Overthinking may be something you want to train your brain to stop doing, especially if it causes problems for you. For example, does your overthinking lead to a negative mood or increase your level of anxiety? Does it stop you from doing things that you need to get done? Are you procrastinating making a decision because you want to weigh all of the possible outcomes?
Overthinking can have negative consequences for those who are chronic worriers. Focusing on future uncertainties makes us anxious when we feel a lack of control. Overthinking can also keep us from enjoying the present moment. Let’s explore ways to train your brain to stop overthinking and start appreciating what is here for us in the now.
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara showed images of kaleidoscope colors to study participants and then tested their ability to remember if they had seen an image before. Participants who took their best guess at the memory test did better than those who spent time trying to remember colors and patterns. The overthinkers focused their brain power on recalling the visual information that they were presented with did less well than those who did not focus their attention on remembering details.
The researchers say that this study shows ‘why paying attention can be a distraction and affect performance outcomes.’ The area of the brain in our prefrontal cortex that is active when we pay attention is the dorsolateral area. Participants with less prefrontal cortex stimulation during the test remembered the images better. In other words, paying more attention to details actually hurt their ability to remember what they had seen.