Does your overthinking often lead you to the point of paralysis and fear? Is the deluge of toxic thoughts draining you completely? Is your mind flooded with so many thoughts that you don’t know how to handle them? This feels like home turf for you, doesn’t it? Stay along, and you will be glad to know that it’s possible to find your mental peace again.
In this article, you will be able to know 5 simple ways in which you can learn to calm your mind, achieve greater focus, and find the direction that is right for you!
But before this, let me share some of the most common toxic, negative thoughts that make you feel resentful and can stop you from finding true happiness. These are the ones that you really need to be aware of if you sense them anywhere near you.
I’m always lonely or I’ll always be lonely
This is one of the most commonly felt human emotions. Recent research has shown that loneliness is now the world’s number one fear, surpassing the fear of public speaking and death. It can make you feel that you are rejected by everyone around you. And, that makes you insecure and anxious. Ironically, this is a problem we don’t talk about enough.
I hate my body shape
Thoughts about having a poor body image can be one of the most toxic thoughts in your mind. It’s very common across people of all ages. Quite shockingly, a 2016 survey conducted by Girl guiding suggests that this pressure is felt from a very young age, and girls as young as a seven-years-old struggle with poor body confidence. If you have grown up to body shaming, like me, it can almost be devastating. It can lead to everyday struggles and we end up being harsh on ourselves. More importantly, we subconsciously internalize this negative thought and start blaming everything on our physical appearance.
I’m not happy in my job (or work or career)
Your job can make you feel unhappy at times. We often end up overthinking about how much we hate our work, and that can end up affecting us adversely and increasing our stress levels.
I’m not worthy
This is another familiar territory we often find ourselves in. ‘I am not worthy of getting good marks’, or ‘I am not worthy of being accepted by this university’ or ‘I am not worthy of love or success or money’. This thought goes right alongside the feeling of not being enough. When I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my high-flying corporate job to pursue my calling in coaching, I found myself drowning in this exact pool of thought. I felt that I was not worthy enough of coaching and helping people or that I was not good enough or smart enough. I started feeling like an imposer with all the self-doubt creeping in. Often, this toxic thought came from what I thought others were thinking about me. I falsely assumed that others don’t see any value in me, so my self-esteem kept dipping.
I don’t have enough
This is another negative thought that manifests itself in many ways and we can spend too much time ruminating about it. Thoughts around not having enough money, skills, talents, materialistic things or even friends and connections can end up completely swallowing you.
These toxic thoughts come easily to us all the time. They can overwhelm you unless you begin to recognize them. Which of these thoughts do you find yourself usually caught up in?
Now that you are aware of the most frequently occurring negative thoughts, let me share 5 simple ways to help you ward off at least some of the negative and stressful thoughts.
1) Thoughts are always there
There will be times (and mostly this is always the case) where you would wish that you could stop your thoughts altogether. But, this rarely works. The more you try to stop your thoughts, the more they will emerge. Understand that you will always have thoughts. Recognize this is a normal process. Thoughts become a problem when we start assuming that we are the thought itself. The key here is to shift your perspective into realizing that you are not your thoughts, rather you have thoughts. And, that makes you bigger than your thoughts. By becoming cognizant of your thoughts rather than judging them or obsessing about completely silencing the mind you gain awareness and consciousness of your thoughts and achieve great peace.
2) The 90-second lifespan
This point piggybacks on the previous point. Often when our thoughts take us over, we assume the identity of the thoughts. Unconsciously, we feed them with more negative thoughts and emotions. In her book My Stroke of Insight, author Jill Bolte Taylor pinpoints evidence showing that the life span of emotion is only ninety seconds. What this means is that to sustain any negative thought or emotion, we need to feed it with our internal chatter. Our constant self-talk is what keeps our thoughts from spiraling out of control. Instead of feeding your thoughts with more negative fodder, remember the 90-second lifespan rule and feel your thoughts rather than overthinking them. One of the ways I do this is by taking 6 deep breaths – in and out, with each in-breath taking in my power, and with each out-breath breathing out all the negativity.
3) The 1:5 positivity ratio
This is a strategy I learned from one of my mentors, Mark Waldman, who is one of the world’s leading experts on brain science. According to him, the most dangerous feeling in the world is worry! In simple terms, worry is a negative thought that we pull out from our memory and project onto our future. The seeds of overthinking are often sown by worry and it then catapults into a never-ending stream of negative thoughts. The idea here is to prevent worry from torpedoing our mental peace by replacing it with a minimum of 3 positive qualities, thoughts, feelings, or anything positive in general. It could be recollecting a positive memory about your relationship, or an accolade from school, or just thinking about the first time you held your child in your hand. As you get comfortable with this exercise, you will notice how all your illusive worries slowly start to disappear. Then, start stretching your thoughts to 5 positive ones per worry that you encounter as and when.
4) Stay present
This expands a bit further on my previous point about worrying. We are always worrying about the future or worrying and regretting something that has already happened. This causes stress and anxiety to take over. We start imagining different outcomes, none of which are really happening at the moment. In most cases, overthinking is caused by one emotion — fear. We are either dreading something that happened in the past or are fearful of taking action. Either way, we end up being paralyzed. If you stay in the present moment, then fear can’t take over, and overthinking isn’t an issue. You are then able to focus on what you have to do each day to progress and thrive. I would also recommend a book by Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. It brings out the point of present moment awareness in the most transformative way. This is one book that shifted my perspective on several dimensions.
5) Be okay with the world
Stop judging everything that happens around you. Stop labeling or isolating a particular event as good or bad. Learn to be okay with what happens. Judgment often comes when we try to control the outcome. Learn to accept what is happening in your life instead of reacting or resisting it. Being okay also means learning to love where you’re at and what you’re doing right now. It also means appreciating the things that you already have and the people around you. It’s important to find gratitude in the little things. It’s important to spend time on the things that give you joy. Quoting Jay Shetty, a motivational speaker from the United Kingdom, one of my favorites, ‘The stuff we stress about on a daily basis is taking away our energies to love the people who deserve that love!
Your mind can be a busy place, so it’s important to learn ways to deal effectively with some of the thoughts, especially the ones that get you nervous or anxious. Whenever you get into the loop of overthinking, use these tips and strategies to ward them off, and avoid focusing on them.