An award winning article: it stood third out of 225 participants.
Food and thoughts. We have been hearing since ancient times that these two things can make or break a man. Food is what we consume, but thoughts? They take rounds in our head in accordance with our circumstances and interaction with other people. Moreover, thoughts are directly connected with our emotions. In fact sometimes they seem interchangeable. Many times, our behaviours, attitudes and busy lifestyles don’t permit us to reflect upon the type of thoughts and the quantum of it that dominates our mind, and this eventually leads to a lot of physical, mental and emotional problems. This motivational article is all about managing our thoughts and not allowing them to wander away out of control.
Example 1: Mind-reading
“Ma’am, we can ask kids to make bookmarks with quotes of famous scientists.”
“Ms. Kunjan, we want kids to do some hands-on simple experiments and display projects, not something that parents will help prepare from home.”
The principal commented in a stern voice and a hushed giggle spread through among the rest of the staff. All teachers had gathered in the principal’s cabin to brainstorm ideas on the upcoming science reverberation. After the meeting, Kunjan became extremely uncomfortable, and the better half of her day went in worrying what others were thinking and gossiping about her. Every look, smile or others talking, she took personally and was convinced it was related to her.
Example 2: Catastrophizing
Mittal had given her consent for her son’s love marriage. She had met Urvashi as well, who was modern, out-going and a career minded person. In their first meeting she found Urvashi to be outspoken, but respectful at the same time. Nevertheless, now along with wedding preparations, Mittal’s mind had gone on catastrophizing mode. A thousand ifs had taken residence in her head. “After marriage, what if Urvashi shows her true colours? What if she doesn’t like to do housework? What if she demands to live independent of us? What if my son listens only to her?” And……. The list was endless. Mittal was never at peace with herself, so obviously, she couldn’t enjoy the wedding process at all. On the contrary her relentless picking holes and sulking led to high BP. Mittal had created a mountain out of nothing.
Example 3: Rumination
Over a misunderstanding, Rohan had a huge quarrel with his sister Rita. The main topic of the argument was long forgotten, and then the back and forth bickering was about digging skeletons from the past. The stained impact of that episode stayed with Rohan for a prolonged stretch of time. He not only did extensive internal brooding over it, but also kept visualising what else he could have told Rita to win the fight. In the process, he lost his appetite and had months of restless nights. All in all, his calmness disappeared, along with the focus required for important tasks.
All of the above episodes reflect one common negative behaviour; OVERTHINKING! We all think all the time. In fact thoughts are running in our mind 24/7. Then what is overthinking and how is it different? According to the dictionary, overthinking means to think about something too much or for too long. It can be very exhausting, you may come up with weird ideas which are totally baseless. Persistent overthinking makes it difficult to actually solve the problem, because you’ve been so busy weighing the subject of concern and given it more thought than necessary. But don’t stress, a small change in our approach towards people and circumstances will bring appreciative transformation in our lives, making it more peaceful, happy and healthy.
Be realistic. We all have expectations from people, situations and ourselves. Nothing wrong with that. But keep a reality check. Question yourself, are your presuppositions real or are they beyond reach, impossible or almost part of a fantasy? It’s when expectations are not fulfilled, we feel frustrated and go into brooding. Setting goals wisely and achieving them decreases ruminative thinking.
Hemant always assumed his son would fall into his shoes and become a doctor. But when Hardik proclaimed he wanted to take up travel photography, Hemant couldn’t bear the shock. Overthinking and internal battle went on till Hardik didn’t prove himself how good he was in his profession and how profitable it was at the same time. Travelling, seeing new places and acquiring fun was the added bonus.
Overthinking many times blows up the problem out of proportion than its actual size, making you feel overwhelmed. Stop. Consider the real issue and break it down into smaller tasks. Tackle one at a time and soon you’ll see that the problem simply isn’t a problem anymore.
Newly married Neha had to cook dinner for twenty guests and freaked out badly. She was on the verge of tears when she poured her heart in front of her husband.
“Nilesh, how will I manage single handedly? I can’t refuse mom either.”
Nilesh consoled her, they sat together and made a list of all that was required to be done. Dividing the work among themselves, they began the preparations well in advance and the party was a grand success.
Let the past be where it belongs; in the past. Sadly though, people who clutch on to it and carry the baggages in the future, are filled with notions like;
What if I had….
I should have…..
Wish I could…..
The only name that can be given to this is regret. Why chew your brain over something which you cannot alter or do anything about? This way you are spoiling your present, thereby creating more remorseful situations to regret upon later. Just pick a lesson from it and move ahead! Why keep looking behind?
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means being aware. Putting in conscious effort to be aware of your present moment and surroundings. Accepting things and people as they are. It also means acknowledging your own thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness can be quite relaxing, because it keeps you from getting entangled in the web of the past. It shows you the real picture and helps to concentrate on constructive aspects of life. Meditation and daily positive affirmations help in achieving these goals.
Use distraction techniques. Whenever you feel you are becoming a hostage of overthinking, distract yourself to something light and enjoyable. It could be anything that helps you get away from negative notions, like listening to music, reading a good book, talking to a friend, playing games, watching a movie, the choice is yours.
Have a proactive approach towards life. Instead of complaining and making a mountain out of the obstacles, get down to finding solutions. Grumbling hasn’t led anyone anywhere so far, hence it’s not going to do a favour to you either. Might as well do something about it.
Practice gratitude. Count your blessings. If you really, really sit down to make a list of the number of things you are blessed with, you’ll be dazzled to know they are countless. The side effects of practicing gratitude is that it will make you a compassionate person.
Don’t be harsh on yourself, if you’ve made a mistake, no big deal, we all do. Instead of cribbing about it and scolding yourself all the time, see how you can rectify it. Learn to forgive yourself and move on. The fear of failure mustn’t hold you back from reaching higher objectives.
After a massive fall, Umang didn’t give up on his skating career. Of course he had his share of depressing days, but then he thought, “What the hell! Let’s get back.” Within two years, he returned to the field, and was rewarded with a standing ovation.
Let yourself loose. Evolve in nature sometimes. Appreciate the beauty around you. Go on hikes, trekking, nature-walking, bird watching, believe me, it will soothe your very soul.
The entire trick is to keep the remote control in your hands. You must manage your stress. Stress should not dominate you. When you unlearn the habit of overthinking, you’ll realise what a big enemy you were of your own self.
The following two quotes best summarise this motivational article of mine.
Overthinking : The art of creating problems that weren’t even there.
Sometimes the worst place you can be is in your own head.
Shamim Merchant, Mumbai