Overthinking is a continuous loop of unproductive thoughts. It can also be considered as an excessive amount of thoughts that are unnecessary. Overthinking has also been associated with anxiety1. According to the Berkley Well-Being Institute, when you are overthinking, you are likely trying to solve a problem in your life2. According to research, overthinking about the future has been linked with anxiety, and overthinking about the past has been linked with depression3. Individuals who engage in rumination often believe that they are solving their problem, however, it is associated with amplified levels of distress, sadness, and anxiety4.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all had at a certain level experiences of overthinking. we know that overthinking isn’t always a great thing. There are a lot of scientific studies that validate it. Since you are reading this article, I would like to assume that you are looking for a solution to stop overthinking.
“The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”John Milton
Is there a way to stop overthinking?
To stop overthinking the practice of yoga comes in. It’s often believed that yoga is about physical fitness and strength. When we think of yoga, we often tend to think of yoga poses. You’d be surprised to know that the main goal of yoga as defined by the ancient scriptures is citta, vritti, nirodaha, which translates into stilling the changing states of mind. It is intended to bring your mind to a non-active state.
Practicing pranayama i.e. breath control can help you begin to still your mind. At first, it’ll look difficult. If you try to only focus on your breath it’ll be difficult to only focus on inhaling and exhaling even 10 times. The mind will wander. As you practice various pranayamas, you’ll be able to stop your mind from overthinking.
Steps to begin stopping yourself from overthinking
Step 1: Quiet Space and Focus on Breath
- Find yourself a quiet space without people around you.
- At first, close your eyes and begin with a simple focus on your breath. Focus on every inhalation and exhalation and observe your air filling your lungs. Do this for at least 5 breaths.
Step 2: Alternate Nostril Breathing
- The next step is to do the anulom-vilom pranayama i.e. alternate nostril breathing.
- Make sure your spine is straight and your heart is open by sitting in a comfortable and tall chair.
- Bring your right hand just in front of your face and relax your left palm into your lap.
- Bring your pointer and middle fingers to rest between your brows with your right hand, lightly using them as an anchor. The thumb and ring fingers will be the ones we’ll be using the most.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- With your right thumb, close your right nostril. Slowly and steadily inhale through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger so that both nostrils are closed; hold your breath for a brief pause at the top of the inhale.
- Open your right nostril and slowly exhale through your right side, pausing briefly at the bottom of the exhalation.
- Slowly inhale from the right side.
- Keep both nostrils shut (with your ring finger and thumb).
- Breathe in slowly through the left nostril and out slowly through the right. At the bottom, take a brief pause.
- Allow your mind to follow your inhalation and exhalation for more than 10 cycles.
Step 3: Breath of Fire
- Place yourself in vajrasana or sukhasana (cross-legged position). (Because your spine is erect and your diaphragmatic movement is better in vajrasana, pranayama can be more effective.)
- Make a fist with your hands and fold your arms near your shoulders.
- Deeply inhale, straighten your arms, and open your fists.
- Exhale slowly and forcefully, bringing your arms down to your shoulders and fists closed.
- Continue for a total of 20 breaths.
- Place your palms on your thighs and relax.
- Take a few deep breaths normally.
- Repeat for a total of two more rounds.
Step 4: Focus on Breath
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath
- Inhale slowly and fill your lungs. Exhale as slowly as possible.
- Repeat this 5 times.
This sequence of breathing exercises helps you focus away from what you are thinking by focusing your mind on your breath. Doing this regularly trains your mind. It generally helps in stopping the wandering mind and helps it stop overthinking. There are documented pieces of evidence from people in scientific studies where they’ve reported that Yoga has helped them avoid overthinking5.
If you also suffer from overthinking at times either about the past or the future, begin Yoga today and better train your mind. You can begin with the simple steps that have been outlined earlier in this post.
If you have also experienced the problem of overthinking and have found a solution, share your experience in the comments section below.
- Petric, D. (2018). Emotional knots and overthinking. Research Gate.
- Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1991). Responses to depression and their effects on the duration of depressive episodes. Journal of abnormal psychology, 100(4), 569.
- Abou Tarieh, J. (2021). Feelings of inadequacy: the relationships between overthinking and anxiety.
- Wang, D., & Hagins, M. (2016). Research Article Perceived Benefits of Yoga among Urban School Students: A Qualitative Analysis.