Mindfulness and Too Much Thinking
Is there such a thing as too much thinking, after all, thinking is useful right? It could even be said that our thoughts or the internal dialogue we all have….and yes, we do all talk to ourselves, even defines who we are. Well, ironically, the more I think about this, the more I come to the realisation that there is more to us and life than just thoughts, and that too much thinking, can actually do more harm than good. Let me explain.
There is a school of thought that says approximately 80% of all our thoughts are not only repetitive but also negative in one way or another. This type of ‘thinking’ is also extremely addictive, we just can’t stop doing it and most of the time we don’t even realise it’s happening. Not sure you agree? Well just take a few moments now to reflect over your past week or so and see how often you had that internal dialogue over something that had happened or hadn’t even happened yet. How often did you struggle to sleep because your mind was working over time? I bet there were numerous occasions where you replayed a conversation or a situation that had taken place. I bet you also played through a conversation or situation you were yet to experience a number of times, be it a conversation with a colleague, an event you are going to or even the holiday you are taking in the summer! Now think about how those thoughts made you feel. Whatever the reason, more often than not, the thoughts will have created a negative response in you, whether that be anger, frustration, anxiety, stress or even longing. Well what’s wrong with thinking about my holidays I hear you ask! Absolutely nothing, that is, until you think about it so much that the present moment starts to suffer and the longing for the holiday makes now more difficult to bear!
Another way to look at it is this. If you are more often than not thinking about what has already happened, or you are thinking about what hasn’t even happened yet, (or worse still, what might not even happen), surely that is not a good use of your time and energy. I say this because in reality you are letting time and your life pass you by because of focussing on things you can’t really do much about. You can’t change what has already happened and you can’t change what hasn’t happened yet, so why waste considerable energy thinking and often fretting about it. By all means make a situation better, but do it now and then move on, because the past is after all now a memory, which is just a thought. And of course, absolutely plan for the future, but do that by taking positive action now, and then letting the rest take care of itself, because as long as you do, it will. Don’t go over the future time and time again in your head because after all, it’s imagination, which is just a thought.
Something else that is also worth considering. It is our thoughts and attitude towards those that cause our emotional reaction, not the situation itself. Agreed, the situation may have caused the thought, but it’s how the thought is dealt with that determines our reaction to it and the feelings we subsequently get. An example of this happened to me last year.
Now, picture the scene, it’s Friday evening, I’m on my way home from work after a very busy week and I wanted a beer! I didn’t want to go to the local pub though as the last thing I wanted was a crowd and even worse, a queue at the bar, so I decide that a few beers from the local supermarket would do the trick. However, and this is a big however. I have an irrational hatred of my local supermarket. The thought of going in there and queuing started to annoy me. The supermarket is just the supermarket though, it is what it is and I didn’t even know if I was going to have to queue. Even if I did, so what, it’s just queuing. However, in my head, I just wanted to be at home with my feet up and a beer, (so very much in the future), and anything that stopped that was a huge issue. To make matters worse, on the way to the supermarket, I messaged my fiancee, Pam, and asked her if she needed anything. This was in the full knowledge that I wanted her to say no (so why did I even ask!). Of course, Pam gave me a list of items, which annoyed me even more, because now I was going to have to go home first and drop off my work bag as I wouldn’t be able to carry it all, meaning it would be even longer until I had that beer. By the time I got to the supermarket and back home, I was was in a foul mood and stayed that way for the for the rest of the evening (poor Pam) and why? Because I focussed too much on the future and afterwards the past and let my thoughts manage me and my emotions, rather than just accept and embrace the present moment. In fact, the present moment completely passed me by in a very unnecessary haze of anger and stress. My thoughts about what was going to happen and what should have happened and everything else to do with supermarkets and queuing caused my emotional reaction and ended up in a rather negative experience all round. They also caused my present moment to be nothing short of horrendous and it was all completely and utterly created by no one else but myself.
If you really reflect on it, how many of you have similar experiences with your thoughts and subsequent emotions and do those thoughts truly define who you are or can you define them? Maybe they are not as ridiculous as my supermarket example, but I bet you have them. Maybe they are things that are really important to you, but does that mean you should have the reaction you do, particularly if that reaction makes your present moment more difficult or unpleasant to deal with?Would it be good if you could manage your thoughts and subsequent emotional responses? I suspect it would and believe me you can and it makes such an amazing difference when you do. The trick is, that wherever your thoughts take you, don’t let them manage and define you by thinking about them too much and getting caught up in them. Manage and define your thoughts. Let them pass you by through staying in the present moment and embracing what is because the present moment is the only moment you ever have. Don’t waste it.