Have you ever had a repeated thought that will not stop?
The process of continuously thinking about the same ideas is called rumination.
The best way to control rumination or negative thoughts is to distract your mind with other ideas or to find a way to resolve the problem.
Just think – distraction or action.
But it may not be as easy as it sounds.
If your circular thoughts prevent you from living life or going out, it’s time to take action.
Whether you try counting or cooking, there are simple ways to help you get something off your mind.
What Does It Mean When You Can’t Get Something Off Your Mind?
Our thoughts and our behavior are two of the things under our complete control. Or so they say. But occasionally, intrusive thoughts about unwanted events sometimes invade your mind and overwhelm you.
Whether you are worried about a past event or a potential encounter, negative rumination robs you of your present well-being, leading to severe problems like depression or anxiety.
Why do we ruminate on negative things?
- We are trying to solve a problem.
- We want to avoid a negative outcome.
- Our brains are in a feedback loop with our neurons repeatedly firing.
- We have developed bad habits of always focusing on the negative.
Why does my brain never stop thinking?
The problem with ruminating is that we inappropriately focus on the negatives – rather than the positives. And concentrating on negatives activates your fight-or-flight response.
The fight or flight or stress response triggers the release of hormones that prepares the body for a battle or a fast getaway.
In addition to physiological responses, the stress response shuts down your creative problem-solving thought process.
You must completely disengage from the thought pattern to find a solution that will silence the problem. Humans, however, are not very good at stopping the thought process.
Experimental psychologists often refer to this as “the white bear phenomenon.” The psychological exercise is well-known. It refers to the belief that the deliberate suppression of thoughts makes them more likely to resurface.
If you are told to think of a white bear and then told to stop thinking about it, the white bear image will stay in your mind.
The reason? The brain has no “Off” button. To minimize thought, you need to activate a different stream of thinking.
How to Get Something Off Your Mind: 19 Ideas for Letting Go
Holding onto a thought or problem can be overwhelming and debilitating. But there are things that we can do to redirect the mind.
As it is easier to stop a ball rolling downhill at the start, it is easier to stop ruminating thoughts when they first start than when they have gained speed.
And with a little effort and a little trial and error, we can minimize the ruminating process.
Utilizing all the tools available, we have compiled a list of 19 ways to describe how to take your mind off something and begin to regain control over your thoughts.
1. Distract Yourself
Psychologists know behavior can change emotions. You can raise your emotional frequency if you do something that makes you feel better.
Once you feel better, thinking clearly and making appropriate decisions are more manageable.
2. Do a Puzzle
Accomplishing something, anything, can change our mindset.
Doing something that stimulates the logical and problem-solving portions of the brain also acts as a distraction task by simply giving you somewhere else to focus your attention. It also promotes well-being through the successful completion of a job.
3. Practice Mantra Meditation
Through the repetitive use of a calming sound or positive affirmation, Mantra meditation focuses our thoughts on the present and now.
We allow our thoughts to pass through the mind without engaging them during meditation. Even a short ten-minute session of mantra meditation and focused breathing can free your mind from persistent ideas.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise keeps us fit and strong. Vigorous activity also contributes to both good physical and mental health. It also encourages healthy sleep patterns. These are all things that contribute to positive health.
Exercise also releases endorphins — feel-good chemicals that help us feel good and happy.
Also, most activities require concentration, distracting your mind from repetitive thoughts. Next time you can’t let something go, go for a run or a swim.
5. Laugh and Smile
It has long been held that laughter is the best medicine. Believe it or not, smiling makes you happy and scientific studies prove it.
The brain registers muscle movement in your face when you smile and triggers the release of feel-good chemicals and hormones.
A more optimistic outlook makes it easier to change how you think. This mood change, in turn, makes us happier – creating a positive feedback loop.
6. Discuss the Issue
Talking can be helpful in a couple of different ways. Acknowledging that you do not know how to get something off your mind may provide enough assistance.
Also, talking with someone you trust or are unfamiliar with the issue may provide perspective as to why you keep thinking about something.
7. Practice Journaling
Journaling intrusive thoughts may help get those ideas out of your head and down on paper. Sometimes called a worry journal, the act of writing gives you the perspective that ruminating does not allow.
Journaling helps us tap the breaks in the body’s stress response to activate our parasympathetic nervous system –activating the rest and digest response and calming the body down after the danger passes.
It is also a safe way to revisit an issue, reframe and solve it. Once in your journal, you have complete control.
