Did you ever overthink a problem until it became bigger than it was? Did you ever overthink positive things until they didn’t look so positive anymore? Or overthink what someone said to you and created a story about it in your head that was not true?
Many of us spend a tremendous amount of time overthinking the past or the future. These narratives sometimes prevent us from staying in the present, affecting us and those in our lives.
It was my beloved sister, Anna, who told me to stop thinking almost seven years ago. Two days before she went to heaven, she told me, “Life is good; everything is good. Stop thinking, just stop thinking.”
I had a hard time absorbing what she was telling me; all I could think about was my best friend is leaving me. I need her; she is my confidant, my buddy. How can she tell me everything will be okay? I wrote down what she said verbatim because I didn’t understand and didn’t want to forget it. Her last words were, “stop thinking.”
How do we stop thinking? We think all the time. And then I realized she was telling me to stop overthinking.
A month after Anna passed, I began to practice not to overthink. I chose to become open and to surrender to what came my way. My ego was slowly fading away, and I began to live life authentically, to do what felt right for me. My new outlook on life was not comfortable, initially; some of my friends and family members did not understand my choices, and I was okay with that. Authentic living sometimes requires things to fall apart, so that alignment can happen.
As children, we observe, listen and obey, which should bring us closer to feeling joy and keeps us aligned. But so many of us have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s beliefs or wishes of how we should be. When we continue to repeat negative thought patterns, they become rooted in who we are. They then become our beliefs, and it is our beliefs that define who we are and the reality we experience.
In his commencement address at the 2014 Maharishi University graduation, actor Jim Carrey said, “If you listen to the ego, there will always be someone doing better than you. No matter what you gain, the ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the earth, until you’ve achieved immortality.”
It takes a lot of personal work and consistent practice to resist the cycle of overthinking, which leads to feelings of inadequacy. Embrace that you are the thinker, that you can choose how and what to think based on the truth, not on fear.
Four questions to kickstart taking control of how you think
- Does the story I tell about myself empower me?
- What behaviors do I need to change?
- What emotions do I want to feel?
- What are my limiting beliefs
When we choose to stop overthinking, we start to become open to the process of life. When we change how we think and act, and choose what we want to feel, we can significantly improve our lives. We can discover a lightness, a freedom, and even find joy in the most challenging moments. How we view circumstances or challenges affects our wellbeing. Remember that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.