One of the first questions I asked was how many thoughts he had, on average, in a day. “Millions” he replied. Mmmm no wonder he wanted to stop overthinking…
I often ask this question to clients and usually hear between 5,000 to 1 million thoughts.
Interestingly, the LONI (Laboratory of Neuro Imaging) at University of Southern California did some very preliminary studies with student volunteers and estimated that we have around 60-70K thoughts per day.
I calculated that we have about one thought a second, there are 86,400 seconds in 24 hours, (we still have thoughts in our dreams). A bit higher than LONI but no way as high as my client.
Rather than explore the contents of his thinking, the structure of his thinking, or how to stop overthinking (which in effect would give him more thinking to thinking about), I shared with this client the Principles of how we work as human beings:
Part of this is realising that we are thinkers, we are not our thoughts, we don’t need to get caught up in these thousands of thoughts each day and certainly don’t need to take most of them seriously.
If we think about it (no pun intended) – what are thoughts? Energy? Electric impulse? Brainwaves? Most of these brainwaves we don’t need to take no notice of. Allow them to just float by…a bit like having the radio on in the background. Some of the music we don’t even notice, we switch off, and others we listen to intently and enjoy…
Recently I was in a traffic jam, however there was hardly any traffic coming the other way. I had a thought of overtaking all the cars so I could get to the roundabout quickly. I imagined the other drivers sitting open mouthed at me overtaking them. Do you think I acted on this thought? No – of course not! We have all these thousands of thoughts – we don’t need to act on them or believe them. If we start to believe the thoughts in our head – that’s when the issues of anxiety, stress, overthinking can start.
“You have the power to remove the glasses of thought blurring your vision by not giving that particular thought more power than the next one.” Amit Karkouti
As well as having thoughts that have no benefit for us, we also have amazing thoughts. The capacity of our thinking is HUGE. Look around you – what can you see?
I am looking around my office and see the house that we designed and had built; the books on my shelf, my laptop and screen, my mug, mobile, etc. All of these were created from thought…formless into form… WOW. What can you see that’s been created from formless thought? Or hear? I’m listening to Van Morrison on the radio. The intricacy of the sounds; the orchestra, his voice, the band – together their music intertwine and form beautiful music….and where did this originate from? Thought.
“Thought is a divine tool, nothing more, nothing less, only a tool. A wise person, like a good tradesman, uses this tool to the best of his or her ability…..Thought is the creative agent we use to direct us through life.” Sydney Banks, The Missing Link
The key is to understand that we don’t need to be caught up and be mastered by our thoughts. See them for what they are – tools that we have a choice to use.
My client who wanted to stop overthinking, he had the same thought going round and round and round. Nothing was being formed by his whirlwind of thinking. He was right in his thinking stirring them up. This overthinking was sabotaging him.
He didn’t realise that he had the capacity to have fresh thinking in the moment. Just understanding this he had a huge lightbulb moment. He realised that he didn’t need any step by step guide to stop overthinking. He didn’t need to explore why he was overthinking or how to stop overthinking. Just thorough understanding that thought is an amazing tool his thinking slowed down. He suddenly started seeing his everyday overthinking for what it was and no longer took it so seriously. In fact, we had quite a laugh about it!
Since then he has shared with me that he is sleeping soundly now, he feels relaxed and at the same time has far more energy. No wonder, his overthinking had been zapping all his energy away. The shift was all through understanding thought.
And thank you to my client for allowing me to share your insights.
Lindsey Reed is an experienced international coach and trainer who enables people to stop overthinking so that they can transform their lives and be their best selves. If you would like to work with Lindsey, contact her either by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01832 280168 for a chat to see if she is the right coach for you. (121 coaching is either face to face / telephone / skype)