Overthinking Takes Away Momentum from Happiness

March 13, 2020
Overthinking is exhausting, especially if your thoughts are negative and hopeless. Instead, you should focus on calmness and balance. 

Overthinking leads to mental burden and takes away momentum from happiness. This happens especially when those thoughts, ideas, and reflections are toxic ideas that poison your self-esteem, hopes, and projects. It’s worth noting that nothing is as necessary for your well-being as cultivating a more relaxed, peaceful, and centered mind.

The mind is a restless machine. Neuroscientists point out that, on average, people have approximately 30.000 thoughts a day, of which nearly 80% aren’t useful. In other words, they’re just repetitive and ruminant ideas, memories, and cognitive processes.

In this regard, some ideas and memories have the potential of being toxic. They make you feel awful and entrap you in unhealthy psychological spaces. That’s why the key to mental well-being isn’t in the number of thoughts you have but rather their quality.

“To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.”

-Aristotle-

A woman with an enlightened brain.

Overthinking exhausts your brain

When an athlete prepares to execute a specific exercise, they know that what they have to control the most is their mind. Overthinking could affect their performance or even make them fail. Therefore, the best strategy in an anxious situation is to stay centered, calm, and focused on the goal.

Thoughts, like most cognitive processes, originate in the frontal lobe. In this area, your brain plans things out, compares information, makes inferences, reflects, and analyzes. Furthermore, each and one of these processes demands a lot of energy. Thus, you should know when it’s worth it to think things over and when to let go and simply trust your instincts.

Multitasking

At some point, all athletes learn the importance of training their mind, taming their thoughts, and focusing all their attention on a goal. But being able to control your mental processes isn’t precisely easy in times of multitasking.

  • Cognitive psychologists, such as David E. Mayer from the University of Manchester, indicate that even though the brain is skillful when it comes to multitasking, it has its limits.
  • In fact, common daily tasks such as driving while listening to music or thinking about what awaits you at work, what you’ll do tomorrow, what you didn’t do, and what you should’ve done causes a lot of mental stress.
  • If you maintain that stress over time, it’ll affect your overall mood.
  • Overthinking every single day leads you to an exhausted mental state.
A man with glasses thinking too much.

The most efficient brains and their curious neurological activity

You may think that skillful people have a more active brain when they’re about to do a task. Well, actually, it’s not about having a “more active” mind but rather a “more effective” mental approach.

  • It’s not about thinking more; it’s about thinking better and generating more productive, direct, and useful thoughts.
  • Another interesting aspect is that, on average, people with a higher IQ don’t necessarily have the most effective thoughts.
  • Usually, intelligent people apply something called arborescent thinking, which is when one idea leads to another. One doubt encourages them to come up with different hypotheses and, therefore, new ways to approach a problem.

That’s maybe why they take longer to come up with answers and why that tendency to overthink causes them anxiety.

Thinking less and better in order to be happy

Thinking well is synonymous with living better. However, how should you train your focus and mind, which are used to feeding your fears? Albert Ellis, the pioneer of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), stated in his work that the things that happen to you don’t affect you but, instead, the way you interpret them.

Therefore, the key is to treat yourself better, value things from another perspective, and allow your mind to pause and rest every now and then.

Four steps that can help you avoid overthinking

  • Cognitive psychology says that you can modify your mood by changing the way you talk to yourself. Thus, you should stray away from negativity, fear, and angst.
  • Another step that can be very helpful is to learn to manage your emotions. To do it, convince yourself that you’re safe and that you’re not in danger. Work on your inner peace.
  • Moreover, practices such as mindfulness can allow you to reduce the noise of your hyperactive mind. Also, it’ll help you focus on the present, which is essential to reducing worries.
  • Finally, remember that there’s a time to think and a time to let go. Sometimes, you do need to reflect on something, analyze a situation, or look for options. All these processes allow you to make better decisions. But it can be counterproductive to have obsessive thoughts.

To conclude, happiness comes from learning to control your thoughts and their quality. Achieving it isn’t necessarily easy, especially when you’re subject to rough mental schemes such as “I have to”, “What if”, “I should”, or “I better do this”. However, you should practice letting yourself go, living in the moment, and getting rid of your worries and fears every day.