• Author Dr. Bruce Wilson
  • Published May 13, 2021
  • Word count 575


Bruce Wilson, PhD

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

William Shakespeare

Have you ever felt hopelessly stuck in your head? How are you affected when you are immersed in overthinking? When attempting to enjoy the moment do your thoughts wander to the future or the past? The future, if fearful, ignites anxiety. The past, if painful, may take you on a downhill slope into a low mood. Whatever you are doing at the time, overthinking has the potential of escorting you on an unproductive journey away from your present experience. If that experience is exciting or fun it will be altered to some degree by delving too heavily into the recesses of your mind.

Overthinking, just like overtraining, has repercussions. The mind can create problems where none exist. Why does this happen so often? Perhaps we problem-solve to fill space. We think about four times faster than we speak or listen. At times, with all that space, we tend to go deeper into thought and exaggerate whatever feelings might be on the rise. Fear, pain, loss, threat, panic, and other negative emotions are all potentially waiting to be magnified through persistent ruminating and the internalizing process of our thoughts.

Worry is also heightened through the practice of overthinking. The more the mind repeats a negative message the more powerful the message will become. Repetition and augmentation combine to create the proverbial “mountain out of a molehill.” Interestingly, the cure to some of our overthinking is to be more emotive. Find the humorous side to your concerns. Try to take your overly dramatic thinking to your own personal comedy store. Seeing the funny or playful side of something rather than the serious side in these moments can be eminently helpful.

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”- Mark Twain

One biproduct of overthinking is that we usually gravitate toward our weaknesses or limitations. The reality is that we probably have more strengths than weaknesses but these thoughts lack equitable consideration when overthinking presides. We could begin to assist our overthinking reflexes through displacing our negative thoughts with some of our strengths. This practice over time will strengthen our strengths and replace unnecessary negative thinking. Our successes begin to outweigh our failures and occupy more positive space in our thoughts.

Overthinking our mistakes is a common issue. Take the concept of the “second mistake.” The second mistake is a focus that is manufactured when we are still focused on the first mistake. Staying focused on the first mistake is the second mistake. This example illustrates how wasteful overthinking can be. Instead of moving forward and learning from our mistake, we are still ruminating on the past. There is an obvious benefit from avoiding the “second mistake”, we move on.

People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than burdens are attached to them.”- George Bernard Shaw

Overthinking may ultimately lead to procrastination and low self-esteem. The fear of failure or making mistakes can fortify being in our heads and out of action. Overthinking when procrastinating maintains an unhealthy status-quo and an ambivalence to change. When we focus on successful outcomes, obtained through taking action, we have the power to alleviate the propensity for procrastination and overthinking.

A paradox of mindfulness is that sometimes situations arise where we must be mindful to be unmindful. This is a significant reminder that less can most definitely be more.


Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist in private practice at Mind Health Care, Geelong, Australia. He has 25 years of experience and enjoys sharing his ramblings with friends and colleagues.

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