How to Stop Overthinking (5 Tips to Live in the Moment)

People tend to overthink because they want to make the best decision for themselves and their loved ones by trying hard to control everything and predict every possibility.
That’s all more common than you imagine, but figuring out how to stop overthinking is the true challenge.
Luckily, overthinking is an acquired habit that you can overcome. Techniques like breathwork and attention training can help you gain control over your thoughts.
This article will take you through five tips to clear your mind and start living in the moment.

Focus on Self-Awareness

Start by focusing on what triggers the overthinking process. Is it out of guilt, fear, or anger? It could be a mix of emotions, and the key to preventing rumination (a cycle of negativity) is to identify the reasons behind those thoughts.
Whenever you catch yourself dwelling on your feelings, note them down. You can use these notes as a benchmark to know which emotions trigger overthinking the most.
It’ll also help you know whether you’re progressing or not. After all, having self-awareness is key to determining the right approach to improve your mindset.

Unwind with Breathwork

Even your breathing can work wonders when it comes to relaxing and relieving stress.
When you’re mentally or physically stressed, your body automatically functions on the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response. This increases your heartbeat and leads to a fast and shallow breath.
Now, what happens when you start focusing on slow, deep breathing?
Your brain switches to the parasympathetic system, triggering the rest and digest response that tells your body to relax.
Here’s how you can try it out yourself:

Find a Comfortable Position

A lot of people think you need to sit nice and tall for breathwork, but that’s not necessary, especially if the upright posture is uncomfortable for you.
Sitting on a chair or lying down will work. Just make sure to put a pillow right below your shoulders if you choose to lie down. That ensures your head aligns with the diaphragm and allows good air passage through the neck.

Breathe With the Diaphragm

You need to learn how to use your diaphragm for efficient breathing. This expands the lungs and fills them adequately with air. It also helps with steady exhales, so carbon dioxide doesn’t accumulate in your body to cause fatigue.
Here is how to breathe with your diaphragm:
  • Place your hands on the ribcage and squeeze it.
  • Inhale and feel your hands separate apart as the ribcage expands. If you don’t feel your hands separating, that means you’re shallow breathing, using your chest.
  • As you exhale through your nose, you should feel your hands coming together.
  • The goal is to exhale through your nose, but if you find it hard, exhale through pursed lips.

Try Different Intervals

If you’re a beginner, follow a 4-7-8 breathing interval. This means you inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds—this is where the sympathetic nervous system switches off—and exhale for 8 seconds.
Keep in mind that breathing techniques vary depending on the purpose, and you can try out different methods until you find one you like. Just remember to engage the diaphragm all along, regardless of the interval layout.

Accept That You Can’t Control Everything

Sure, it’s tempting to predict possibilities, but focusing on every minute detail will only lead to excessive worrying.
While some people like predicting how the future will unfold, that’s impractical in a lot of cases. It’ll only cause more stress when unexpected events happen.
If that’s something you do often, try to prioritize taking action. Now that you have a list of your triggering emotions and fears, focus on what you can do with each problem.
Take, for instance, a particular thought like a career decision that triggers overthinking.
Here, you can lay out your options, spot the most promising plan, trust your gut, and do your best. Taking action will help you break that circle of thoughts and progress towards your goals.
It might turn out the way you planned, and it might not. What matters is understanding that you have to act based on the factors in front of you. You can’t really control anything beyond that, and that’s okay.

Practice Letting Go of Negative Thoughts

The first thing that may pop into your mind when you catch yourself overthinking is to distract yourself. You may invest your time in hobbies, like reading, volunteering, or working out.
All these activities are beneficial, but they can be impractical at times. No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid every situation that prompts overthinking. Instead, you can try attention training.
The goal of attention training is to help you shift your focus intentionally to shut off overthinking thoughts.
Here’s how it works:
  • They ask you to listen to various environmental noises like waves or birds singing.
  • Next, you focus only on one sound for 10-20 seconds while completely shunning background noises.
  • Move on to the next sound in line.
  • Go for another round, but keep it limited to 2-5 seconds per sound.

Don’t Be too Hard on Yourself

Most people dwell on negative events in the past rather than enjoy positive experiences. It’s actually common that past incidents trigger overthinking the most. This is known as negativity bias.
Instead of overthinking your mistakes in the past, take it as a learning opportunity.
If that doesn’t stop it, try writing down your accomplishments each time you think about unpleasant events. That’ll help you quit the negative self-talk and think better of yourself.

Conclusion

Many people have trouble with their thoughts and don't know how to get them under control. If you’re an overthinker, you might search for solutions to stop worrying a lot.
Knowing how to stop overthinking can make all the difference in your day-to-day life.
The key is to identify what triggers your rumination. That way, you’ll be able to apply the right approach, like breathing exercises and attention training.
Just remember overthinking is not always bad. Think of overcoming it as the beginning of a journey to become a better version of yourself.