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Whether you’re obsessing over a good thought or a bad thought, you’re obsessing.
If you can’t stop thinking about something and it’s becoming an issue for you, there are a lot of ways to address this and move forwards.
It can be so hard to control our minds at times, and it might feel impossible, but it’s just a matter of finding a way that works for you.
That’s why we’ve compiled 12 great ways to stop thinking about something, so that you can move on to feeling healthier and happier overall.
1. Address your obsession.
The first step to help you stop thinking about something is to address it.
What is it that your mind is so fixated on?
Take some time to work out what’s really going on, and don’t be scared to dig a bit deeper. The thing that you’re actually trying to avoid might not always be what you think it is…
For example, you might be stressing about a presentation at work. You’ve decided you want to stop thinking about the presentation, but it doesn’t seem to be making you feel any less anxious.
That might be because the presentation isn’t actually what’s bothering you – it’s the fact that you’re scared of your boss. That’s a totally different issue, and won’t go away no matter how much you stop thinking about the presentation.
Instead, you need to address the issue with your boss. Is there a way you can work on your relationship with them, can you talk to your HR department if there is an ongoing issue like bullying or harassment, can you report into someone else?
By addressing the real issue, you are one step closer to finding the real solution.
The more you can drill down into what’s driving these feelings and what’s making you want to avoid something so much, the more chance you have of fixing it – and being able to stop thinking about it for good!
2. Talk it out and then move on.
Sometimes it can help to get our thoughts out of our system rather than bottling them up in our mind.
That might mean talking about them with a loved one that we really trust.
Allow yourself to be completely honest about whatever it is you’re so focused on – talk about how it makes you feel, what outcomes you’re stressed or excited about, as well as why you want to be able to stop thinking about it.
The more open you can be, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to close the door on it soon.
If there’s something you’re trying to avoid thinking about – even if it’s a good thing – making sure your friends and family are aware of that can really help.
It can be difficult when those around you bring up topics you’re actively trying to avoid, and letting them know what not to talk about with you can make it easier to stop thinking about something specific.
Let them know why you’re trying to avoid these thoughts, and they will be supportive and understanding.
The less other people remind you of that thing you’re trying not to think about, the fewer ‘triggers’ there are and the more you can focus on getting your head down and getting on with things.
3. Stay busy with other things.
Whether you’re trying to avoid something that makes you feel anxious, or you’re trying to stay calm and stop getting overly excited about something great, staying busy is the perfect remedy to thoughts that are circling round and round.
Keep your mind distracted with other things as much as possible. That might mean spending lots of time with friends, getting active, doing something simple like puzzles so that your brain is focused on that, or even binge-watching a great show.
Whatever will occupy your mind and tire out your body is ideal!
4. Troubleshoot the possible outcomes.
Okay, let’s say that you’re avoiding thinking about something because it causes negative feelings, be that stress, anxiety, or sadness.
We often get so caught up in our feelings, especially ones we don’t like, that we don’t really explore them much. This is understandable – why would you want to sit with those emotions for any longer than you need to?
However, by addressing the feelings, you can actually find ways to overcome them.
Make a list of the outcomes you’re scared of. Let’s say you’re worried that you’re going to lose your job for whatever reason. In order to be able to stop thinking about that, you need to think of the possible outcomes of that happening, troubleshoot them, and then move on.
By finding solutions to possible problems related to your feelings, you can get closure and eventually stop thinking about the issue.
For example, you losing your job might result in a range of outcomes, including struggling to pay your rent, feeling embarrassed, finding it hard to get a new job etc.
So, let’s troubleshoot those possible outcomes…
You can start saving money now by making some small cutbacks, you can speak to your loved ones who will give you a confidence boost and support you, you can improve your CV and start talking to some recruitment agencies.
All of a sudden, that thing you’re trying to avoid thinking about is less scary because you’ve acknowledged what other issues it might cause, and you know you’ll have a plan in place should those issues arise.
