An expert explains how to stop overthinking everything

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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), anxiety and depression are on the rise in the UK.

While the ONS "does not collect information on clinically diagnosed cases of anxiety or depression," it did ask the population to answer questions on their thoughts and emotions.

The data showed a significant deterioration when it comes to depression and anxiety, even as quality of life, finances and the economy improved.

According to this analysis, the increase in online searches related to depression and anxiety is also significant, and searches increased twice as much in the UK as the rest of the world.

Mental stress, worrying and over thinking can all be contributing factors or byproducts of poor mental health.

Tackling over thinking and negative thought cycles may not cure mental illness, but it can help just about anyone live a more stress-free life.

Generally, we experience two main destructive thought patterns:

  • Negatively dwelling on the past
  • Being pessimistic or fatalistic about the future

Breaking any habit requires hard work and dedication over a sustained period of time - some say it takes at least 21 days before new habits are formed.

But when it comes to mental and thinking processes, it's even harder to 'train your brain'. It takes practice, but focussing on healthier thinking habits will become easier over time.

Here are six tips for avoiding over thinking to get you started...

1. NOTICE your thoughts

If you have a tendency towards over thinking or anxiety, you may not even realise you're doing it. Check in with your own brain and recognise how you are thinking.

Then, you can tell yourself that the thought patterns are not productive or helpful.

2. Be PRODUCTIVE

Negatively dwelling on the past will only contribute to more destructive thought pattern. Focus on problem solving and looking for solutions.

Identify where you have the control or power to prevent a problem, and try to identify potential solutions. If it's something that's out of your control, focus on what you can do, such as identify coping strategies and positive attitude.

3. CHALLENGE your thoughts

Negative thoughts are powerful and destructive, and can stop you looking at a situation objectively.

Accept that your thoughts are probably overly negative for the situation, and look instead at the evidence for whether the thought is true or not.

4. REFLECT every day

That doesn't mean dwelling on problems - it means scheduling some 'thinking time' for brief reflection every day to consider potential pitfalls or how you could do things differently for a better future.

For twenty minutes, you can let yourself worry or over think, but then when the time is up you must move on to something else. If you are tempted to over think or stress at another time, remind yourself that you must wait until your reflection period.

5. MINDFULNESS is key

Instead of worrying about the past or future, learn mindfulness tricks to keep you in the present.

Mindfulness takes practice, but there are many classes, online courses, books and even apps to help you learn the skills.

6. CHANGE what you're doing

You can't easily stop yourself worrying about a particular subject. The more you try to stop thinking about something, the more it will consume your thoughts - the mental elephant in the room.

Instead, change your activity. For example, you could start a conversation on a different subject or do some exercise, but either way doing something totally different will help distract you from negative thoughts.

Remember, you can always talk to The Samaritans on 116 123, 24 hours a day at no cost. You can also seek advice at mentalhealth.org.uk.

HT: Inc.com

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