Do you think too much?
So, I’ve talked about distractions, I’ve talked about procrastination, now it’s time for the thinking! To think or not to think – is thinking a thoughtful thing to do? Is it a productive thing to do? I’ve been, excuse the pun, thinking a lot about this topic as thinking is something I do A LOT. I swear I do it when I’m asleep, whenever I wake in the night I’m thinking, I think when I wake, all through the day, even when I’m teaching or engaged in another activity, I feel like I’m thinking 24/7 and at times it can be exhausting!
According to Jennifer Hawthorne ‘We humans, it seems, have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.’ That’s a lot of thinking going on, I’m guessing I’m towards the upper scale! Of course we’re going to be thinking, it’s what we’re programmed to do but is there such a thing as too much thinking, over-thinking, negative thinking and, if so, what effect does this have on our lives?
Thinking too much in terms of brooding and mulling over things has been shown to lead to depression and a poorer quality of life (Cognitive psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway from the University of Stirling). There is also the problem of overload, biologically we are programmed to be able to cope with a certain amount of data and thought processing but when there’s too much this can lead to overload and ineffectiveness, in addition to potential mental health problems.
It is good to think and to have thoughts but it’s what you do with this thinking and those thoughts that determine how they affect you and the quality of your life.
On the plus side thinking helps me to process information, be creative, consider the pros and cons of decisions and to take action. On the not so positive side I’ve always been told I think too much which to me has, previously, always sounded, like a negative thing to do. But can you think too much and is it something I shouldn’t be doing? I spent many years worrying about my thinking, as I seemed to have a concern about what other people think and being told I think too much by other people made me believe that they were right and I needed to be doing something about it.
It has previously, and still does at times, held me back and hindered me in moving forward. At times I have felt mentally paralysed by all the thinking and processing going on in my head to a point where it has led to me also becoming physically incapable of actually doing anything in terms of taking action and, it has made me incredibly frustrated as well.
However, as the years have gone on and my focus has started to change to moving away from basing my life on how other people view me and think about me (a blog for another time!) I’ve worked on accepting my ‘thinking’ as being unique to me, that it's down to me whether I am over thinking or not, and making it something that I can use to benefit me in both my personal life and my business life.
I have spent many years reading self-help books, books about emotional intelligence and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the like but it wasn’t until I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne that I really started to make headway with my thinking and my thought processes. Reading this was like a lightbulb moment for me, I was reluctant to do so at first but so many people mentioned it to me that I decided to do so and I’m definitely glad that I did. It was the first step of my journey into how much my thinking and my thoughts really do affect my life, and the realisation that there was something I could do about them to help me use them in a positive way.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight and it will be something I will have to continue to develop, work on and evolve. It is exciting in that I now know that my thinking and thoughts have helped me to get to where I am today and I can now use them to help me to be present and productive now and, to get me to where I want to be in the future.
Steps to take
1: Recognise that you may be over thinking – recognising there’s a potential issue is always the first step. Ask yourself if you spend a big chunk of your day just thinking and not doing. Ask yourself if you’re getting behind on things, becoming stressed about not doing/achieving things, find it difficult to take action.
2: Learn to quieten your thoughts and be present in the moment – I have started to use the Headspace app to do this, I’ve not done many sessions but the ones I have done have been positive and have, to a degree, helped to calm my thoughts and thinking. By doing this I can be more present in the here and now rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
3: Write things down, keep a journal, write a diary – I find this helps enormously but, as a procrastinator and someone who’s easily distracted, it is a challenge for me to actually do it. I love writing though and for me it is making sure I give the time to doing it rather than just thinking about it.
4: Talk things through with someone relevant to what you are thinking about – it could be a friend, a family member, a colleague – I know it’s corny to say a problem shared is a problem halved but, at times, it does help to discuss things that may be bothering you or taking up space in your head.
5: Read about thinking and thoughts, there are plenty of books and articles out there, and reading about other people’s experiences and approach to how to make sure your thinking and thoughts can help you can only be a positive thing.
6: Be aware of the negative thoughts/thinking – this just leads to more of the same. According to Jennifer Hawthorne, ‘80 percent of our thoughts are negative. Negative thoughts are particularly draining. Thoughts containing words like “never,” “should,” and “can’t,” complaints, whining or thoughts that diminish our own or another’s sense of self-worth deplete the body by producing corresponding chemicals that weaken the physiology.’ Yes we all have the negative thinking and thoughts, it’s human nature, but you can start to override these with more positive thoughts and thinking but they do have to be combined with action.
7: Take action – write a to-do list, set deadlines, prioritise – anything that works for you to be productive and put those thoughts and that thinking into action.
I hope that by sharing this I’ve helped you potentially feel a bit better about your thinking and thoughts if you too feel that you too need a bit of direction with them. Let me know if you are you an over thinker or if you think too much. Let me know how you manage your thinking and your thoughts.
Copyright © 2016 Louise Grafton-Mitchell. All rights reserved. No part of this Blog shall be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system without written permission of the publisher.