When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

Language, reasoning, and memory all invite us into greater reflection on the capacities for individuals to engage in thought; this is a cognitive capacity that uses the input of various perceptions. When we consider the overall subjective mental representations of people, places, and things – we continually think about what we see and interact with on a daily basis. The psychologist James J. Gibson and his disciples popularized this philosophy of perception that people tend to perceive things ‘directly’ without having mental representations. Yet, we now note that this is far from absolute truth with ongoing advances in cognitive neuroscience.

Being Released from Overthinking

In the subjective realm of our own wishy-washy thoughts, we can easily become distracted, side-railed, and devoured by our own cognitive spirals within the current environment of contemporary life. The emo music that enigmatically conjures specific thoughts about people and seep through the lower ceiling walls of the university gym, the mind-bogglingly wealthy corporate business with a new podcast series, the substitution for virtual reality in the gamer’s world for current reality, the recent encounter with the master mechanic that has some hard news for the engine he just serviced, and the boss that maintains narcissist ideas and requires significant patience are just a few of the myriad of thought spirals that pull us apart within our interior life.

Being released from overthinking can be as dramatic as soul-cleansing labor with a skilled craftsman or as uncomplicated and easy peasy as a walk in the park. Our minds are not merely diabolically-designed slot machines with dopamine circuits. We have an obligation to find meaningful ways to rein in the mind’s overdrive and waywardness; our own overthinking can have its limitations.

Getting stuck in negative feedback loops.

For many, thinking gives the capacity to perceive that whatever we are thinking about will get better. To every experience, problem, and circumstance – thinking seems to be the solution. We must be confronted with how we are thinking, the content of our thoughts, and its process as the problem while not the solution. Being lost in our spiral of thoughts gives us a sense of personal agency, transcends us above what we cannot control, and creates a perception that we are less vulnerable and fearful of the outcome we cannot touch. Thinking becomes the lifeboat. We have not stopped to constantly think and glimpse at another alternative to our inner life. Chronic overthinking requires that we become sick of any thought spirals that lead to anxiety, unhappiness, stress, distraction and other states of mind that inflict problematic responses to these thoughts. Finding new responses and ways to process thinking about thinking will be necessary.


Rumination is different from problem-solving.

There are moments when the thought spirals occur in a replaying fashion. Paralysis of analysis continues and the situation is being monitored from multiple angles while thoughts of the experience and its meaning persists despite how much energy is invested into stopping these thoughts. Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema notes that rumination is, “a method of coping with negative mood that involves self-focused attention with repetitive and passive focus on one’s negative emotions.” People who ruminate frequently are at higher risk for depressive spirals, behavioral health concerns, disordered eating, and an inability to rethink situations according to new perspectives.

Research from the psychological literature indicates that immersing yourself in positive and healthy activities to side-step from overthinking can add greater benefit to the fight against rumination. Highly engaging and positive activities can deter from the pull of negative overthinking. Playing a game, engrossing yourself in a film, engaging in a rigorous workout at the gym, taking a hot bath, accomplishing a crossword puzzle, holding an ice cube in your hand for a few minutes (as a dialectical behavioral therapy strategy), or literally any other engaging activity that you find helpful can allow you to shift from overthinking to meaningful attention.

Observe your thoughts instead of fighting with them.

Full-fledged mental effort to stop specific thought patterns and shift your attention intentionally can have a paradoxical effect. Principles from acceptance and commitment (ACT) indicate that holding thoughts in observational wonder in a non-judgmental manner can decrease their intensity and frequency. The classic example of not thinking about a pink elephant while engaging in an activity will inflame more thoughts about the pink elephant. Allow yourself to think of the pink elephant in a non-judgmental manner with openness and curiosity, and these thoughts can lessen and not be as distressing.

Plan regular times of dedicated rumination. This is a strategy that many have proposed to allow for focused resolution to the rumination to occur. Instead of allowing passive thoughts to weave in and out throughout the day, the thought process will be, “I won’t think about this right now. I will save it for my focused time to think at my scheduled time.” It can be easier to change course with thought spirals when you have a designated time frame for thoughts to occur.

Be aware of co-rumination when spending time discussing ruminations with others. This would include “extensively discussing and revisiting problems, speculating about problems, and focusing on negative feelings.” Consider the pursuit of positive emotions with people and use this reflection as a frame of reference.

These are all several considerations to address overthinking. If ruminative thoughts contribute to negatively impacting your relationships, work, or school – please contact a professional to initiate counseling services. Freedom from excessive overthinking is available to expand awareness and decide which thoughts to engage.

Being released from overthinking can be as dramatic as soul-cleansing labor with a skilled craftsman or as uncomplicated and easy peasy as a walk in the park..

By Deepak Santhiraj, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Recent Posts

  • Top 7 Self-Care Practices

Top 7 Self-Care Practices

In a world that continuously pulls us in multiple directions, self-care is extremely important. With thoughtful practices tailored to [...]