Cognitive reframing – an antidote to overthinking

Overthinking has been my second nature for the most part of my life. I believe it results from shame, guilt, fear, and insecurities I experienced as a child. For many years, I allowed my anxious brain to dictate my reactions to situations. It only made me feel worse about myself. 

I’m not sure if there’s anything good about overthinking, not unless it can help burn calories. Well, when that’s not the case, it’s better to resist unhelpful thoughts and save ourselves minutes of unhealthy self-talk.

If you’re unable to relate, let me share some common behaviour patterns among overthinkers:

  • excessive self-sympathy
  • apologizing for being their honest self
  • forming a clouded, biased judgement of others’ reactions all the time
  • lacking bias for action (not afraid to make decisions and take action)
  • mostly pessimistic and getting stuck on self-doubt

There are many reasons why overthinking is unhealthy, but the significant ones are that it can

  • impair problem-solving
  • make people incredibly pessimistic about the future
  • guarantee a bad mood all the time.

What can we do to stop overthinking?

One tool that can help is cognitive reframing.

Cognitive reframing is a technique used to identify and challenge our thoughts, so we’re able to look at a person, situation, or relationship from a perspective that can put us in a useful mental state. It means interpreting our experiences in more positive and productive ways, so there’s no room for what-if.

So the next time you’re mulling over the fact that your friend or boss hasn’t replied to your message yet or their reaction makes you worry if they dislike you, incorporate cognitive reframing. Try to believe that they could be really busy or maybe having a bad day, and it’s alright if their reaction deviated from their usual behaviour. Accept that nobody’s perfect and people have their reasons to act a certain way. Always give them the benefit of the doubt.

Honestly, life’s too short to live with assumptions and sulk over self-created scenarios.

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”

Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

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