5. Don’t overhype yourself about the good things!
This is similar to our point above, but it’s focused on a more positive thought you’re trying to avoid.
Maybe you’re trying not to think about your birthday party that’s coming up, or the holiday you have booked.
You might be trying to avoid thinking about these things because you’re scared they might not happen. If that’s the case, you can follow a similar troubleshooting approach.
Let’s say your party gets cancelled for some reason, what are your other options? By having a few alternatives in mind, you’re not putting everything on this one event happening.
You’re more open to things changing and you’ll be more flexible and comfortable if things do need altering at the last minute.
By having some other ideas ready to go, you won’t instantly feel as disappointed or annoyed because you’ve already got some amazing alternatives ready!
Equally, you might be too excited and you just want to get back to feeling more balanced. You can help yourself feel more level by thinking about why you’re so excited.
Maybe you can’t wait to see certain friends, and it’s making you feel very hyped up, or over-stimulated. Rather than going from 0 to 100, you can slowly start to increase to 5 or 10 from now until the event happens.
That could involve having a few video calls with friends before a big party, so that you’re less overwhelmed when it does happen.
It could be helpful to take a few small steps to preparing for a holiday so that you’re less fixated on one singular event happening – maybe start packing now, or putting together a travel itinerary.
Yes, that technically means you’re thinking about it, but it makes it much more manageable on an emotional level. Rather than one big event, you’ve got a few stages in the build-up to it that will help you manage your emotions better.
6. Fantasize about new possibilities.
If you’re a bit of a daydreamer or get fixated on a specific fantasy about your future, this could really help you. You might be trying to tone down your imagination so that you don’t get too carried away or fixated on one singular outcome.
Instead of fixating on one possibility, let yourself think about a range of options!
This means that you will become less emotionally attached to your one dream, and it will effectively have less control and hold over you, making it easier to stop thinking about.
7. Meditate and practice mindfulness.
One of the best ways to get our minds off something is to meditate. This is a great way to quiet the mind and focus on simply existing in the present.
Whether you’re trying to stop thinking about something nasty, or you’re trying not to daydream too much, you could benefit from some mindfulness.
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to get into something called ‘noting.’ This is a way of managing your thoughts and emotions while you meditate.
It essentially involves acknowledging distractions that arise while you meditate, and noting whether they are physical feelings (itchy leg, sore back, etc.) or thoughts.
By addressing the distractions, you can let them wash over you – it is often when we try too hard to avoid a thought that it sticks in our minds and we can’t help but fixate on it.
There are loads of amazing apps out there that can guide you through meditation if you’ve not done it before. Put on some calming music, get comfy, and prepare to zone out!
The more regularly you can meditate, the more your mind will get used to being rested and at ease. Hopefully, when certain thoughts do arise, you can simply let them pass through your mind rather than fixating or obsessing on them.
By getting into this habit, our minds connect this meditation time with being more relaxed and not focusing too much on any one thought.
8. Rest and focus on self-care.
If you’re finding it hard to let a certain thought go to the point where you desperately want to be able to just not think about something, you might need more rest!
It might sound like a bit of a cop-out, but when we’re tired, our minds can very easily run away with themselves.
If we’re not sleeping or winding down enough, our stress levels rise, which can mean that our minds attach themselves to a thought and suddenly that is all we can think of.
Have you ever noticed that the thing you’re trying to avoid thinking about isn’t even that big a deal? Instead, it’s the weird obsession your brain has with it that’s causing you to feel more anxious or stressed?
If that sounds familiar, it’s very likely that you’re mentally and emotionally run-down, and you need some more rest.
Remember that things like a healthy diet, some exercise, enough water, sunlight, and fresh air all make a difference to how you feel.
If you’re struggling with your thoughts and feel like you don’t have control over your mind right now, focus on your well-being.
