Why You Make Up Scenarios In Your Head And How To Stop

Why You Make Up Scenarios In Your Head And How To Stop

Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about an argument that never happened? Or maybe you’ve rehearsed a conversation in your head with your boss about a raise you haven’t asked for yet. We all do this from time to time. It’s a common quirk of the human mind. But why do we create these fictitious scenarios, and more importantly, how can we rein them in when they start to take over?

1. Your brain is trying to prepare you for what’s to come.

Think about the last time you had an important meeting. Chances are, you didn’t just waltz in there without a clue about what you’d say, right? You probably went over what you wanted to talk about in your head, maybe even while showering or driving. That’s your brain running through a mock session. It’s not because you’re nervous or overthinking; it’s just like when you preview a movie before you decide to watch it. Your brain is previewing possible conversations and events so that you can feel ready for whatever comes up.

2. You’re obsessed with patterns.

Remember learning times tables or playing that game where you have to guess what comes next in a sequence of pictures? That’s your brain loving patterns. We’re all wired to look for them. It’s not about being negative or expecting the worst; it’s like when you’re listening to a new song, and you try to guess the next note. Your brain is constantly trying to guess the next ‘note’ in the melody of your day-to-day life.

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4. You need to feel in control.

You might not organize your socks by color or have your books arranged alphabetically on the shelf, but deep down, there’s a part of your brain that’s trying to sort life out. Making up scenarios is like creating a map of a city you’ve never visited. It gives you a sense of direction in the maze of ‘what could happen.’ It’s not a power trip; it’s more about feeling secure and prepared for whatever might happen. You’re a bit of a control freak. It happens.

5. Your mind is a natural storyteller.

Have you ever found yourself lost in a book or a movie? That’s because humans love stories. And your brain doesn’t just enjoy them—it’s actually pretty good at creating them too. When you’re imagining these scenarios, you’re essentially telling yourself stories. It’s not about not living in the moment; it’s about your brain’s natural tendency to connect dots and create narratives. It’s as simple as when you recount your day to a friend, except the story isn’t over yet.

6. You’re curious and love exploring possible incidents/outcomes.

Ever caught yourself clicking through a rabbit hole of Wikipedia articles? Or maybe you’ve found yourself deep in a thread of tweets about a topic you’d never even heard of before breakfast? That’s your brain’s curiosity at work. It’s the same thing with making up scenarios in your head. It’s not that you’re unhappy with the slice of life you’ve got; it’s just that your mind loves to explore possibilities. It’s like when you open a new tab on your browser just to look up something trivial—it’s not about the information; it’s about the act of seeking.

7. It’s a way of practicing your problem-solving skills.

Imagine you’re playing a video game where you have to navigate through a tricky maze. You’d probably try out a few different paths before you find the right one, right? That’s what your brain is up to when it spins out scenarios. It’s not about being worried about future hurdles; it’s more like doing a bunch of practice runs before the actual race. It’s not about making mountains out of molehills; it’s about mapping the terrain.

8. There’s nothing going on in your head — you’re bored.

Think about those times when you’re waiting in line, just staring at the back of someone’s head. What do you do? You pull out your phone, doodle on a piece of paper, or maybe, you start daydreaming. That’s your brain keeping itself entertained. It’s not that you need constant stimulation; it’s more like your brain is a kid that found an empty cardboard box and is turning it into a castle. It’s not about avoiding the present; it’s about making the most of a blank canvas.

9. It sharpens your social skills.

Now, think about the last time you had a big family dinner or a catch-up with friends. Before you saw them, did you think about what you’d say or how you’d greet them? That’s your social brain doing a bit of a warm-up. It’s not because you’re worried about fitting in; it’s like stretching before a workout. You’re not over-analyzing social cues; you’re just preparing to engage with them. It’s not about fear of judgment; it’s about playing out the moves before the dance begins.

10. It’s designated worrying time.

And here’s a bit of an action point that ties into the ‘why’. Sometimes your brain is like a pet that’s found an interesting scent and won’t stop sniffing. Setting aside worry time is like giving your brain a designated sniffing spot. You’re not giving in to the worry; you’re giving it a sandbox to play in. It’s like scheduling in breaks during work; you’re not procrastinating, you’re giving structure to the chaos.

How to stop making up scenarios in your head

1. Get Real with Yourself.

First up, call yourself out. When you catch yourself scripting a disaster movie or a soap opera in your head, hit pause. Ask yourself, “Is this happening right now, or am I just writing fiction?” Acknowledge that these are just thoughts, not prophecies. They’re not set in stone, and certainly not the absolute truth.

2. Stick to the Facts.

Look at the evidence. Your brain might be telling you that your best friend is mad at you because they haven’t texted back in two hours. But unless they’ve directly said, “I’m mad at you,” you’re just guessing. Stick to what you know for sure, and don’t fill in the blanks with guesswork.

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4. Distract and Refocus.

When your mind starts going down the rabbit hole, change the scenery. Get active, go for a run, play some music, or do anything that shifts your focus. Sometimes the best way to stop those stories is to change the channel and give your brain something else to work with.

5. Talk It Out.

If you’re wrapped up in a narrative, get a second opinion. Talk to someone you trust about the scenario playing in your head. Often, just saying it out loud can help you hear how unlikely it is. Plus, a fresh perspective can help you see things differently.

6. Practice Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is all about living in the now, not in the ‘what ifs’ of your mind. Meditation, deep breathing, or just being present can help you stay grounded. When you’re truly in the moment, there’s no room for made-up stories.

Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.