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Sometimes you may have unwanted thoughts that you want to take your mind off of. They stick in your head as you struggle to break free of the loop that keeps bringing them back around.
Those thoughts can range from the mundane and inconsequential to the disturbing and scary.
They may come from anticipation, like being nervous about an important job interview coming up in a couple of weeks. They could also come from past experiences, like a traumatic experience.
Some people struggle with intrusive, looping thoughts because of a mental illness that shoves those thoughts into our thinking no matter how much we try to stop it.
Wherever those thoughts come from, you need to have different strategies to get your mind off them.
It’s good to have a few different strategies when these thoughts pop up. It’s unlikely that just one strategy is going to work all the time. And sometimes, you won’t be able to take your mind off them. Sometimes you just have to ride the wave until it concludes.
Now, suppose you’re someone who has a mental illness struggling with intrusive, fixated thoughts. In that case, your best bet is going to be to talk to a certified mental health professional. That may be a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed and managed with professional help.
But, if you’re someone who is just struggling to get your mind off of unwanted thoughts, we have twenty suggestions that may help.
1. Engage in a hobby.
A hobby is a great distraction to get your mind off something. Pick an activity that requires you to focus on what you’re doing, as you’re doing it. That way, you leave less room for your mind to wander and fixate on those ruminating thoughts.
2. Find some laughter.
Maybe it’s joking around with a friend, watching some stand-up comedy, or just partaking in an activity that brings you joy.
Laughter produces many feel-good chemicals that can help boost your mood and change your brain’s general environment. Those positive feelings can help fuel other positive feelings, off-setting worry, anxiety, and negativity.
3. Write about it.
The act of writing or journaling can be therapeutic. There are several different ways to go about writing to take your mind off persistent thoughts. We suggest actually sitting down with a pen and a notepad to write.
The act of deliberately, neatly writing your thoughts and feelings is an act of patience and mindfulness. You are required to be in the moment to clearly articulate yourself.
Typing is better than nothing, but it’s not as engaging as physically writing.
4. Do a repetitive chore.
There is a type of meditation that involves losing oneself in repetitive, mundane activities. You focus your mind on the action as you do it to let your mind clear.
Consider mopping a floor. You put the mop in the water, strain it, and then put it on the floor. Each stroke of the mop is cleaning the surface of the floor. You’re watching the mop as you move it to make sure that you get every inch of the floor. You’re looking for dirt or spots that you might have missed on the first pass.
This type of activity is mindfulness in action.
5. Look for gratitude.
Gratitude is such a powerful tool for combating negative thought processes. People often talk vaguely about the power of gratitude and that it’s changed their lives. They really don’t talk so much about how that works.
It comes down to training your brain to perceive reality differently. When you are grateful for the things you have, when your thoughts are focused on appreciating the things you have, it doesn’t leave space for the things you don’t have.
Doing this repetitively trains your brain to look for positivity, which will help take your mind off negative thoughts.
6. Talk about it to a friend.
Sometimes we just need to sit down with a trusted friend and spill our guts about what’s bothering us. A trusted friend in a time of need can help smooth over worries, redirect negative thoughts, and fight the loneliness that we may sometimes feel in life.
Lean on a trusted friend or a loved one if you have that choice. If not, you may also want to try an online support group where you can generally get some immediate support. Some are better than others, though, so get a feel for the group before you jump in.
7. Listen to something inspirational.
Inspirational speakers are out there trying to be a force for positivity in this challenging world. You may not have any personal cheerleaders, but it’s nice to listen to stories from people who have overcome the challenges that we struggle with and remind ourselves that we can overcome them too.
Find some people who have messages that you agree with, make you feel hopeful and inspired, and listen to their work.
8. Meditate to clear your mind.
A clear mind and emotions make life much more comfortable to process and manage. Meditation is a valuable skill used for thousands of years to accept one’s feelings and let them flow.
Learning how to meditate can help you gain greater control over your own thoughts, making those looping thoughts easier to manage. It takes time to get good at it. Practice regularly.
9. Exercise your body.
Exercise provides many positives for your physical and mental health. Not only does it keep your muscles strong and helps you stay fit, but it also facilitates the production of feel-good chemicals that help boost your mind up.
Exercise can also be incorporated into a mindfulness activity by focusing your thoughts on your actions and movements. Many exercises require good form, so you don’t injure yourself, which requires that concentration.
10. Read something.
Need to take your mind off of something? Reading is a fantastic way to occupy and redirect your thoughts onto whatever you’re reading.
We suggest not reading troubling or stressful things, like the news or opinion articles. Instead, read something that is fun or will make you think. That way, you can lighten the atmosphere in your mind and hopefully get your thoughts onto a different track.
