Let’s face it — everyone has unwanted thoughts from time to time. I know I do.
There was a point when, because of these intrusive thoughts, I would spend so much mental energy coming up with catastrophic predictions that ultimately bred negative emotions.
It’s even harder to do away with these persistent thoughts whenever I log in to social media and see bad news.
Eventually, I had obsessive thoughts about some kind of worst-case scenario happening in my everyday life simply because I’ve seen it happen to other people.
I didn’t know it back then, but I’d become so accustomed to this negative thought process that I already found it difficult to clear my mind of these destructive thought patterns.
Why do I keep thinking about intrusive thoughts?
If you’re having a hard time taking control of your thoughts and have fallen into a vicious cycle of obsessive thinking, is it even possible to stop thinking about that which upsets you?
The good news is that, yes, it’s possible to learn how to stop thinking about something that could negatively affect your daily life.
It’s all about taking the first step and the succeeding small steps that would help you in the long term. Instead of letting your mind wander toward an unpleasant thought, here are some strategies that can keep those upsetting thoughts at bay.
Differentiate Between Rumination and Problem-Solving
The first thing you need to do is to be able to differentiate between rumination and problem-solving. Rumination is when you’re worrying too much about the outcome of a future event.
For instance, you’re thinking about how you’re never going to get a promotion no matter what you do, or you’ve already convinced yourself that your date is going to go south. Of course, you have no way of knowing if these things will really happen, but you’re sure they would anyway.
On the other hand, problem-solving is when you think about solutions that can help you overcome your situation. Let’s say you have a huge debt and you’re worrying about whether you can pay it all off.
Instead of stopping at just worrying, you’re thinking of the best way to adjust your spending or improve your finances.
Can intrusive thoughts disappear?
Once you can differentiate between rumination and problem-solving, it’s easier to change an upsetting thought into something that can help you solve a problem.
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to clear your mind of one negative thought at a time. When you practice mindfulness, you’re teaching your mind to focus on the present moment.
Though it can take some time and effort to truly practice mindfulness, it’s easier once you’re used to channeling your thoughts toward the good things about what’s currently going on.
This keeps you from imagining terrible outcomes and being paralyzed into inaction.
How do I stop thinking about intrusive thoughts?
Some simple mindfulness exercises you can do are meditation, taking a deep breath, or walking through nature.
You can even calm yourself by slowly arranging your own sacred crystal grid and taking stock of the energy from the calming crystals you’ve chosen.
Be a Busy Bee
Simply telling yourself not to think of negative thoughts is not the most helpful way to ward off those exact thoughts. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to think of an upsetting thought, the more your brain focuses on it.
This is called the “White Bear Effect.”
Instead of spending a lot of time overthinking and overanalyzing, find ways to distract yourself with a productive activity. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or complicated.
Taking a jog, driving, cooking, or working on a hobby or some creative endeavor are great ways to keep yourself busy. This is because these activities all have a goal you can focus on and work towards.
If you have a purpose, you’re less likely to think of terrible things and more likely to spend your time wanting to finish your chosen activity.
Before you know it, you’ve jogged 30 minutes, driven a couple of miles, or finished a painting. This can add to your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Along the way, you’ll also be able to practice mindfulness by observing the scenery or appreciating the finer details of your work.
Keep a Journal
Research shows that journaling is an effective way to manage anxiety disorders.
Writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper will let you feel as though you’re releasing all these unwanted thoughts from your head.
It’s the same as talking to someone about your problems. With a journal, you can keep your privacy and be as candid and honest as you want to be.
In keeping a journal, you don’t have to fear the judgment of others. It’s a safe place where you can speak your mind without hesitation.
Try to self-reflect when you write in your journal. This way, you can even gain a different perspective about your situation.
Once you’ve felt as though you’ve released your negative thoughts and feelings for the day, you can choose to tear up your journal pages or burn them to symbolize the destruction of these unwanted thoughts.
I tend to keep journals, so I can go back to what I’ve written and see how far I’ve come since thinking and feeling a certain way.
Seek Help When Necessary
Knowing how to stop thinking about something upsetting or disturbing is no small feat.
You can try out the methods I’ve discussed above, but don’t hesitate to ask for professional help when you can’t manage it alone.
Keep in mind that destructive thoughts can lead to mental health issues, and mental health issues can be the reason why you can’t control your thoughts.
In these cases, it’s better to seek professional help and guidance, so you’ll know how to stop thinking about something in a way that’s safe and truly advantageous to your personal situation.