Help, I can’t stop thinking! Whenever anybody mentions addictions we immediately jump to thinking they mean something like alcohol, drug or sex addiction. Although these are very real and arguably more destructive than many of the more subtle addictions, we shouldn’t ignore the subtle addictions and how much they can hold us back.
Did you ever consider these addictions?
Addicted to thinking, wanting more, to desires, spiritual enlightenment, religion, our own beliefs, our own opinions.
These are very serious addictions and can be as debilitating as alcohol or drug addiction.
Let’s take addiction to thinking – when you simply cannot shut your mind down in any way, you cannot sleep at night, you can not listen to someone without your mind racing to thoughts and conclusions. No matter what arises, you immediately have a thought, which leads to a judgement, opinion or some belief you have picked up through the years.
What would your life be like if you were not addicted to thinking?
In order to function, we need to think. It’s different from any other addiction, because with a thinking addiction, the answer is not to give up thinking – it’s just to do it a little less!
Imagine saying to an alcoholic “we need to deal with your addiction, so we’re going to give you just a little less alcohol. You can still drink, however you need to be sober a few times a day if possible.” It’s not going to happen. That person is never going to be able to control their addiction in that way, because that kind of addiction doesn’t let you have ‘just a little’. An alcoholic needs to go without alcohol. Granted, I am not an alcohol addiction specialist, but I know enough to suspect that is true.
However, I am an expert thinker. Just like you, and everybody else on the planet. We are great at thinking. It is what has made humans the top of the evolutionary ladder so far. Thinking should be celebrated, enjoyed and played with.
This is why it is so difficult to deal with the addiction of thinking. Firstly, most people know they overthink things. Secondly, we don’t realise it is an addiction. And thirdly, you cannot eliminate thinking because it’s vital.
As thinking humans, are we stuffed? No! There are things we can do to create a gap between our thinking. It’s funny, and it always makes me giggle because the number one reason why people do not take up meditation or believe they can’t meditate is that they ‘can’t stop thinking.’ Ironically, this is exactly what meditation and mindfulness tackles.
Although alcoholism cannot be dealt with by practicing moderation or controlling consumption, that’s exactly what we need to do with our addiction to thinking.
We need to control how we think. And it’s far more complicated than any single article could tackle.
So here are a few things we can do to help reduce the thinking a little:
- Accept that what you think is never the full truth. It’s always just a part truth and our opinions, thoughts and beliefs are nothing more than our relative truth. Understanding this gives us ease, reduces rigidness and opens our minds.
- Practice focused meditation. Instead of allowing our minds to wander everywhere, we practice focusing on the present moment. This normally consists of bringing our thoughts back to our breath every time they wander.
- Practice mindfulness. Similar to meditation but done anywhere at any time to ground us and bring us into the present moment. Instead of walking the dog quickly just to get the job done, take some extra time and look at a tree, become aware you’re looking at the tree and enjoy the tree for what it is. You can and should do this with other objects!
- We focus your attention from our heads into our bodies. Don’t ask yourself “what am I thinking, what is on my mind?” Instead, consider how is my foot feeling? How does that deep breath feel? How is my heart feeling? And wait for the answer instead of rushing in with a thought.
- Recognise when you are not present. When you realise you’re thinking about something that happened in the past, planning what you’re having to eat later or thinking about some other situation that is not right here and now, take a deep breath, and say to yourself “I am breathing in, I am breathing out.” Bring yourself back to the here and now.
If those things do not reduce your thinking you can always just sit down where you are and leave your attention to your thoughts.
And try this – How to Clear Your Mind, Instantly!