It’s the thing that you do right before an important meeting or after a first date. It’s also what you do in the shower. And it’s what’s stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep. That’s right, it’s overthinking! (Actually, should we write it as Overthinking? Or OVERTHINKING? Because it’s a really big problem, affecting not only yours truly, but millions of people across the globe. Oh, God, it’s going to be our downfall, isn’t it?! [Overthinks about overthinking.])
People on the internet are sharing witty but truthful posts related to overthinking and we’ve collected some of the very best. So scroll down to give your grey matter a bit of exercise and upvote the pics that you can relate to. We’d also love to hear all about your experiences with overthinking and how you keep it under control, so drop us a line or two in the comments below. Bored Panda reached out to Suzanne Degges-White, professor and chair in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University, to talk about overthinking. Scroll down for our full interview with the professor.
According to professor Degges-White, "Most humans do tend to ruminate on the negative things in life. In fact, one research study indicated that we’d need to hear '5 good things' about ourselves to undo the emotional hold from a single 'negative thing' that happened.
"It’s called the negative bias effect," she added.
"Part of this comes from anxiety related to avoiding making the same mistake in the future, but the more we concentrate on the past error, the more ‘familiar' the error becomes and the more likely we might be to repeat it. Our brain goes where we train it to go."
Bored Panda wanted to know if overthinking things can lead to passiveness and inactivity, as well as if there's anything that we can do to stop it. Degges-White explained that "if you are too wrapped up in overthinking a situation you may absolutely miss an opportunity."
"When we devote all of our mental energy to going through every possible outcome of a decision, there’s a chance that we’re going to talk ourselves out of doing anything, due to the almost magnetic attraction fearful outcomes have with our brains."
"Some people are absolutely unable to make a decision, though, because they know—at some level, if not consciously—that by making a decision they have eliminated all other possible pathways. However, they might fail to realize that by _not_ making a decision, they have actually made a decision—and shut down all potential possible outcomes," the professor continued.
"To reduce overthinking, we need to train ourselves to trust our first impressions and instincts—and commit to a decision," professor Degges-White told us. "We need to recognize that the longer we ponder, the more confused we are likely to get. Thus, we should practice making the decision that feels right and learning from the new behavior. Creating new patterns in who we approach life isn’t always easy, but we can train ourselves to do things differently with practice."
Finally, Bored Panda wanted to find out if the younger generations tend to overthink more than people in the past. The professor said that "we have a lot more time to think than other generations—when people were super involved in the physical acts required in 'making a living'—when this meant rising early, physical labor all day, and no time for luxuries such as 'creative thought,' 'rumination,' or video game playing or mindless television watching. Life didn’t give space for a lot of overthinking—life was uncertain and you had to act quickly and instinctively, in many cases."
"Overthinking is probably part product of increased leisure time, advances in cognitive complexity, and the ridiculous array of choices that life now presents us. When you had to worry about protecting crops, livestock, feeding a family, and making do with what you had, you don’t have the time worry about the trivial things that modern man has the luxury of over."
Now that we’re all overthinking if we tend to overthink in our daily lives, it’s time to get our hands dirty and figure out what causes it, why it’s not the most helpful of things to do, and what we can do about it.
Licensed psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Huttman told My Domaine that overthinking means “constantly analyzing and anguishing over one’s thoughts” can trap us in a loop of “mentally rehearsing” our past or present decisions and actions. Huttman explained that overthinking can be caused by self-doubt, self-esteem issues, concern, traumatic experiences, or anxiety. Overthinking wastes our time, is unhealthy, and leads to analysis paralysis.
According to the psychologist, there are a few things that we can all do in our day-to-day lives to reduce anxiety and turn overthinking into regular plain old thinking. Huttman suggests practicing mindfulness by meditating. Those of you who are skeptical of mediation should know that it increases attention and reduces depressive symptoms. So it’s always worth giving a try and seeing for yourselves.
However, there are plenty of other ways you can reduce anxiety. Regular exercise, yoga, tai-chi, even breathing exercises can have a massive impact on your mental health and wellbeing. And because we’re all different, something that works for you might not be the best fit for someone else. That’s why it’s so important to try a variety of activities and see which ones give the best results. Just try not to overthink which course of action is the most efficient. Just do it.