We show you how to stay in control when the whole world wants your attention
Ever feel like your mind is racing? Ever find yourself reading and realise you’ve been thinking about ten other things at the same time and haven’t taken in anything on the last 2 pages? The human mind is amazing. Our ability to think ahead, plan and multitask are cognitive traits that separate us from animals. We can write poetry, solve problems, and mull over the meaning of life. No brain in the animal kingdom compares to ours. In fact, our brain is “the most complex structure in the universe” producing thousands of thoughts each day! Feeling big headed yet? The question is, do we have control of these incredible cognitive machines that live inside our heads and control everything we do? Our brains use up 20% of our body’s energy, so if we don’t give our mind a break it’s no wonder we start to feel drained.
So let’s think about the effects of all this overthinking
Too much time inside our own minds can weigh heavily on our mental health, our ability to get a restful night’s sleep, and also can lead to a state of “analysis paralysis”. Studies have shown that excess “rumination” is a well-established risk factor for depression and anxiety. Likewise, not being able to get a break from your thoughts can also impact your ability to drift off to sleep and leave you feeling groggy and worn out. Many people who overthink believe they’re doing important work to figure out and resolve problems, but the truth is that too much thinking is unhealthy and can lead to an inability to take action. As one clinical psychologist puts it, excessive thinking is “like a hamster running frantically on a wheel, exhausting itself without actually going anywhere”.
Our top tips to quiet the mind
Notice it happening: Recognise when you’re getting caught up in unnecessary thinking. Catch yourself when there are no breaks in your thoughts and you starting to feel like your mind is running away with itself.
Create a pause: As soon as you notice that you can’t remember experiencing a break from thinking, take one. Create a pause. Smile and remember that you are in control of your thoughts, they don’t control you.
Shift your focus: Move away from your mind and into your body: notice the rise and fall of your breath, feel the tingling sensation of being alive in your body. By noticing the physical things you are experiencing you’ll begin to feel more centred.
Our favourite tools to help you find that quiet space:
Biofeedback: Technology can be the source of much of our overthinking, but it can also provide tools to help us live healthy and more balanced lives. HeartMath’s Inner Balance is a great way to keep in check with the inner workings of our minds. You simply take a few minutes a day to observe your state. As you create a daily habit of self-awareness the tool will help you to monitor how this is affecting the way you feel.
A good book: We recommend The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This great read reminds us to be more present in our everyday lives. It’s a solid resource to keep on your shelf and pick up from time to time. We love listening to the audiobook whenever we feel the need to be more present.
Meditation: The benefits of starting a practice of meditation are endless. By giving your mind some TLC through meditation you can reduce stress, spark creativity and increase focus. If you’re new to meditation, check out the Headspace app and website. Try out a guided meditation for 10 minutes a day, and, as our friends at Headspace say: “Treat Your Head Right.”
A reminder: It's a good idea to break the habit of thinking and focus on your breath. We like Elephant App, which allows you to create reminders for habits you want to break or start. It uses a simple but effective remind, repeat, reward method and works with smart watches if you have one. If you’re not a fan of apps, set a repeat event in your calendar that alerts you at the time of your “break from thinking event”. We like this approach because it also means you see the event in your calendar when you are planning each day.
Quieting your mind might seem impossible sometimes, but with a few new habits and helpful tools you’ll be able to give your thoughts and your mind a bit of space to breathe.