We’ve all been there. The same thought spinning around in your head, the worst case scenario playing on repeat in your mind as you stare at your phone or email inbox, unable to stop thinking about a situation or a person over and over. Maybe you are obsessing about an outcome that you want but don’t seem to be able to achieve. So what you do? You start to worry, get upset, angry, or sad, and then make a decision entirely based on a temporary emotion (like sending a rude text or email or making an angry phone call). Sound familiar? Please stop right there. Do me a favor and put your phone away.
Let me introduce you to two terrible couples: thoughts and worry paired with imagination and anger. These pessimistic couples always have something to complain about, assume the worst, and predict the darkest scenarios possible. Plus, they like to overstate and overanalyze. Would you really like to go on a couples date with them? Not really, right? Instead, you might want to try these strategies below:
- Get active.
Start moving and get your mind off that one thought you’ve been ruminating about over and over. Meet up with your best friend or a family member. Go for a bike ride, hike, or run. Remind yourself that you can’t change or control another person’s behavior or actions; you can only control your own. Repeat after me or write it down somewhere you can find it in case of emergencies: You cannot control or influence the outcome or behavior of someone else. So get up, get moving and say hello to your best new buddies: endorphins.
- Get social.
How about volunteering? Helping other people is one of the best ways to spread happiness. Plus, you will also benefit from it by finding your sense of purpose again through the feeling of belonging and being needed. Alfred Adler, the pioneer of Individual Psychology, termed this feeling Gemeinschaftsgefuehl. It’s a German word, which translates into community feeling. Have you tried talking to strangers next to you in a grocery line, on a bench, or on the train or bus? Studies have shown that our level of happiness increases when we talk to strangers, because we automatically put on our happy face and talk about pleasant things instead of our worries. Sound good? Let’s give it a try.
- Get creative...and no worries about not being inspired.
Frank Tibolt once said: “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” Inspiration comes from within; however, sometimes we are so busy beating ourselves up for not being inspired, that we subconsciously prevent ourselves from getting inspired. Sound silly? Yes it is, so let’s stop shutting our inner voice down and start doodling, writing, sculpting, crafting, dancing, singing, knitting, or whatever you enjoy. Just make sure to shift your full attention away from your worries and focus them onto something that is more productive and lifts your mood.
- Get loud and sing!
Turn on your favorite music and sing out loud and/or dance! This will bring you right back to happy times with your friends or family. Please note however that sad music and music which reminds you of the situation, ex-love, or friend that your thoughts have been spinning around about, are a big no and to be avoided. Those songs need to be banned from your playlist for now. Research has shown that music influences our moods and behavior. So, if you’re sad, please don’t dwell in it. Sure, you can cry about it as this helps sometimes, but don’t get caught up in it. Instead, listen to some happy or uplifting music. I prefer music I can (badly) sing along to, preferably the music of the 90s. Just the act of singing helps me stop thinking and obsessing, because I am way too busy recalling the lyrics of the song.
- Clean up your act!
Cleaning your surroundings and putting things in order is a win-win situation in times of overthinking, because it not only cleans up your crib, it cleans up your mind also. Getting rid of stuff and decluttering is a great way to practice letting go, create space, and free yourself from stressors and things you don’t need. I usually start sorting through my clothes, trying on old treasures that I haven’t worn in years. It’s fun, keeps your hands and eyes off your phone, and it gives you time for your beautiful and fabulous self. You’ll see that the hours (and your overthinking) will pass in no time.
- Be a bookworm.
Get lost in a great book! Dive into a fictional world or get inspired by reading the biography of someone you admire. What works for me sometimes is reading a children's book. No kidding! It’s a great way to trick my mind and takes me right back to times of happiness, when there were no worries and no real obligations; the playful and fun time when boys had cooties and my biggest worry was to be back at home for dinner. My favorite series of children's books is “Famous Five” by Enid Blyton. I am sure you have a favorite children's book too!
- Turn off your devices!
Step away from any form of social media or telecommunication. Seriously, texting is a great way to get into fights and create misunderstandings. It is not an indication of how a person feels or what words they would say to you in person. You don’t see a face and you cannot hear the tone of voice in which this message/email has been written. Remember that you are reading and interpreting this based on your current mood and past experiences with other people. Sigmund Freud called this “repetition compulsion,” so if you had negative experiences (e.g. neglect or rejection) in the past, then you are likely to interpret a “no response” from someone as being neglected. This may trigger feelings of anxiety, panic … you name it. I am sure you don’t want to fall into this trap. Really, how many times have you read an email again after a few days when you were in a completely different mood and thought, “oh jeez, and I got all worked up about this?”
Just remember, time goes by, so do worries as well as difficult and joyful times. The trick is to enjoy each and every second of it. If you really need to think and obsess about something, then think about all the things you are thankful for. It's amazing what gratitude can do for you and your outlook on life. Besides, what gives this situation or person the right to make you unhappy? Exactly.