The How of Happiness – Avoid Overthinking and Social Comparison

The third happiness boosting activity from “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky that I want to talk about is:

Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison

Ever thought to yourself “She is so much prettier than I am” or “He is so built, I’ll never be that big” or “She is so smart, why do I even try”,  that is social comparison.

How about thoughts like, “I should have asked her out while I was talking to her, but I just couldn’t.  Maybe if I had said …” or “I should have told the boss about my idea in that meeting, but …”  This is overthinking.

Essentially these two things are related in that we are going over a negative situation or item in our head, over and over again, usually to the point that in becomes ingrained in us.

This is usually the start of losing your self-confidence, when you doubt yourself and start to compare yourself to others or relive events over and over again trying to figure out what you could have done differently.

Freeing ourselves from recurring thoughts and ruminations is not always easy, but I am here to tell you it can be done!

I know for myself since this is something I used to do ALL THE TIME!

Honestly I can’t say that it was doing the things from the book that turned me around, I managed to do that on my own long before I read this book, but when I did read this I associated with it so much I still adopted some of the activities to do.

The goal of avoiding these things (or if possible stopping them all together) is to realize that YOU are a unique and amazing person, with your own special strengths and talents and start to build up confidence in who you are.

I often have people call me “weird” for one reason or another.  I now take it as a compliment, because I WANT to be different from them, I don’t necessarily want to fit their idea of normal.

I am my own person and that is an awesome thing.  I celebrate it and enjoy it.  I’m hoping you can do the same.  So here are some things you can do to avoid overthinking and social comparison.

  • Distract yourself.  If you feel those types of thoughts coming on, find an activity you LIKE to do that engages you (so you tone all else out) and do it.  (for me it used to be Star Craft the video game – yes, I am part geek)  Find an activity that works for you and do it.
  • When you hear those thoughts in your head say “STOP” or “NO” either out loud or in your mind and find something else or opposite to think about, or refocus on what you should be doing.
  • Set aside some time every day (10 min. / 15 min / no more than 30 min.) to have these thoughts.  So when they do come up, say to them “this is not your time, I’ll think about you later during the set time”.  Make sure that 30 min. is at a time of day when you are usually in a neutral or positive state (not anxious or sad).  This tricks your mind into banishing these thoughts when they happen to pop up by allowing it to think that you’ll ponder them later.  The great part is, when you actually get to that time, those thoughts probably won’t come up, or if they do they will seem less consequential.
  • Talk to someone you trust about your thoughts and troubles.  (remember the power of social support).  Others will often have  different view point or can help you moderate feelings by giving an outside perspective on you.
  • Take action to solve problems.  example: if a recurring thought is something about everyone has a better job, then take action and start looking and interviewing for new jobs, this is a proactive way to help eliminate such thoughts.
  • Know your overthinking triggers and avoid them.   Create a list of situations, people, times, places, that tend to spark overthinking and if at all possible avoid those things.
  • Look at the big picture.  if you think “she is so pretty” look at the bigger picture.  “In the great scheme of things there have been lots of women prettier than her”.  Or if you are overthinking about something ask yourself: will this matter in a year? (5 years?  10 years?)

So there  are some ways you can start avoiding over thinking and social comparison.  I hope you found some of it useful.

Next time will be all about kindness.

Until then keep laughing, and really don’t worry about how much I might laugh in comparison, it doesn’t really mater.

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