Part 1 of 3: Letting Go of Your Thoughts
1. Accept that you’re thinking too much. Just like eating, thinking is something we need to do to survive, so it is sometimes hard to judge when you are doing too much of it. However, there are several red flags that you are doing too much thinking for your own good. Here are a few of them:
- Are you consumed by the same thought over and over again? Are you not making progress by thinking about this particular thing? If so, this may be a sign that you should move on.
- Have you analyzed the same situation from a million angles? If you’ve found too many ways to look at something before you decide how to act, you may be being counterproductive.
- Have you enlisted the help of your twenty closest friends in thinking about a particular thing? If so, then it’s time to realize that you can only ask for so many opinions about the same idea before you drive yourself insane.
- Are people constantly telling you to stop over-thinking things? Do people tease you for brooding, being a philosopher, or staring out of rainy windows all the time? If so, they may have a point.
2. Meditate. If you feel like you don’t know how to stop thinking, you need to learn what it’s like to “let go” of your thoughts, so that it’s something you can do deliberately. Imagine that thinking is like breathing; you do it all the time, without even realizing it. But if you need to, you can hold your breath. Meditating will help you learn how to release your thoughts.
- Just spending 15-20 minutes meditating every morning can make a dramatic impact on your ability to stay in the present and let go of all of your nagging thoughts.
- You can also meditate at night to help yourself wind down.
3. Exercise. Running or even walking vigorously can help you take your mind off of all of those annoying thoughts and to focus on your body. Participating in something particularly active, like power yoga, martial arts or beach volleyball, will have you so focused on your body that you won’t have time for your thoughts. Here are some great things to try:
- Join a circuit gym. Having to switch to a new machine every minute when you hear that bell ring will keep you from getting lost in your thoughts.
- Go hiking. Being around nature and seeing the beauty and stillness around you will keep you more focused on the present moment.
- Go swimming. Swimming is such a physical activity that it’s even harder to swim and think.
4. Say your ideas out loud. Once you’ve said everything aloud, even if you’re talking to yourself, you’ve begun the process of letting go. Walk around and pace if you have to. Once you’ve put your ideas out there, you’ve begun the process of putting them out into the world and out of your thoughts.
- You can say them aloud to yourself, your cat, or to a trusted friend.
5. Ask for advice. You may have exhausted your own thinking power, but someone else might be able to offer a different perspective that makes the decision clearer. This can help let go of your troubling thoughts. Your friend can make you feel better, can ease your problems, and can also make you realize when you’re spending way too much time thinking.
- Besides, if you’re hanging out with a friend, you’re not just thinking, right? That’s something.
Part 2 of 3: Taking Control of Your Thoughts
1. Make a practical list of the things that are troubling you. Whether you’re writing on paper or a computer, you should first define a problem, write down your options, and then list the pros and cons for each option. Seeing your thoughts in front of you will also help you stop cycling through them in your head. Once you can’t think of anything more to write, your mind has done its job, and it’s time to stop thinking.
- If making a list still doesn’t help you make a decision, don’t be afraid to follow your intuition. If two or more options seem equally appealing, thinking more will not make things clearer. This is when you should listen to something deeper.
2. Keep a diary of the things that are troubling you. Instead of lingering over your most persistent thoughts, jot down all of the things on your mind every day. At the end of one week, go over what you’ve written and make a note of the things that are troubling you the most. You need to deal with those first.
- Try to write in your diary at least a few times a week. This will help you get used to the idea of a “thinking time” and will help you sit down with your thoughts, instead of having them trouble you throughout the day.
3. Have a to-do list. Make a list of all the things you have to do on a certain day. Unless “brooding” is on your list of priorities, this will force you to see that you have more important things to do than to sit around pondering the meaning of the universe! The quickest way to organize your thoughts is to put them into something actionable. If you’re thinking that you haven’t gotten enough sleep lately, make a plan for getting some Z’s pronto instead of worrying about it!
- The list can be practical and can deal with the bigger things, like: “spend more time with my family.”
