The French philosopher René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” While this statement makes a whole lot of sense, some people often take thinking to an extreme. Worrying thoughts scurry around in busy brains, increasing anxiety and stress, which in turn damage bones.
Today we’re going to explore how to stop overthinking in its tracks and give both our brains and our bones a well-deserved rest from stress.
How Mental Patterns Damage Health And Bones
While a lot has been written about emotional intelligence, what is not so widely publicized is how our emotional patterns create mental patterns or self-talk, that can keep us running on the proverbial hamster wheel.
Once we get into a negative spiral, it can be extremely difficult to change what’s going on in our head. Usually, it’s not until we’ve reached a state of mental exhaustion — or until something positive happens — that the mental pattern shifts.
Also, chronic worry triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol. The excess cortisol circulating in the bloodstream acidifies the serum pH, increasing fracture risk.
And over time, depression sets off the sympathetic nervous system. Once activated, this system releases a substance known as noradrenaline, which has a damaging effect on bone-building osteoblasts.2
Overthinking also interferes with your ability to problem-solve. Constantly dwelling on the problem creates a cycle of stress that leads to analysis paralysis, instead of potential solutions.3
Finally, rumination can ruin your quality of sleep.4 And, as Savers know, good quality sleep is essential to good health and strong bones.
Overthinking often leads to depression and anxiety, can interfere with your ability to focus on solutions, and decreases your ability to obtain sound sleep.
8 Ways to Turn Overthinking Into Positive Behaviors
1. Distract yourself.
Finding distractions is a good way to stop overthinking. One study found that while life events posed the greatest potential risk of stress, it was the overthinking about these events, rather than the events themselves, that actually caused the stress.5
Most people tend to overthink in the evening or at bedtime when their minds slow down from daytime activity. This is the time to begin creating positive behaviors that will engage your mind and prevent the negative mental pattern from taking hold.
Be sure to choose a positive behavior that promotes psychological and emotional well- being. For example: instead of worrying about a problem, decide you’ll use this time to get in touch with old friends. Or perhaps practice some relaxing yoga poses before dinner, or watch a comedy film. Whatever you select, make this your go-to distraction whenever you feel yourself falling into negative mental patterns.
Choose positive behaviors to distract yourself from overthinking. Make sure the new behavior you select encourages positive emotions.
2. Ask for support.
When you want to change any behavior, don’t attempt to do it all on your own. Get help from a friend, your partner, or a family member as you get started on the road to forming new, positive patterns of thinking. Research has shown that social support helps manage stress — and provides a refreshing new perspective on your hamster-wheel thoughts.6
Seeking support to change is a tried-and-true method of discovering a fresh perspective, and derailing our habitual thought patterns.
3. Choose process, not perfection.
Remember that life is a journey, not a destination and that your decisions are not cast in stone. Overthinking often presupposes that you will make a once-and-for-all decision that will stand until the end of time. This may make for good movie endings, but real life doesn’t work this way.
Allow yourself to be wrong sometimes, and to be imperfect, like everyone else. We all have faults, and areas we’re working to improve. This is the nature of being human.
Accept your imperfections as a natural part of being human. If you make a decision you may later need to revise, that’s fine, and not worth overthinking to the point of harm.
4. Trust your decisions.
Overthinking will never lead to perfect choices, as described above, because we can only see the results of our choices through experience. So make the best decision possible with the information you have, knowing you can adjust it down the road.
Hindsight is always 20/20 vision, so overthinking without action will only lead to stress. Act, and adjust your choices in the future as needed.
5. Leave your worries behind.
Savers know that constant worrying about what might happen in the future is never productive — and can damage bones.
That’s why the wonderful aphorism, “Why worry? It will probably never happen” has been so popular for many years. It’s one of the many practical, simple reminders that focusing remaining calm and clear is key to good health and strong bones.
Worrying about what might happen in the future has many negative consequences. Dismiss fear by asking yourself, “Why worry? It will probably never happen.”
6. Let go of control.
Optimists know that life is full of ups and downs, and they relinquish the desire to control every aspect of their lives, and those of others. This emphasis on positivity benefits your heart, lowers your blood pressure, and, helps to strengthen your bones.
Some of the greatest breakthroughs in medicine, science, technology, and other fields have come about as a result of multiple mistakes, and by trial and error. So do your best, and move on. If something needs to be changed or corrected, you’ll handle it in the future.
Many people want to control everything in life, but this is a recipe for excessive stress, leading to ill health and bone damage. Allow yourself to make mistakes; it’s how we learn and forge new discoveries.
7. Value your sleep.
Good quality sleep is essential to health and a tranquil mind.
Don’t allow sleep deprivation to become “normal” for you. Take steps to regain your nocturnal rhythm, and go to bed at a reasonable hour every night. When you feel well-rested, you will be less prone to overthinking.
Good quality sleep helps to reduce stress and calm your mind, making you less prone to overthinking.
A corollary to good quality sleep, exercise is a surprising antidote to overthinking. Tiring out the body relaxes the mind, and science has confirmed that exercising reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.7 When you’re more relaxed, you’re much less likely to overthink.
Regular exercise is an excellent way to build and strengthen your bones while keeping your mind on a positive note. Remember that it’s important that you choose an exercise routine that you enjoy, so you’ll participate regularly.
Staying physically active keeps your mind from dwelling on negativity — and as Savers know by now, it’s excellent for your bones and overall health.
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Loving Your Mind
Negative mental patterns can wreak havoc on your health and damage your bones. By taking a proactive approach, these eight simple steps can turn habitual overthinking into a calm, clear mind to help you manage your life. Your bones and your brain will thank you!
1 Michl LC et al., “Rumination as a mechanism linking stressful life events to symptoms of depression and anxiety: longitudinal evidence in early adolescents and adults.” J Abnorm Psychol. 2013 May;122(2):339-52. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23713497/
2 Bajayo, Alon, et al. “Skeletal parasympathetic innervation communicates central IL-1 signals regulating bone mass accrual.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. USA. 2012 September 18; 109(38): 15455-15460. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3458367
3 Susan Nolen-Hoeksema et al., “Rethinking Rumination”. SAGE Journals, September 1, 2008. Web. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00088.x/
4 Dorthe Kirkegaard Thomsen et al., “Rumination–relationship with negative mood and sleep quality”, ScienceDirect, May 2003, Pages 1293-1301. Web. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886902001204/
5 Peter Kinderman et al., “Psychological Processes Mediate the Impact of Familial Risk, Social Circumstances and Life Events on Mental Health”. PLOS ONE. October 16, 2013. Web. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076564/
6 Shadiya Baqutayan, “Stress and Social Support”, Indian J. Psychol. Med., 2011 Jan-Jun; 33(1): 29-34. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195151/
7 Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. “Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety.” Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(1):15-28. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21495519/