by Nikolina Eisinger
It’s getting harder and harder to pump the breaks of our busy
lives. Silence is hard to find these days. We are constantly over-stimulated
and/or distracted. In almost any given second, someone or something requires
our attention. We are connected with our families, friends, bosses and the rest
of the world 24/7 through smartphones, laptops and tablets.
I remember going to the library as a child. I love reading, so I
spent most of my free time there. The librarian would get mad at me when I was
making any kind of noise, and I would become so frustrated with his demands for
silence. Now, I crave silence and can’t remember the last time I slowed down
and sat quietly with my own thoughts for more than 15 minutes. My mind is
constantly running at a noisy pace.
Especially when I put my head on the pillow. It’s like a gate
opens and all of my thoughts, emotions and fears sneak their way into my mind.
It became scary even, so I began distracting myself with noise – books, social
media, videos, and the vicious circle was created.
Over-thinking every situation is not at all “being present” in
the moment. I was analyzing the conversations I had with my friends and
colleagues during the day and wondering what I could have said differently. I
was convincing myself that my boss would fire me, that my friends were mad at
me, and I was coming up with numerous diseases and unfortunate events that
could happen in my future to me and my loved ones. One night I convinced myself
that I had a deadly disease, and I was so anxious and scared that I couldn’t
sleep for a second. I was tossing, turning and analysing until the alarm went
That was the moment I realised that I’d gone too far and that it
had to stop. I used to believe that over-thinking meant that I’m a person who
loves to plan ahead. We all know there is nothing wrong with preparing yourself
for different scenarios. You can make informed decisions this way, plan your
future, choose your path and be happy. Yet my behaviour was anything but this –
it was toxic for both my mind and body. It was leading to stress, panic,
anxiety, unnecessary and irrational fears.
Aware of the problem, I decided that was time to do something
about it. I googled how many thoughts an average person has per day – the
answer was something close to 75,000! And it turns out that almost 80% of these
thoughts are negative – and repetitive. Imagine the damage we’re inflicting on
ourselves on a daily basis.
How I used meditation to stop overthinking
The next logical thing to do was to google “how to stop over-thinking”,
and I was once again flooded with information on the matter. You can find
numerous tips online on the topic. Of course, I read almost all of them and
decided to try meditation.
One of the most useful things I found was a simple test that you
can do in a matter of minutes: put a timer on your phone for 30 seconds, close
your eyes and count any thoughts that cross your mind. I counted over 40. It
started with “why am I doing this?” continued with “I bet I look silly?”, and
turned to “what should I cook today?”, and “how am I supposed to meet my
Almost all of the thoughts I caught were negative.
Motivated to change this toxic pattern, I lit up my candles,
took my favourite blanket and sat comfortably in my bed and prepared to
meditate. I put a 15 minute timer on my phone and waited for the magic to
happen. But nothing really happened. I felt uncomfortable and weird. I tried
that a couple of more times, and I became frustrated that my mind was
resisting. So, naturally, I started over-thinking that as well.
I dug into meditation forums, and it turned out that a lot of
people feel this way in the beginning. Nothing of lasting benefit happens
overnight so I don’t know why I thought that this would.
I dug deeper into the topic, and I found guided meditation. You just play a recording with instructions about when to breathe in and when to breathe out. Excited, I gave it a try. It still felt weird, but I found myself able to experience uninterrupted stillness (for at least a couple of minutes). Turns out that the process of meditation is very simple – you can just sit and follow your breath. When you notice that your mind has wandered and you are lost in thought, you gently lead your attention back to the breath.
As I learned, regular practice is key. I also learned that
mindfulness doesn’t promise to remove all the problems from one’s life.
However, with practice, you might begin to relate to those problems
differently. Life challenges are always likely to arise and mindfulness can change
how you react to the events and circumstances that are happening.
Here are some practical tips that helped me throughout my
Create a schedule and commit to it
The first thing you need to do is come up with a schedule and
commit to it. Start with 10-15 minutes per session, 2-3 times a week. Choose a
time when you’ll be relatively undisturbed until you build a habit of it. Many
people start out waking early in the morning while everyone else is
There is not a golden rule to follow here. Just make sure to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Choose a suitable environment in which to meditate. Whether it’s outside, inside, on the couch, on the floor, cross-legged or laying down – all that matters is that you are able to come to rest whilst remaining alert.
Practice staying mindful throughout the day
I started meditation to become more mindful and self-aware in the
moment. I wanted to build skills to help me stop over-thinking. What I learned
is while it’s great to be mindful for the duration of a meditation, you can
also learn to fold mindfulness into your everyday life. As my practice became
more and more grounded, I learned to be mindful in all kinds of different
I no longer fear my thoughts. When I get caught up in
over-thinking, whether during meditation or in the rest of my day, I can notice
where my mind has gone and gently bring my attention back to the present
moment. I’ve learned how to live my life rather than over-think it.
After an incredible career working for B companies like Live Earth and Headspace, and travelling the world, Nikki now lives on a 1901 homestead in NW Montana with her partner, twin teen girls, a herd of goats, chickens and two dogs. Like most folks in Montana, Nikki doesn’t “do” just one thing. She is the founder of Glad.is – a guide to intentional living & mindfulness, and co-owner of Tobacco River Ranch Glamping