We’ve all been there at one point or another: Something is on our mind, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get our mind off of it. While it would be great if the things we kept thinking about were positive, studies show that most of us have a bit of a negativity bias — which means that the things we obsessively think about tend to be more negative than positive.
Some examples might include a person you recently broke up with, an embarrassing moment at work that you can’t stop dwelling on, or maybe an upcoming doctor’s appointment that you’re worried about. In any case, it doesn’t serve the brain well at all to obsessively think about something negative, so here’s how to get our mind off of something you can’t stop thinking about.
1. Try a puzzle or brain game
One way to get your mind off of something that’s driving you crazy? A brain game. When you do something that fully engages your brain, obsessive thinking is less of an option. And luckily, there are tons of brain games out there. Sure, there’s Wordle, but if you want something that takes a little longer try Sudoku, a crossword puzzle, a word search, or the New York Times Spelling Bee.
Meditation can be a great way to snap you out of whatever you can’t stop thinking about. By forcing your brain to be present and working hard to focus on your breath, you can’t help but break the “spell” of obsessive thinking. Plus, meditation helps keep us in the present, and when we can’t stop thinking about something we’re often not in the present at all. If you need some guidance, try one of these apps.
3. Take a new exercise class
Exercise is famous for improving mental health, but if you try a new exercise class, you may be even happier afterward. This is because your brain will be so engaged in learning something new that you won’t be able to focus on that thing you can’t stop thinking about.
4. Call a friend and talk about something else
While there’s a time and place for venting (and we’re not saying you shouldn’t process your emotions!), if you can’t get your mind off of something, call a friend who knows nothing about what you’re thinking about and talk about something else. Listening to their problems or simply keeping the conversation light can help break a pattern of obsessive thinking.
Talking to a friend about something else can help snap you out of it.
5. Remove any triggers
If there’s something in your life that constantly reminds you of that thing you can’t get off your mind, do your best to remove triggers. A good example: If you’re going through a breakup, mute or unfollow your ex on social media so you’re not constantly reminded of them or given windows into their life without you.
6. Use a physical sensation to help interrupt your thought patterns
There’s no question that our minds and bodies are connected, and a physical sensation can go a long way in breaking a circular or negative thought pattern. Try keeping a ponytail holder around your wrist, and every time the thought comes into your head, give it a gentle snap — and yes, we really mean gentle, please don’t hurt yourself! This simple practice can (literally) snap you out of it.
7. Look for a solution
As the saying goes, action is the antidote to anxiety. So if the thing you can’t stop thinking about is even slightly solvable, look for a solution. If you can’t stop thinking about your ex, maybe try going on a date. If it feels too soon for that, seek out a therapist who can help you process your breakup in a healthy way. If you’re worried about a doctor’s appointment, call the office and see if you can move the appointment up so you can get it over with sooner.
8. Write it out
Take out your journal and start writing. One of the main reasons why journaling is so great for our mental health is because it helps take thoughts out of our heads and puts them on paper. Plus, journaling helps us organize our thoughts. After a journaling session or two, you may find that your mind is a lot less interested in dwelling than it was before.
It’s never fun when you can’t get your mind off something. But with a few simple tweaks, you may find that it’s easier to focus less on what’s bothering you and more on what’s actually important.Next up, if you haven’t heard of toxic positivity, here’s everything you need to know. And while you're at it, subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.