How Overthinking Harms Us (Meditating When You’re an Overthinker)
We all know what it’s like to lie awake at night ruminating on past decisions, or second-guessing our upcoming ones. Meditation can help stop overthinking, allowing us to live with greater peace and ease, while guiding us toward clear actions that are aligned with our greatest potential.
When overthinking we might feel as if we’re trapped in our heads. We get stuck in a cycle of rumination, unable to let go of the past, move on, and make decisions. Overthinking that’s left unchecked can transform into anxiety, depression, or mental health disorders such as OCD.
But even in its mildest form, overthinking just isn’t beneficial. The more we’re stuck in our heads, the less we’re connected to the wisdom which lives in our bodies and hearts. When we let go of overthinking, we’re guided instead by self-confidence and a trust in our wise intuition.
How Meditation Helps With Overthinking
Meditation can be the bridge which helps us move from overthinking to simply being. When confidently connected to our true being, we live in a state of greater clarity and have less need for thinking. Meditation brings this clarity to the forefront by strengthening the following qualities.
Mindfulness of Thoughts
With meditation, we become more mindful of when we’re overthinking. The act of observing our thoughts creates space between thinker and thought. In this space, we’re able to step back and question what we’re doing. Is overthinking helping me?
Studies show that mindfulness of the thought process itself is often enough to put an end to rumination.
Mindfulness of Emotions
Overthinking is a form of avoidance. When our capacity to remain present with discomfort is limited, we react by suppressing our feelings. But as evidence shows, attempting to stop feeling merely fuels the emotions we’re trying to avoid.
Meditation strengthens emotional regulation, an antidote to overthinking. By allowing ourselves to feel more, we can think less.
Mindfulness of the Body
Interoceptive awareness is the ability to hear, understand, and appropriately respond to internal sensation in the body. Researchers have found that high levels of overthinking are connected with low levels of interoceptive awareness. When we’re disconnected from physical, internal signals, we overthink in an attempt to find answers that the body already knows.
Practicing mindfulness of the body is just one way to quiet the mind. Simply listening to the breath or our heartbeat can release us from the cycle of rumination.
Overthinking is often connected to worry. We worry we’ll make the wrong decision, that we won’t do it right, or that people won’t like us. As we get to know ourselves better in meditation, one thing we realize is we’re human. It’s perfectly normal for humans to be imperfect or to make mistakes. Meditation fosters self-compassion by connecting us to this truth and softening our self-criticism.
As self-compassion grows, so does self-esteem. Overthinking diminishes when confidence in the self increases.
Overthinking necessitates full immersion in the stories we tell ourselves about the past or the future. It removes us from our present moment reality. Meditation, on the other hand, connects us to the truth of the present moment. It helps us see things as they are, regardless of the stories we tell.
The more we meditate, the less we identify with our thoughts, and the more comfortable we become with our emotions, change and uncertainty. The end of overthinking arises as we relinquish our mistaken belief that we have control over outcomes.
Meditations for Overthinking
Any type of meditation will help quiet overthinking, but mindfulness meditation is a particularly good place to start. To reduce negative thoughts, try just 10 minutes of meditation daily, sitting and observing your breath.
Each time a thought intrudes, acknowledge it without judgment, then return to mindfulness of breath. It can help to observe the physical sensation of breath as it moves through the body, or to watch breath with a sense of joy, curiosity or awe.
At first, you’ll find yourself thinking more than not. But over time, this balance will shift as your mind gets more comfortable being versus doing.