23 Books on Overthinking Things
Do you struggle to make decisions because you’re constantly overthinking things? Are you constantly reliving conversations or experiences and it’s driving you mad? In this list of books on overthinking things, you’ll find a lot of great strategies to help you stop ruminating on the past, worrying about the future, or otherwise struggling to take control of your mind.
1. Enchiridion by Epictetus
Also known as A Manual for Living, Enchiridion by Epictetus is a powerful instructional text that is densely packed with timeless wisdom that could help you overcome overthinking. This is a book that you’ll be able to revisit over and over again in your life, never failing to find new ideas inside that you somehow missed in previous readings.
This canonical text of Stoic philosophy contains all of the fundamentals of Epictetus’ Stoic philosophy and acts as a collection of his most profound teachings.
If you struggle with overthinking and you’re interested in the principles of Stoicism, this is the book for you. One of the primary focuses of the book is the idea that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with things that are outside of our control.
Our desires and aversions shouldn’t be driven by external events, and we should learn to accept the things that we have no power over. This is in line with the Stoic concept of amor fati, which means to love one’s fate.
“Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen.”
In Enchiridion, you will find timeless advice on how to live a good, virtuous life.
2. Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday
It’s possible that you’re constantly overthinking things because you never slow down. We live in a chaotic world, and it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of manic business. When this happens, your mental chatter can get out of control, and you can find yourself unable to make decisions or ruminating on things that are out of your control.
“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”
Stillness Is the Key is one of the several Stoicism books published by Ryan Holiday. If you feel like your overthinking is the result of just not being able to slow down, this book can help you find a more peaceful life by slowing down both your body and your mind.
3. The Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer
This is a book about spirituality and getting in touch with your inner soul. Though it’s not an explicitly Stoic text, some of the main lessons are definitely reminiscent of the wisdom of some of our favorite philosophers.
One point that Singer makes is that it’s important to think about death often to help you ensure that your priorities are straight. The Stoics were fans of contemplating death as well because it helped to invigorate their lives.
This book can help you recognize when you’re overthinking things and separate your thoughts from your sense of self. This is an important step if you want to benefit from the advice offered in one of Marcus Aurelius’ most famous quotes:
“You have power over your mind– not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
– Marcus Aurelius
If you are constantly overthinking things, it means you’re letting your thoughts control you. The Untethered Soul can help you separate yourself from your thoughts.
4. Constructive Living by David K. Reynolds
Constructive Living isn’t a book based on the philosophy of Stoicism. Instead, it is an adaptation of two Japanese psychotherapies: Morita therapy and Naikan therapy.
This might be the book that helps you actually exercise what Marcus Aurelius advises:
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Inside this lesser-known book, you’ll find a wealth of information that has the power to help you stop overthinking– particularly if you find yourself focusing on your negative emotions.
Reynolds holds a somewhat unpopular perspective that one of the things that can hold people back in life is the fact that they believe they need to deal with their negative emotions before taking action. Countless modern people hold the belief that in order to improve their lives, they need to get their minds right first.
Reynolds argues that this way of thinking is backward. It’s not that “fixing” your mind will change your behavior, but that changing your behavior will allow you to fix your mind.
Here is a snippet to illustrate the point:
“…Give up the ephemeral task of working on yourself and realign your life toward getting done what… needs doing. In other words, we advise you to focus more on purposeful behavior.”
– David K. Reynolds
Another point Reynolds makes is that feelings are something we experience that, he argues, we don’t have control over. For this reason, we should accept them and do what needs to be done anyway. The more we engage in constructive behavior, the less our feelings will overwhelm us and cause us to get lost in overthinking.
5. Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle
Though The Power of Now is the book that made Eckhart Tolle famous and is also a great text for overcoming overthinking things, Stillness Speaks can help you really learn how to be still in the present moment.
“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”
– Marcus Aurelius
This book might not be for everyone, as some followers of Stoicism might be averse to books that are more focused on spirituality than philosophy. However, if you are really struggling with overthinking, it’s hard to say what book will really help you.
6. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
The most famous primary Stoic text, Meditations, can help you tackle overthinking and so much more. This is the private journal of Marcus Aurelius, once the most powerful man in the world, that might not have ever been intended to be published. In it, you’ll find endless wisdom written by the Roman emperor to the Roman emperor.
There are countless ideas in Meditations that can change your life for the better if you are a chronic overthinker. One of these ideas is that the only pain you suffer in your life is the pain you create for yourself.
That’s right– if you are pained by overthinking, you are creating that pain yourself in your mind.
“How easy it is to repel and to wipe away every impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquility.”
– Marcus Aurelius
This idea might seem distressing at first, but the reality is that Aurelius also posits that your mind is one of the things you have control over in life.
You are not doomed to suffer from overthinking for the rest of your life. It is something you can take control of. In fact, as Aurelius says, once you realize that you have power over your mind and not external events, you’ll have discovered your strength.
7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
Overthinking is ultimately a habit that you can break.
“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Atomic Habits is a straightforward book about how to break old habits and build new ones. This can be helpful for your overthinking problems in a number of ways.
“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.”
– James Clear
Firstly, if you find that you’re constantly overthinking what you should do next, this book will help. It will advise you on how to make a list of the things you repeatedly do and turn them into habits that you don’t have to think about. Rather than waking up every morning and being overwhelmed by whether you should shower, walk the dog, make your coffee, or check your email first, you can create routines that allow these things to occur without any thought at all.
Secondly, you can use the approach to breaking bad habits in the book and apply it to the habit of overthinking. Over time, you’ll find that you can overcome the habit of ruminating, focusing on things that don’t matter, or struggling to make decisions using his techniques.
8. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
This book can offer you a powerful antidote to overthinking, stress, anxiety, low mood, and more: exercise.
In Ratey’s Spark, you’ll learn about the mind-body connection using scientific research to show that our best defense against a long list of mental issues is raising your heart rate and breaking a sweat.
“Just as anxiety can feed on itself, so can courage.”
– John J. Ratey
You run into an issue when you start tackling the problem of overthinking– are you overthinking the fact that you’re overthinking? You might be surprised to find that starting to exercise more could help quiet your mind and allow you to be more present and less anxious.
9. Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book offers simple ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life and gain self-awareness. A lot of the time, when we are overthinking things, we are doing so without even realizing it. Our thoughts are in control of us and not the other way around.
Mindfulness is known to be a powerful tool against anxiety, and this book can help you take a more mindful approach to life.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Another lesson from the book that can help you overcome overthinking things is to focus on your body and senses when engaging in automatic behavior. In this instance, consider trying to focus on your body and senses the next time you notice that you start overthinking things on autopilot.
10. The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance by Sharon Martin
It’s possible that your struggle with overthinking things has to do with perfectionism. For those of you that feel an intense pressure to be perfect and are therefore held back from achieving your full potential, this CBT workbook could be incredibly helpful.
CBT is actually derived from Stoic principles, so this is an excellent approach for anyone that is struggling with overthinking and wants to pursue a Stoic path in life.
11. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson
Sometimes we overthink things because we simply don’t have perspective on what’s important. This is a classic book that has helped countless people stop letting the little, stressful things in life drive them mad. First published in 1997, this book was so successful that an entire series of “Don’t Sweat” books have been published since then.
One of the important lessons of the book is that you should remember that your life isn’t an emergency. Your life is an experience, and a blessing, much like Marcus Aurelius says:
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
– Marcus Aurelius
If you’re overthinking things, you’re probably putting way too much weight on the wrong things. This book can help you as you work to embrace Stoicism in your life and stop overthinking things with advice on:
- How to live in the present moment
- How to live each day as it might be your last
- How to be humble and let other people have the glory sometimes
“The key to a good life is this: If you’re not going to talk about something during the last hour of your life, then don’t make it a top priority during your lifetime.”
– Richard Carlson
Does stress or overthinking come first? Who knows, but what is certain is that they can ping-pong off each other in some horrible, endless cycle. If your overthinking is a product of not having perspective in life, check this book out.
12. The Worry Trick by David A Carbonell
Are you a worry-wart? Does your overthinking manifest itself in the form of endless anxiety?
