How to Stop Thinking About Something

Emma Loker, BSc Psychology

Written by

Emma Loker, BSc Psychology

Last updated March 13, 2023

How to Stop Thinking About Something

How to Stop Thinking About Something

We've all had those thoughts that just won't seem to go away, no matter how hard we try to push them aside. Whether it's a nagging worry, a painful memory, or a troubling situation, trying to stop thinking about something can be frustrating and exhausting. Moreover, if thought cycles like this become more frequent, they may impact our mental health and daily life.

While it may not be easy, there are steps you can take to break the cycle of rumination and move on. In this article, we will explore how to stop thinking about something, from talking about it in order to move on to using techniques like altering your focus, journaling, and distraction.

#1 Speak About It, Then Move On

Sometimes, speaking about something is the best way to stop thinking about it. Share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family member. It can be helpful to get a fresh perspective on the situation and to process your emotions.

Once you've had a chance to talk about it, try to let it go. It's okay to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, but it's important not to get stuck in them. Set a time limit for yourself to think about the issue, and then try to move on to other things - this brings us to the following technique.

#2 Dedicate 15 Minutes Daily to Negative Thoughts

It can be helpful to set aside a specific time each day to focus on the negative thoughts that have been on your mind. This might sound counterintuitive, but by giving yourself permission to think about the unwanted thoughts for a short period of time and not engaging in obsessive thinking continually, you may find that they start to lose their power over you.

Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and allowing yourself to think about the negative thoughts during that time. When the timer goes off, try to let the thoughts go and move on to something else.

#3 Alter Your Mental Focus Towards Self-Care

Another way to stop thinking about something is to shift your focus toward self-care. When we're stressed, our minds can become consumed with negative thoughts, including obsessive thoughts. By taking care of ourselves and engaging in activities that bring us joy and relaxation, we can create a mental space that is less conducive to obsessive thinking.

Forms of self-care could be:

  • Having a bubble bath
  • Going for a walk
  • Listening to your favorite music

#4 Write Down Your Negative Thoughts

Writing down your negative thoughts can help you to clarify what you're really thinking and feeling. This can be a helpful first step in managing your obsessive thoughts and can give you a sense of control over your unwanted thoughts rather than feeling like they are controlling you.

Furthermore, the act of writing your thoughts down over time may allow you to begin to notice patterns in your thinking and let go of negative thoughts. This can help you to identify negative thought patterns and work on replacing them with more positive ones.

It's important to remember, however, that writing down your thoughts should be part of a larger strategy for managing obsessive thinking, which may also include seeking treatment from a mental health professional and developing coping strategies.

#5 Utilize the Power of Exercise

Exercise is an effective way to reduce unpleasant and upsetting thoughts in more ways than one. Firstly, your brain reacts positively to exercise. Exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. This can help to improve your mood and reduce negative thoughts.

Exercise can also help to reduce stress by releasing tension, which relaxes the mind. By reducing stress, exercise may help to reduce the frequency of unpleasant and upsetting thoughts.

Exercise has proven to improve sleep too, which can be helpful in lessening negative thoughts, because when we're well-rested, we're better able to cope with stress and negative emotions.

And finally, exercise can boost our self esteem. When we feel good about ourselves, we're less likely to be bogged down by self-doubt and negative self-talk. Therefore, exercise can help to reduce unpleasant thoughts about ourselves and encourage positive thought patterns.

While it can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise when you're struggling to stop obsessing over certain unwanted thoughts, even light exercise like a long walk or playing kickabout with friends can have beneficial results.

#6 Use Distraction Techniques

One of the easiest ways to stop thinking about something is to distract yourself. This can be as simple as finding a new activity to engage in. When you're focused on something else, you're not giving the thought the attention it needs to keep going. Here are a few ideas for activities that might help you distract yourself:

  • Exercise or go for a walk
  • Listen to music or a podcast
  • Watch a movie or TV show
  • Read a book
  • Call a friend or relative
  • Do a puzzle or play a game
  • Write in a journal

The key is to find something that you enjoy, and that can hold your attention for a little while.

#7 Work On Your Self-Compassion

Sometimes, the thought cycle that we're trying to stop is negative and self-critical. If this is the case, it can be helpful to work on your self-compassion. This means being kind and understanding towards yourself, even when you're feeling down or making mistakes. Here are a few ways to practice self-compassion:

  • Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and has flaws
  • Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend
  • Take breaks and be kind to yourself when you're feeling overwhelmed

By being more understanding and compassionate towards yourself, you may find that the negative thoughts start to fade away.

#8 Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment. It can be a helpful way to stop thinking about something because it encourages you to be more present and let go of your thoughts. You can practice mindfulness by:

  • Taking a few deep breaths and focus on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body
  • Paying attention to your surroundings and notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you following a method called the 3-3-3 rule.
  • Noticing any physical sensations in your body and try to let go of any tension
  • Trying a mindfulness meditation, where you focus on your breath, or a mantra

#9 Speak to a Mental Health Professional

It may be time to seek professional help if you can't avoid thinking about something, no matter what you try, including chatting with friends and family, as I mentioned earlier. If your obsessive thoughts are impacting your job, mental health, self esteem, or another area of your life, this is also an indication that you may need professional support.

A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, can help you to address obsessive thinking in several ways. They can help you to:

  1. Identify the cause of your obsessive thoughts: A mental health professional can work with you to gain an understanding and new perspective on the underlying causes of your obsessive thinking, such as past experiences, stress, or underlying mental health conditions.
  2. Develop coping strategies: A mental health professional can help you to develop coping strategies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, to manage your obsessive thoughts. These strategies might include challenging negative thoughts, practicing mindfulness, or finding ways to distract yourself from the obsessive thoughts.
  3. Treat underlying conditions: If your obsessive thinking is related to an underlying mental health condition, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a mental health professional can help you to manage the condition and reduce the frequency of your obsessive thoughts.
  4. Provide support: A mental health professional can provide a supportive environment where you can talk about your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can be a helpful way to process your thoughts and find relief from the cycle of obsessive thinking, as well as with other difficulties, such as relationship issues and low self esteem.

By working with a mental health professional, you can learn to manage your obsessive thinking and find more peace of mind.


Obsessive thinking can be a challenging and distressing experience. It's important to remember that there are strategies that can help you to manage obsessive thoughts and find relief. These strategies may include talking about your thoughts, setting aside a specific time each day to focus on negative thoughts, practicing self-care, and seeking treatment from a mental health professional. By using a combination of these strategies, you can learn to manage your obsessive thoughts and find a sense of peace and clarity.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question


Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

Read This Next

This is a highly respected resource Trusted Source

🍪 Pssst, we have Cookies!

We use Cookies to give you the best online experience. More information can be found here. By continuing you accept the use of Cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy.