This question came to me as a Twitter.com Direct Message: “What tips do you have for the person who overthinks everything and is very analytical?”
This is a great question! But an adequate answer just isn’t Tweetable, so that’s why you’ll find it here.
Everyone uses a combination of (1) analytical thought, (2) predispositions (Often manifest as our individual beliefs and personal hang-ups.), and (3) our emotions to make sense of what we encounter. With that said, over-thinking, being overly opinionated, or over-emotional happens when favoring one function over the others. Generally, there’s nothing wrong with favoring any of these tendencies, but when doubts or uncertainty exist, a doubling-down effect takes place and the favored mental function dominates.
With that in mind, an over-thinker is just someone who favors analytical thought and relies on it to make sense of what they encounter. In someone who doubles down on the predispositions, the outcome is being overly opinionated. It happens when someone clings to their beliefs even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
You could even be “over-emotional,” but when I use that term I’m referring to someone making decisions based on how they feel or based on how they assume others would feel in the same situation.
As far as what to do when you find yourself in the over-thinking spiral, turn your attention to something else temporarily. If it’s during your waking hours, busy work like household chores, exercising or working on a hobby should help you. If it happens when you’re trying to sleep, I have some Mindfulness Techniques for Sleepless Nights you can use.
If you are looking for an ongoing solution to overthinking, you’ll need to get at the root cause and interrupt the speculating that causes your doubts. For most people, speculating is a habit of using guesses in place of missing facts. Like any other habit, it can be overcome with the awareness that it’s happening and a desire to change the behavior when you catch yourself doing it.
Mentally speaking, it’s healthier to not know, than to replace unknown facts with suppositions. If you’re unsure about something that’s fine, just leave it as “don’t know.” When you notice yourself making assumptions, just like when you’re overthinking, purposely focus on something else. For instance, instead of guessing what someone means by something they’ve said or done, think about what you’ll need to do to obtain the factual information…in this case, just ask them. Instead of assuming how a meeting at work might go, wait and see.
Assumptions of future events, and how events in the past could have been different, can be huge sticking points. Although people do use guesswork in real-time, the vast majority of speculating concerns a past that is impossible to change, or a future that can only be experienced when it becomes the present moment.
Meditation is often described as staying in the present moment…which is nothing more than refraining from speculating. With that said, I can help you take this general concept and fine tune it to meet your needs, goals and experience. To do that, you should consider scheduling a one-on-one session so we can discuss your unique situation.