The Worry Trick is a book that shows how anxiety tricks your brain into thinking that you are in danger when you aren’t.
As Seneca the Younger says:
“Our fears are more numerous than our dangers, and we suffer more in our imagination than in reality.”
– Seneca the Younger
Anxiety can lead us to overthink every decision we make, question ourselves, and leave us fretting about the future. It can fill us with emotional turbulence and dread day in and day out.
By tricking our brain into thinking that we’re in danger, anxiety forces us into a fight, flight or freeze mode even when there is absolutely nothing that is threatening our safety.
“Thoughts, however upsetting, foul, disgusting, annoying, and so on, are just never dangerous. It’s discomfort, not danger.”
– David A. Carbonell
This is a book that helps you watch your own anxious thoughts with distance and clarity so that you can overcome them and free yourself of needless worry.
13. Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton
Stop Overthinking was published in 2021 and is a #1 best seller on Amazon in the category of Emotional Mental Health. This is perhaps the book on our list that most directly tackles overthinking as an issue that plagues many people, and you can find a lot of useful advice about how to:
- Stop agonizing over the past
- Stop trying to predict what will happen in the future
- Overcome negative thought patterns
- Reduce Stress
- Stop ruminating and dwelling on negative thoughts
One of the great things about this book is that it offers techniques that you can start practicing right away.
14. Unf*ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper
This is a popular book that focuses on overcoming a long list of mental health issues that are common in our modern world.
Depending on how you feel about the recent trend of self-help books sprinkling a lot of swear words amidst scientifically researched strategies, this book may or may not be your cup of tea. It’s also largely focused on the idea that we are all struggling to overcome traumas in our lives, which may or may not be an applicable or useful notion in your own personal quest to overcome overthinking.
With those caveats in mind, many people have found that this book helps them overcome overthinking and anxiety while also teaching them healthy coping skills.
15. Poke the Box by Seth Godin
When we overthink every little thing, it means there’s a lot we’re not doing. It’s easy to have idea after idea in life that you never start because you get lost in a whirlwind of overthinking. This Seth Godin book drives home the point that what you actually accomplish in your life has to do with what you start and finish.
Have you been overthinking whether to start that business you’ve been mulling over for three years obsessively? Seth Godin will tell you to commit to something you believe in and just go do it. He reminds you that you need to take the initiative to make the life you want for yourself and make the difference you can make in the world.
16. Declutter Your Mind by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport
Overthinking can make your brain feel like a messy, chaotic, and untamable place. If you are feeling completely stressed out and anxious about your daily tasks, and overwhelmed with your thoughts, this book can help.
Declutter Your Mind outlines the causes of mental clutter and offers advice on how to reframe your negative thoughts. It also gives strategies for discovering what’s important to you and what your values are.
17. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
There is something about reading the Tao Te Ching that instantly transports you to a peaceful creek deep in the woods. This classic Chinese text by Lao Tzu is something that you can revisit over and over again for the rest of your life, and you’ll never be disappointed.
“If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu
There are countless pieces of wisdom here that will leave you thinking (but hopefully not overthinking) about them all day long if not longer.
A few of the ideas that can help you overcome overthinking include:
- Learning that your mistakes and faults can be your greatest strength, so accept and admit them
- Giving yourself up to what happens in the moment and fully accepting it
There’s nothing wrong with using modern self-help and psychology books to help you overcome overthinking, but sometimes revisiting ancient spiritual and philosophical texts can be even more powerful. Beyond dealing with the symptoms of overthinking, books like The Tao te Ching can help you restructure the way you approach life in a way that confronts the root cause of your anxiety.
18. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald J. Robertson
This book by Donald J. Robertson is a fantastic introduction to the life and thoughts of one of the most famous Stoic philosophers: Marcus Aurelius. While this book doesn’t deal specifically with the problem of overthinking, you’ll find that this guide can powerfully alter the way you approach life in a way that reduces overthinking.
It is very worth reading Meditations at some point, but How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is a wonderful distillation of Aurelius’ philosophy into useful mental habits.
In this book, you’ll find powerful lessons about the fact that you should focus on what you can control and stop worrying about what you can’t control. Instead, you should learn to accept what is outside of your control. Simply doing this can do wonders for overthinking– there’s a good chance that the content of your cycling thoughts often has to do with external events that you have no power over.