8. Clear All Triggers
If something in your life constantly reminds you of a thing, wrong decision, or person, clear your surroundings to remove all triggers.
Clear out physical stimuli such as clothes, pictures, or keepsakes. Also, clear out the social triggers. Unfollow negative influences on social media, and change coffee houses, so these are not a constant reminder.
9. Reframe Thoughts
If the issue persists enough to keep your thoughts involved throughout the day, try reframing the problem.
Like rewriting a sentence, this small action may help you change your perspective and even find a solution that you can live with — action is the antidote to anxiety.
When you have a resolution to the situation, you will have both reduced the need for repetitive thinking and found something constructive to focus on replacing those circular thoughts.
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10. Organize Your Environment
Cleanliness has often been compared to a healthy mind or a peaceful state. It isn’t easy to know how to get your mind off something.
However, a calming environment free from clutter can help you get into a more relaxed state of mind. Without the distraction of trash or clutter, your mind tends to focus more on positive thoughts.
11. Practice Gratitude
Many studies advocate the positive physiological and mental health effects of gratitude. Expressing gratitude allows you to live in the present and see the positives.
This practice is contrary to repetitive thinking, which tends to focus on the negatives of an idea or situation.
Creating a blessings list each morning or simply saying thank you on your way to school or work are ways to express gratitude.
12. Practice Deep Breathing
A person can practice deep breathing anytime, without any specialized training. As the mind begins to race, the body’s natural response is to speed up the heart and breathing rate. A slow, downward spiral ensues, creating an anxious mind.
Studies have shown deep breathing slows or even counteracts this process. And a person can practice deep breathing anytime, without any specialized training.
The MHA suggests that taking slow, deep breaths can reduce the stress response helping to quiet or stop repetitive thoughts.
13. Recite a Positive Mantra
It is usually negative thoughts that take hold and refuse to go away. You can break the reflective cycle if negative thoughts are replaced with a positive affirmation, such as things will work out. Increased anxiety, stress, and a type of self-fulfilling prophecy ensue.
Using positive affirmations also helps to make better choices and see things from a different and more positive light.
14. Read a Book
Reading takes concentration and effort versus watching a movie or TV show. Reading a book distracts the mind and allows us to enjoy new people and a new environment.
As you read, you establish a buffer zone between you and your thoughts. Reading about far-off lands and different cultures helps contextualize your ideas.
15. Learn Something New
Learning helps grow your mind, literally. New information and experiences create and expand the neural pathways of the brain.
Studies show that when we learn new information, the density of myelin increases – changing the makeup of our brains.
Even if you are not in school, try an app to learn a new language or solve a puzzle. Another way of distracting and refocusing your mind is to take a trip.
Whether it is a short drive or a weekend trip, new experiences will help redirect your thoughts. Learning refocuses the mind and enables you to achieve a more enlightened perspective.
16. Volunteer for an Hour
While the suggestions here about how to get something off your mind are varied, most follow the basic premise of distraction and perspective. If you can not change your thoughts, find a new environment.
Volunteering is a great way to shift the focus from you to others and help your community. Take an hour or town and volunteer at the local shelter or animal hospital. Assisting others allows us to recognize that we live in a big world and may reframe repetitive thoughts.
17. Play Music
Music has long been known to influence thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Consequently, the idea that we can change our mood by changing musical genres is real.
The works of Mozart have been shown to enhance studying and memory. Repetitive drums or chanting create a meditative state. And samba music makes us dance.
Music therapy is often used to promote emotional well-being and cope with stress. The psychological effects of music can be powerful and wide-ranging. Some research even suggests that musical choices highlight different aspects of a personality.
In addition to listening to different musical genres, try learning a new piece if you play an instrument. The focus needed will help change your mindset.
18. Talk to Your Doctor
Racing or repetitive thoughts may have an underlying medical cause and is common in specific personalities, including perfectionists.
If you find it repeatedly challenging to calm your thoughts or distract yourself by some of the methods listed here, check with your physician.
Repeated episodes of racing thoughts, a low mood, problems sleeping, or increased anxiety can indicate organic issues and illnesses.
19. Try Aromatherapy
The use of aromatherapy is a well-known Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medical practice that dates back thousands of years.
Concentrated essential oils are extracted from plants. These oils have aromatic properties that are used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes.
Lavender is thought to be calming, according to research. Other therapeutic oils include sweet basil, orange, jasmine, and valerian.
As our days become more stressful, it is often hard to figure out how to get your mind off something. Incorporating one or more methods while focusing on the positives in our daily lives is an excellent start to controlling our thoughts.