What I Do When I Can’t Turn Off My Overthinking Mind

an introvert can't turn off his overthinking mind

When your thoughts get to be too much, switch from “thinking mode” to “being mode.”

Naturally, introverts are thinkers. Sure, we are doers, too, but at least for me, there is an awful lot of contemplating before any doing. As an introvert, there is always a lot of inner narration going on in my mind throughout the day. I’m constantly looking for the meaning in things, and that involves asking a lot of questions, as I always want to know the whys and hows.

However, the workings of my mind don’t simply end once I’ve finally exhausted every possibility of a thought and taken action. There is often even more introspection after the doing. I’m bombarded with re-runs of experiences and conversations like I’m watching a mental movie.

And, when I’m not analyzing past experiences, you will likely find me thinking ahead to the future. As an introvert, I love doing this, and I often get carried away with my big-picture ideas.

However, I recently realized something: If I’m spending all this time in my head, who is present in each daily moment?

How Much Am I Missing by Analyzing Rather Than Experiencing?

Mindfulness helps me press pause on the mental movies and turn off this excessive overthinking, even if just for a few moments. With practice, I’ve learned to switch from thinking and doing mode to sensing and being mode.

We introverts may forget there is a bottom half of us because we spend so much time in our heads (this doesn’t only apply to introverts — sometimes even extroverts overthink, and highly sensitive people also struggle with it).

To help me switch modes, I use my body and breath to do a quick three-minute breathing meditation. Here’s how you can do it, too.

How to Switch From Thinking Mode to Being Mode

Step 1: Recognize that you are in “thinking mode” by observing your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations.

Ask yourself: What thoughts are going through my mind?

What feelings do I notice? Do I feel uncomfortable? If so, just acknowledge these emotions, with no pressure to change anything right now.

Keep probing. Ask: What physical sensations do I feel in my body right now? Are my shoulders tense, am I experiencing muscle tightness or pain anywhere? Again, just acknowledge these sensations without taking any action.

Step 2: Redirect your attention to your body and breath.

Next, you may want to try imagining a spotlight. Picture it zoomed in on the physical sensations of your in breath and your out breath. Tune into sensing mode by focusing on the rise and fall of your chest or belly area. Just notice each in breath followed by each out breath. When your mind wanders off to thinking mode (as it inevitably will at first), simply bring it back to your physical sensations of breathing.

Step 3: Switch to “being mode,” taking a few moments to just exist in the present.

Try to zoom that spotlight out so you are now aware of your whole body as it breathes in and out. Even if for just a moment, you have switched from thinking to simply being. With practice, this transition will become easier and more automatic. You can do it anywhere at any time, whether in your own bedroom or even when you’re at work or at a stressful social event.

Bring Your Attention to the Sensations in Your Body

These three steps will give you insight into how much your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations are connected. Notice that the point is not to try to change these. The intention is simply to start practicing being aware so you can switch more readily from thinking mode.

Each time I bring myself back to the present moment, I have the opportunity to shift my attention from the inner world of mental stimulation to the outer world and its physical sensations.

As a result, I’m making an active effort to live in my body more — and to become more aware of my physical being in each moment by using anchors like my breath and the physical sensations I experience. I also like to use my feet as an anchor — just stopping whatever I’m doing for a moment and noticing my feet anchored to the floor — which gives me a sense of grounding.

You can also use the stillness of what is around you to remind you to come back to the stillness within. If you simply look out your window and find a tree or plant to focus on, this is a quick and easy way to remind yourself to just be. Watch how that tree or plant remains still, grounded, not resisting — simply being — regardless of the weather or seasonal changes. 

Introverts, This Is Not About Changing Ourselves

Introverts can offer unique insights due to the way we approach the world and how we often let our intuition guide our thinking. I love being an introvert. What I love even more is I am aware that I’m an introvert, so I don’t feel guilty or selfish for loving my alone time

There are many misconceptions about introverts, for example, that we are unsociable. I used to constantly ask myself, “What’s wrong with me?” when thinking of yet another excuse to get out of a social gathering.

However, my once negative and judgmental attitude toward my feelings have changed for the better. Now it is totally fine for me to not be like everyone else and to love my own company, but this self-confidence didn’t come automatically. It is in these moments of self-doubt that mindfulness is especially helpful for me.

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It’s About Being Kind to Ourselves

I could sit at home in my pajamas with a cup of tea, living my best life, until I started thinking about what exciting experiences I might be missing out on.

However, after practicing mindfulness, I’ve realized that I don’t have to sit and wallow in my thoughts. I can switch out of thinking mode to being mode. I can turn my attention from repetitive and habitual negative chatter to truly being in the moment, enjoying each sip of my tea, guilt free, alone, and feeling blissful.

I feel so lucky to know that there are natural tools, like my breath, that can be used to distract and pull me out of my busy mind and into my body’s physical sensations and the exact experience of a moment.

Next time you feel overwhelmed with the noise inside, honor yourself and your mind by turning down that inner narration and giving yourself a small moment to be quiet and just be.

You can read more about mindfulness here and learn more practices, including the Three-Minute Breathing Space meditation.

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