19. Letters From a Stoic by Seneca the Younger
Letters from a Stoic is a classic Stoic text that consists of a collection of letters written by Seneca the Younger. It is thought, though not known for sure, that these letters were sent to his friend Lucilius.
“Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.”
– Seneca the Younger
Stoicism is an incredibly powerful philosophy that you can apply to your everyday life. When you start to shift the way you think to become more Stoic, you’ll find that you are more capable of conquering overthinking.
Why is this, you ask?
Because the Stoics will teach you that your most valuable possession is your mind if you are prone to overthinking, this might seem distressing to you. The good news, though, is that you can have control over your mind. Through study, training, and practice, you can take control of your perception, will, and action.
20. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger
Epictetus teaches us that it is in our control to stop getting stuck in our own minds and actually live in the present. He tells us that we should “fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in right now.”
“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person or that person, this challenge, this deed. Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in right now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.”
If you are suffering from emotional distress that you feel is holding you back from engaging with life and taking Epictetus’ advice– participating, exerting yourself, and ceasing to be a disinterested bystander– you might find Mind Over Mood to be a useful book. In another book that uses the Stoicism-inspired therapy of CBT, you’ll find powerful, practical techniques and strategies you can employ to overcome overthinking, negative thoughts, and all kinds of emotional distress in this book.
21. Retrain Your Brain by Seth J. Gillihan
Retrain Your Brain is a best-selling CBT book that is a seven-week plan and workbook for managing anxiety and depression. Overthinking is commonly associated with GAD– generalized anxiety disorder– so you might find that this is a useful tool for overcoming your overthinking.
As mentioned earlier, cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychological technique that borrows from the principles and ideas of Stoicism. In combination with reading some of the great primary Stoic texts and some of the modern books on Stoicism, you can conquer your overthinking once and for all.
22. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne
Another highly popular CBT workbook to help people overcome anxiety, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, also focuses on phobias and panic disorders. In this book, you’ll find step-by-step treatment strategies for generalized anxiety disorder, fear, worry, and more.
If you believe that your overthinking is connected to an anxiety disorder, this book might be precisely the tool you need to stop those cycling thoughts and take control of what you can control in your life.
23. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry by Dale Carnegie
This self-help classic from the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People gives time-tested advice about how to stop worrying and begin to really engage with your life.
Since it was first published, six million copies of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living have been sold. Backing up his tactics with case studies, Carnegie teaches us a three-step approach to dealing with the confusion that often leads to worry and overthinking. These steps are:
- Get your facts straight by writing down everything you know about the situation and what you are worrying about
- Analyze the facts that you wrote down and determine what your options are
- Make a decision about how to act and stick with the decision
If you find yourself constantly fixating on the criticisms you’ve received from other people, Carnegie offers some advice on that, too. He argues that you should think of criticism as a compliment instead of letting negative feedback endlessly cycle through your mind.
The idea here isn’t that all criticism is constructive. In fact, people are often criticizing others for helping them feel better about themselves. If this appears to be the case, you can take it as an indication that they are feeling threatened by something you’re doing right.
If there is something constructive to be found in another person’s criticism of you, take it and be grateful. If not, take it as a compliment and move on rather than obsessing over their words.
Final Thoughts on Books About Overthinking Things
Overthinking is something that all people struggle with from time to time, but if you find that you are constantly stewing over things rather than taking action, it might be time to confront the problem head-on. In this list of 23 books on overthinking things, you should be able to find advice, wisdom, and practical steps you can take to actually find solutions to your problems rather than simply thinking, thinking, and thinking some more.
If you read one of these books and you don’t feel that it helps you, don’t worry. The point is to find a strategy that works for you in the long run, so keep reading and keep working to gain awareness and control of your mind.
Stoicism is a great philosophy for overcoming overthinking– you might find that simply reading some of the classic and modern Stoic texts helps you take control of your mind and actually engage with life. To learn more about Stoicism and find thousands of insightful and inspiring Stoic quotes, check out our Stoic Quotes blog.
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