11. Take a step toward completing a goal.
Do a thing! There is undoubtedly something you can be doing that will help bring you closer to a goal that you might have. Do one of those smaller things that need to get done to help you move toward success.
If you don’t have any goals, now might be the time to sit down and iron out what you really want to pursue.
12. Change your frame of thought.
Try reframing the thoughts that you’re having into something more positive. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong or your fears, focus on what can go right.
How could these circumstances positively benefit you? What good may come of all of this? What good can you create for yourself and your life from all of this?
13. Schedule time to think about it.
Sometimes we have unwanted thoughts because we aren’t giving proper time to them. They force their way in because they need attention, but we’re too busy trying to distract ourselves.
It may be helpful to schedule a specific time to sit down and contemplate the plaguing thoughts. Just take a half-hour or so, when you have some time to yourself, to just sit down and think things through.
And once the half-hour is up, you might then find it easier to take your mind off those thoughts by doing something else from this list.
14. Take yourself on a date.
Do you need to change things up? Take yourself out on a date. Have some lunch, see a movie, go walk in a park, or even take a small vacation to a neighboring city. A weekend in a hotel room is a nice change of scenery and pace from your everyday life.
That disruption can give you a little break from the thoughts you’re ruminating on that may be induced by the stress of your life.
15. Spend a little time daydreaming.
Adults can benefit from daydreaming just as much as children can. It’s good to let your mind and imagination wander on its own, once in a while. It helps exercise those imaginative parts of the brain that encourage creative thinking.
That also helps with creative problem-solving. A little daydreaming can be a welcome reprieve from the regular cycles and mundane nature of day-to-day life.
Just don’t do it so often that it interferes with your ability to conduct your life.
16. Learn something new.
The internet is truly a fantastic place where you can learn all kinds of new and exciting things. Take your mind off your current problems by learning something new.
There are websites out there that have free, structured lessons about all kinds of different topics that can help you learn something new. That’s a great way to spend your time instead of dwelling on your thoughts.
17. Listen to some music.
A rush of your favorite music can help pull your mind off of those unwanted thoughts. Crank up some of your favorite tunes and focus on them.
Focus on the different elements of the song, listen deeply to the artist’s words, and just let yourself flow with the melody for a little while. Let it take you somewhere else.
18. Practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be a difficult topic. Many people think of forgiveness purely in the sense of an apology you accept from another person to absolve them of their wrongdoing. But that’s not the only kind of forgiveness.
It’s also about accepting things that happened, sometimes hideous things that you no longer want to have controlling your life.
Sometimes it’s about forgiving yourself for making the wrong choices and choosing to heal and move on from them. Life doesn’t standstill. It goes on with or without us. Staying behind and dwelling in those wrong feelings and actions really doesn’t do anyone any good.
19. Feel your feelings, then let them go.
You’re busy! You don’t have time to feel your feelings! Work needs to be done, kids need to be fed, the house needs to be cleaned, there’s another pile of laundry to do. It never ends!
Still, making time to feel your feelings and let them go is something that can ease your mind.
You may not be able to sit down with them right now because you have things to do, but maybe you can this evening in a hot bubble bath with some candles for mood lighting.
20. Remind yourself you will be okay.
You’re sitting there, reading this article, aren’t you? You’ve survived everything that life has thrown at you so far, haven’t you?
Look at you! It may not feel like it, but you’re doing great. You’re doing great just by looking to expand your knowledge and find ways to cope with the difficult things that are going on in your mind.
That means you’re on the path to success. You’re trying. You’re making moves. You’re working on finding ways to make it better – which means there is hope.
Interrupt those thoughts with that reminder. You will be okay. These thoughts won’t last forever, and you will get through them. Think of the things that you have already made your way through, and know that you will get through this too.
You will be okay.
Still not sure how to get your mind off something? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
You may also like:
- How To Stop Ruminating: 12 Tips To Quiet Negative Repeating Thoughts
- How To Compartmentalize Your Emotions And Thoughts
- 8 Effective Ways To Stop Negative Thoughts From Taking Root In Your Head
- Intrusive Thoughts – What They Are And Why They’re Perfectly Normal
- Break The Cycle Of Repetitive Thoughts By Rebooting Your Mind Like This
- 6 Affirmations To Repeat When You’re Overthinking
- How To Live In The Present Moment: 13 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- How To Stop Daydreaming So Much
- 10 Destructive Thoughts That Are More Common Than You Think
- How To Be Positive: 12 Effective Steps To A More Positive Mindset