That energy you’re putting into obsessing over that thing you’re thinking about? Channel it into self-care, and fill your spare time with yoga, face masks, therapy, stretching, sitting in the sun.
Do whatever you can to feel better and your mind will naturally relax, helping you to stop thinking about something that’s been bugging you.
9. Remember that this will pass.
Again, this one might sound very basic or too easy – but it helps. Once you realize that these thoughts won’t plague you forever, and that you’ll soon be free from whatever is clouding you, you will find it easier to let these things go and stop fixating.
What tends to happen, mainly with negative thoughts, is that we have a thought, it makes us uncomfortable, we try to dismiss it, we focus on how bad we feel because of it, the thought comes back because we keep focusing on how it made us feel – and so on.
This can apply to positive thoughts, but instead of feeling uncomfortable, we feel excited or happy, or it triggers a release of dopamine (a feel-good hormone) and we then get hooked into the cycle.
Try to remember that this thought won’t plague you for much longer, and you’ll be able to stop obsessing and thinking about it.
10. Practice being spontaneous.
Some of these suggestions are more targeted at people who are finding it hard to stop focusing on a negative thought. But what if you’re trying to stop thinking about something you’re excited about?
If you’re very excited about something, there’s a chance you’ve planned it all out in your head. Being a planner is great in a lot of ways, but it can also cause you to become borderline obsessive about small details.
If you are trying to avoid thinking about something that you’ve planned, you can take some small steps.
For example, have a go at doing some unplanned things! It doesn’t need to be anything like turning up at an airport and booking the next flight out, don’t worry.
It can be something like calling someone without scheduling it ahead of time, grabbing a coffee just because you’ve walked past somewhere that looks nice, or finding a place for dinner without making a reservation first.
These are some nice ways you can get used to not planning, and you can do them with a friend if you’re not comfortable trying it out alone just yet.
The more you can get comfortable with not planning things or not knowing the exact, tiny details, the more you will start to ease off on that obsessive thinking.
If you’re fixating on thinking about something you’ve planned, taking a step back can really help.
Get used to being a bit uncomfortable and doing things without mapping out every minute of the event. This will help you stop thinking about something that is playing on your mind, and you can just enjoy being in the present more.
11. Immersion therapy.
This doesn’t work for everyone! However, some people might find it helpful to spend some time focusing on the thought that they want to avoid. It sounds backwards, we know, but bear with us…
Sometimes, thoughts become very hard to avoid because we try to shut them down as soon as they arise. For example, your ex might pop into your head but you don’t want to deal with how that feels – instead, you jump on a treadmill, crank up the music, or go out drinking with friends.
Avoidance tactics can work for some people and staying busy can be a great distraction, as mentioned earlier on in this article. However, some of us need to fully sit with our thoughts before we can move on from them.
Make sure you’ve got a strong support system around you, and allow yourself to explore the thought that you’re trying to avoid. This one-off deep-dive will help you in the long-run, and will make it easier to stop thinking about it.
Let yourself cry and wallow, feel your feelings, and acknowledge what is going on in your mind.
Having this time can bring you a kind of closure, which will ultimately make it easier to then stop thinking about the issue overall.
12. Seek professional help.
If you’re struggling to stop thinking about something (whether it’s negative or exciting) and it’s starting to affect your life or well-being, it could be worth speaking to someone who can really help.
Seeking professional help will allow you to find ways to overcome obsessive thought patterns. They will be able to offer some suggestions of how to break your thought cycle, such as CBT – or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
This can help you form healthier patterns or habits that will ultimately help you stop thinking about something that is affecting you.
If you think you could use some professional help, click here to find a counselor near you, or one who can work with you online from the comfort of your own home.
We’d suggest trying out a few different tactics to see what works best for you. Remember that it won’t change overnight, and that looking after ourselves and our minds is a long-term commitment.
Start off today by implementing some healthy habits, surrounding yourself with loved ones, and looking into some professional help if things feel out of control.
Still not sure how to stop thinking about something? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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