The human ability to plan has blossomed into technological wonders of the modern world. This fantastic ability extends possibilities, providing not only grand discoveries but an escape from simple reactionary behaviors. The ability to plan has shaped the world and our lives. With planning, we become active players in creating futures. But a thinking mind isn’t all wonder and no ache. Consciousness contributes to complexity but disrupts harmony. Our overactive minds constantly ruminate on errors in the past and worries over tomorrow.
Our brains can be overactive in many realms. Different processes may take over hobbling a balanced approach to life. Sometimes emotions take over, shutting down rational thought. Other times thought takes over, repressing healthy emotions. When we refer to the mind, often we are referring to conscious processes. Thus, an overactive mind is when conscious processes such as thought take over, commandeering other functions, dragging us into downward cycles of thought.
Much of consciousness passes through the prefrontal cortex. According to Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D., an internationally-recognized authority on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, when this portion of the brain becomes over active people “get an excessive, intrusive feeling that something is wrong” (2009).
Thoughts may also activate other parts of the brain, stimulating emotions. When emotions get hot, the overactive process often drags us into negative thought processes. Daniel G. Amen MD explains that “when the deep limbic system is less active, there is generally, a positive more hopeful state of mind. When it is heated up, or overactive, negativity can take over” (2015).
The Burden and Blessing of Thinking
Thinking has flaws. We entertain justifications, invent blame and over-think ourselves into depression. We ponder victimhood; and ignore responsibilities with complex theories to excuse personal culpability. Thinking is a burden and a blessing. We are not constrained to live chained to unwholesome and meddling thoughts, with work, our thoughts can constructively serve our interests instead of maladaptively interfering with goals.
Thinking serves us well. However, at times it gets stuck. We ruminate over solving problems we can’t solve, fret over conditions we can’t change, and beat our selves up over perceived self images. These cognitive demons race through our mind, steal our attention, and keep us up at night.
Solitude Can Calm Our Overactive Mind
Thinking is an activity of the brain, mulling over the past and considering possibilities for the future. Thinking gives additional meaning to experience that we can access to productively guide choice, but too much thinking disrupts inner calmness. When we should be sleeping, overactive minds keeps us awake. We need space from chaotic thoughts that haunt and intrude. We need the calmness of solitude.
“While an overactive mind can be useful for coming up with new ideas or breezing through projects, it can also make it difficult to choose which task to work on at any one time.”
Ten Penny Dreams | The Curse of the Overactive Mind
Quieting An Overactive Mind Requires Practice
Thoughts aren’t simply turned off on command. Escaping disrupting thoughts requires skill and practice. We invite solitude through practices like meditation, prayer, Tai-Chi and Yoga. Many people enjoy solitude with controlled reflection, religious practices, music or nature. The possibilities are many.
Most rejuvenating practices must be invited through intentional scheduling. Long absences of solitude, indulging in the overactive mind, make excursions into peace disquieting. Feelings previously ignored with distractions of business often surface during quietness. When Habitual thoughts disappear, raw feelings are exposed.
See Inner Peace for more on this topic
Accustomed to the Noise
We fear moments of solitude and the rich rewards of quietness. Mindless clicking of facebook, blankly watching repeats of an evening sitcom and a barrage of superficial text messages distracts. We effectively escape the frightening feelings present during quietness. We must face our demons, we shouldn’t dampen the wondrous feelings of living behind the noise of an overactive mind.
Above all, we can challenge the fears and be freed. Like many things in life, if we desire a quiet mind, we must structure breaks from the overactive business. Only then will we discover that in the dark corners of our minds, away from thinking, away from distraction, lie the secrets that bring the richness and flourishing we seek.
Amen, Daniel G. (2015). Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Revised and Expanded): The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems. Harmony; Revised, Expanded edition
Schwartz, Jeffrey M. (2009). The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. HarperCollins e-books.