Happiness in life is ever elusive. People chase it thinking it is a destination not realizing that happiness and joy are right inside their minds. Thinking is one of the powers that segregates homo sapiens from rest of known species. While most of other known species are more or less reactive (fight or flight), it is only sapiens who have power to think and imagine. And as any power, this force can be beneficial as well as harmful.
We live in our minds. The mind creates a perception and comprehends that perception by power of thought. Happiness in this parlance can be defined a state where humans stay detached to their thoughts. That’s one reason young children are devoid of any stress, they just do not hold on to their thoughts beyond a point. On the other hand, for most of adults, it is an altogether different story. Of all the troubles that are caused in people’s life, nothing is as disturbing as overthinking.
In Bhagvad Gita, Arjuna admits to this problem. He states:
चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 6.34||
chañchalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛiṣhṇa pramāthi balavad dṛiḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva su-duṣhkaram
The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and stubborn, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.
Most of us have tendency to go overboard in our thinking process. In this state the mind doesn’t stop even if we want it to. A problem is a problem, it is big or small as per our mind’s perception. An issue or problem can never be solved by only mulling over it again and again (and again). The more we think over it, the worse it seems to become.
Overthinking is a disease. If not controlled it leads to various mental and physical health issues. From depression to anxiety, which ultimately manifests into physical disorders and ultimately ruins a person’s health. Similar to other bad habits, one can get rid of overthinking by slow and gentle practice of meditation and withdrawal of thought process the moment one realizes that he/she is getting caught in the whirlpool of overthinking. Sri Krishna comments:
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते ||6.35||
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate
O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.
The practical way to implement above is to manifest thoughts into action wherever possible or by leaving the issue in case no action is possible. In difficult situations, rather than overthinking, one should repeat the below powerful words, “Do your best and leave the rest”. Do what you can do (action) and then just forget about it. The universe has its own laws to manifest all actions or inability to take action at some point in time. One of the most famous statements in Bhagvad Gita stresses on need to take detached action:
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 2.47 ||
karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
By abandoning attachment to thought and action, one attains a state beyond all sufferings (2.51). Indeed detached action is a powerful antidote to poison of overthinking.