410989. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0712043105
Turn Down Your Stress Levels
An overactive mind at night and sleep do not go well together, and its because of stress. Stress is also why you want to sleep but your brain won’t stop talking to itself. Thats because when the mind is under pressure, it releases a hormone called cortisol, which is also what the body uses to wake you up in the morning.
Cortisol causes your heart to beat fast. It disturbs your bodys natural programming and diverts its resources into fueling your muscles and staying alert. So if you have racing thoughts at night, then you need to get your stress levels under control.
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The Loudest Thing In The World
We typically spend way more time thinking than we need to like fifty to a hundred times more and it creates a default background of stress and preoccupation. It keeps us from enjoying ordinary things, like putting on clothes or crossing parking lots.
These little things constitute the vast majority of a persons life, and they can actually be fun and poignant when the mind isnt constantly talking.
Imagine life getting ninety-some times more enjoyable. Thats what were leaving on the table when we leave our attention hanging on an internal dialogue by default. Its not the world thats stressful. The outside world is a lot more peaceful than it seems, and this becomes clear whenever you take a break from thinking.
The thinking mind is like a perpetually-running chainsaw that thinks everything is a tree. It will use any excuse to rev up and start shredding something. Its purpose is to solve problems, so it wants everything to be a problem.
Most moments in your life, theres no real need to do anything but observe. No analysis or figuring is necessary, but the mind really wants to do some anyway.
The thinking mind is a tool, and we can learn to put it down when its not needed, which is most of the time. We have an enormous amount to gain by simply thinking less, and that means learning how to put this overused tool down.
How Much Worrying Is Too Much
Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life. Its natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But normal worry becomes excessive when its persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about what ifs and worst-case scenarios, you cant get anxious thoughts out of your head, and it interferes with your daily life.
Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder , a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.
If youre plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.
Need to talk to someone?
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How Genes Affect Sleep
If you can’t sleep and are thinking too much, it could actually be in your genes.Thats right, some people have a genetic predisposition to insomnia that comes from several genes involved in intracellular metabolism and signal transmission.
TIP Take the Atlas DNA test to find out if you have the genes responsible for disturbed sleep.
Worry Is All About Trying To Resolve And Eliminate Uncertainty About The Future
But as you well know, the harder you try to fight uncertainty, the deeper into the worry cycle you progress.
Heres how it works: your brain comes up with a worry question. Maybe its What if I bomb my upcoming work presentation and lose my job? Or What if I fail my final exam? You then feel an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about what is going to happen, which triggers anxiety.
So you figure Ok, if Im uncertain about this, then the logical thing to do is to analyze it. Then I can predict what might happen and come up with a solution so Im ready for it. Then I can feel resolved about this and I wont have to worry about it anymore.
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Sleep Problem: My Brain Won’t Shut Off
When getting into bed cues that ticker in your head.
The Arianna Huffington +Furthermore Sleep Series knows that all good sleepers are alike all bad sleepers are bad in their own way. When we asked you what your sleep issues were, you answered. Many of you said you couldn’t shut your minds off at night. The day behind you or the one ahead plays in your head you recount conversations and write to-do lists. For the first in our four-part series, we asked Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution, and UCLA psychologist Jennifer Martin, M.D., for their take.
Waking up in the middle of the night with thoughts crowding your mind is less likely to happen if you create a transition to sleep. I provide a menu of techniques in the book, but here is my own ritual, which I treat as sacrosanct. Thirty minutes before bed, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom. Then I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle nearby–a bath I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried. I don’t sleep in my workout clothes as I used to , but in pajamas. Sometimes I drink a cup of chamomile or lavender tea, and my nightstand holds things that help me unwind like flowers, an analog alarm clock, physical books that have nothing to do with work, and a picture of my daughters. Each stage helps shed more stubborn daytime worries.
Jennifer Martin, M.D.
Find One Thing You Can Control
If overthinking is happening because you need to gain control over a situation, then find one concrete action step that you can do to gain back some sense of control. For example, writing down the problem is simple and it allows your brain to stop trying to remember the issue. Then identify one more thing you can do that will be a step in the right direction. For example, make one phone call to get more information about something that worries you.
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Make Your Bedroom A No
Your phone, tablet, and other screens can mess with your sleep. The reason? They give off blue light, which signals your body to stop making melatonin, the hormone that controls when you feel sleepy. Instead, this light tells your brain to stay alert. Not to mention the late-night dings and buzzes that can jolt you out of peaceful slumber. The best bet for better sleep is to keep computers, TVs, and, yes, your phone out of your bedroom.
What Is The Treatment For Ocd
The treatment for OCD is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy . In therapy, people meet with a therapist to talk, learn, and practice skills. Along with therapy, some people may take medicine for OCD.
In therapy, people might learn:
- how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect each other
- how OCD is like a brain ‘trick’ making it seem like bad things will happen unless people do rituals
- that doing rituals keeps OCD going strong
- that not doing rituals weakens OCD
But even when someone with OCD knows this, it’s not easy to just stop doing rituals. That’s why therapy teaches skills like:
- coping and calming skills for anxiety
- how to deal with worry thoughts
- how to face fears safely
- how to resist doing rituals
In therapy, people practice using these skills. One by one, they face fears without doing rituals. This can feel uncomfortable at first, but it quickly gets easier with practice. The more people with OCD resist rituals, the more worry thoughts can fade. As the person practices their skills, the brain’s activity can change for the better.
Therapy takes time how long depends on the person. Most people work with their therapist each week for a few months or more. Some people have therapy more often.
The therapist will teach, support, and encourage along the way. Often, the therapist will work with a parent, too. Parents want to know how to best help when OCD fears or rituals happen at home.
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