Does the voice in your head sound like an annoying (and boring) roommate who keeps talking about the same thing over and over again?
Oftentimes we aren’t even aware of the incessant chatter going on between our ears.
Other times, we desperately want the non-stop babbling to end.
How do we stop overthinking, make clearer decisions, and avoid losing our sanity to the pestering voice in our minds?
Why Do You Overthink?
Do you control every thought you have?
Be honest in your assessment.
Could you truthfully say that every thought that enters your mind is one that you consciously decided on?
The answer is obvious.
Some research suggests we have no control over our thoughts, we simply become aware of them.
Victorian biologist Thomas Henry Huxley uses a metaphor of a train to clarify the concept, suggesting that the relationship between the mind and the brain is similar to the relationships between a steam whistle and an engine. The steam whistle acts in response to the work of the engine, but has no influence over it.
Similarly, our awareness responds to the thoughts, but we cannot control the thoughts themselves.
Experientially, however, we do have the capability to choose our thoughts when we direct our attention.
For example, bring to mind your favorite flavor of ice cream.
You could do that easily, right?
We face a problem when we become aware of thoughts that don’t serve us and we can’t seem to stop them.
Those thoughts arise due to our programming, which consists of genetic makeup and conditioning.
Years ago our ancestors were in very unsafe and threatening environments, and the humans that survived and passed down their genetic code were those who interpreted their surroundings through a “negative lens”.
Simply put, it was safer for a human at that time to interpret the majority of external stimuli as threatening, since it created a higher probability of survival for that human.
Overstocking your cave due to fear that you’ll run out of food was a better move (in terms of survival) than relaxing by the fire and hoping everything will turn out fine.
As we evolved, new areas of the brain developed that include cognitive thinking and problem-solving.
What happens is that the areas of the brain that focus on survival may pull you in one direction, and the more evolved areas of the brain pull you in another.
So when you’re “debating” in your mind whether you should eat the chocolate cake or stick to water and carrots, it can be experienced as two voices in your mind.
This is why you experience the incessant chatter.
Some areas of the brain are screaming about survival, and other areas are preaching about logic and practicality.
How Do You Stop Overthinking?
1. Give The Voice In Your Head a Character.
Have you ever seen the movie “The Incredibles”?
In the movie, there’s a baby named “Jack Jack” who has uncontrollable superpowers. He can shoot laser beams out of his eyes, light himself on fire, go invisible, and many other powers that wreak havoc!
He’s also an adorable baby, and he’s so cute that you can’t get mad at him.
When I hear that incessant chatter in my mind, I give that voice the character of Jack-Jack.
He can be destructive, frustrating, and cause chaos, but he’s just a baby.
He doesn’t know any better.
This approach allows you to have some compassion for the voice in your head rather than resist it.
There’s no value in getting angry with yourself over the voice in your head.
Treat yourself how you’d treat your best friend, or how you’d treat an adorable super baby that shoots laser beams out of his eyes.
2. Be the Watcher of Your Thoughts.
My clients get surprised by how simple this is.
We hear the incessant chatter, and we resist it.
That resistance only adds fuel to the fire.
Instead, simply observe what’s happening.
Be curious about what led to the incessant chatter, what’s being said, and how it’s making you feel.
Rise above the thought stream and be the watcher.
3. Ask for Better Thoughts.
Remember a moment ago when I asked you to think of your favorite flavor of ice cream?
In doing that, you accessed the area of your brian that directs attention and your brain obliged.
In the same way, you can do this at any time you recognize that you’re overthinking.
Ask yourself a question or two in order to choose a thought that will clear up the situation.
Here are some examples:
- Is this thought my only choice?
- What other thoughts can I choose?
- Are these thoughts helpful?
- How are they serving me?
- Which thought best serves me?
- What’s a better way to think about this?
4. Join Our Free Online Community.
I know from experience that surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals who are seeking to thrive professionally while finding stillness, calm, and peace accelerates your evolution.
In our free Mindfulness Movement community, we pose questions, tips, and ideas each day to engage your mind in ways that enable you to focus on what’s most important.
We are a community committed to supporting one another on journeys of professional success and personal contentment. Join us through the link below.