Do You Think Too Much?
I Think, Therefore I Am.
When I have a problem, I think about it.
I imagine it from every angle. The pros and the cons. The yes and the no. Sometimes that’s really helpful. It guides me to make good decisions.
But sometimes, I think too much about the same thing, over and over. Have you ever done that? That sort of over-thinking is called rumination.
Women are particularly good at this. We don’t know why. Maybe it’s our biology or the way we’re raised. Who knows? The only reason it matters is that rumination can lead to more than sleepless nights or misplaced keys. It can lead to depression.
And now a new study shows that dwelling on your problems can effect your body, too.*
The Mind-Body Link
Turns out women who were asked to dwell on a stressful experience, showed higher levels of C-reactive protein in their blood—a sign of inflammation—than women who were asked to think about things like, sailing ships. And higher amounts of this protein have been linked to heart disease and other illnesses.
Now, Don’t Over-think This.
I tell you this not to freak you out, but to tell you there’s good news. You don’t need to stop ruminating on your problems. That’s right. As a matter of fact, trying to put the brakes on your over-thinking can make it worse.
Instead, the trick is to distract yourself from your over-thinking, just like you’d redirect a curious toddler away from a light socket. Put your focus elsewhere.
Here are 3 simple ways I curb my own rumination:
- Do something pleasant. Go see a funny movie or listen to upbeat music or read a great book. Distracting yourself with your sense of sight or sound or your imagination lets your mind become immersed in something else.
- Do something nice for others. Studies show when you do good for another person, you take the focus off of yourself and that shift can make a difference in your thinking.
- Focus on your breathing. For an instant mental break, focus on the in-and-out of your own breathing, 3-4 times in a row. Notice how it feels. This mindfulness practice can redirect your thoughts and calm you.
If you’re a thinker, like me, having a few go-to strategies can make a big difference. What strategies have you tried? I’d love to know.
*Ohio University (2013, March 13). “Dwelling on stressful events can increase inflammation in the body, study finds.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 14, 2013, from http://tinyurl.com/aomom5s
Photo used under Creative Commons from Victor Bezrukow