I shift my focus.
During a conversation with a good friend today she shared with me that she thinks that she overthinks and that that behavior causes her to get depressed. I could relate. Overthinking tends to be what gets me into trouble too. I suggested that she shift her focus whenever that happens.
I guess before I go on I should explain the meaning of overthinking. It means to think about a subject too much or for far too long. It magnifies the significance of the thought. Usually the subject is about something we worry about. A good example is that someone you know says something that bothers you. And, even though they didn’t mean any harm, you walk around for a couple of days thinking about it. You’ve taken it personally and you can’t get your mind off of it.
Because you let it get under your skin, you run the conversation through your head trying to understand what they meant by what they said. If you notice how you are feeling, you will often see that you are churning inside and you feel pretty bad. This kind of thinking can lead to anxiety and depression. The anxiety from overthinking is “ worry gone wild.” The depression from overthinking is “anger gone wild.” Either state is pretty miserable.
Shifting the focus is not easy. Our minds are very good at doing the same thing over and over again when it comes to thinking. Plus, it’s possible that overthinking is a self-defense mechanism ingrained within us to try to help us spot threats. When we worry we feel somehow like we are preparing ourselves for what may come. Never mind, that it may never come and that we are worrying away our very lives.
I’ve been noticing that mindfulness practice is popping up in popular articles in the media. Time Magazine currently has this subject featured on the cover of it’s magazine. Mindfulness is merely a shift in focus. An easy way to practice mindfulness is to notice what you are doing in the moment that you are doing it. Say you are washing the dishes and your mind is chattering on about something. You can notice that you are stuck in your thinking then turn your thinking to the task that you are doing. You can focus on the warm water, the color and pattern of the dish, the feel of the suds, etc.
I practiced mindfulness in this way while taking down Christmas decorations yesterday. I noticed that my mind was rehearsing conversations that I wanted to have with my friend who I was helping with to take down the decorations. I’m really not sure why my mind was doing that (except that maybe I wanted to impress her and I was worried about not having something interesting to talk about). Anyway, I shifted my focus to taking down the ornaments. I noticed the colors and shapes. I noticed what it was like to unwind the garland from the tree. I noticed that the garland beads were coated with a material that gave the beads an aurora borealis look. I noticed that the coating had a very unusual smell. I could go on and on. But, I won’t because I think that you get the picture.
Shifting my focus like I did brought calm. Without rehearsing my conversation the actual conversation was smooth and effortless. My friend opened up about some things to me and I felt like we connected on a new level. It was a very good experience all-in-all. The beauty of shifting our focus from our thinking to what is actually happening in the moment is that we experience that moment fully. Every moment lost to overthinking is a moment lost forever. We just can’t get back those moments.
I encourage you to pay attention to your thinking. If you find yourself yammering on about things of very little significance in the grand scheme of your life, try to shift your focus to mindfulness. While it might not be easy, it sure is worth it.