4. Set a “thinking time” aside for yourself every day. This may sound crazy, but picking a time every day for yourself to worry, wonder, be dreamy, and to get lost in your thoughts can help you control your thoughts in a more productive manner. If you need to, give yourself an hour, say, from 5-6:00 every day. Then, try to get the time down to 5-5:30. If an upsetting thought comes up earlier in the day when it’s inconvenient to deal with it, just tell yourself, “I’ll worry about that at 5 pm.”
- This may sound ridiculous, but you’ve got to try it before you knock it.
Part 3 of 3: Living in the Moment
1. Solve as many problems as you can. If your problem is that you think too much about nothing, worry for no reason, or think about things you can’t control, then there’s not much you can do to “solve” the problems that are plaguing your thoughts. But think of the ones you can solve and make an active plan for going about doing so, instead of thinking, thinking, thinking without it going anywhere. Here are some ideas for what you can do:
- Instead of thinking about whether or not your crush likes you, take action! Ask him or her out. What’s the worst that can happen?
- If you’re worried that you’re falling behind in work or school, make a list of all of the things you can do to succeed. And then do those things!
- If you like to think, “What if…” a lot, try to do the things that are feasible.
2. Be social. Surrounding yourself with people you love will keep you talking more and thinking less. Make sure to get out of the house at least a few times a week, and make a point of working to develop lasting and meaningful relationships with at least two or three people in your area that you can hang out with. You’ll be much more prone to thinking if you spend a lot of time by yourself.
- Alone time is definitely a good thing, but it’s important to mix up your routine with some time to hang out with your friends, let loose, and have fun.
3. Get a new hobby. Take the time to explore something completely different and out of your comfort zone. A new hobby, no matter what it is, will keep you focused on the task at hand as well as interested in getting results. Don’t think that you already know what you like and don’t need any more distractions. Trying a new hobby can help you live in the moment and focus on your art, your craft, or whatever. Try some of these:
- Write a poem or a short story
- Take a night class in history
- Take a pottery or ceramics class
- Learn karate
- Take up surfing
- Try biking instead of driving
4. Dance. There are a number of ways to dance — alone in your room, out at a club with your friends, or even by taking a dance class such as tap, jazz, foxtrot, or swing dancing. Whatever form of dance you encounter, you’ll be able to move your body, listen to the lyrics, and live in the moment. It doesn’t matter if you’re a terrible dancer. In fact, that you would get you even more focused on your dance moves and less focused on all of your niggling thoughts.
- Taking up a dance class would be a great way to start a new hobby and to dance.
5. Explore nature. Get outside and start looking at the trees, smelling the roses, and feeling fresh water on your face. That will help you live in the moment, embrace nature and the impermanence of your existence, and to see a world outside of the one you created inside your own head. Put on your sunblock and your sneakers and stop being cooped up in your bedroom.
- Even if you’re not into hiking, running, biking, or surfing, make a goal of walking through a park at least once or twice a week, taking a weekend trip to something nature-related with your friends during your next vacation, or just going somewhere were you can stare out at a big blue lake or ocean.
- And if that seems like too much work for you, just go outside. Being out in the sun will make you happier, healthier, and less likely to brood.
6. Read more. Focusing on the thoughts of other people will not only give you insight, but will keep you from thinking about yourself too much. In fact, reading biographies of inspirational men and women “of action” may inspire you to see that behind every great thought, there is an equally great action. And reading books can also not make you want to do anything except for escape to a new world, which is also nice.
7. Make a gratitude list. Every day, make a list of at least five things you are grateful for. This will make you focus on people and things instead of thoughts. If every day is too much, try doing it every week. Mix it up. Every little thing counts, even the barista who gives you a free refill of your coffee.
8. Appreciate beautiful music. Listening to a great song can make you feel in touch with the world outside your own head. You can do this by going to a concert, playing an old CD in your car, or even getting a record player and some LPs and going old school. Close your eyes, soak in the notes, and live in the now.
- It doesn’t have to be Mozart or something meaningful or hoity-toity. Listening to Katy Perry can do the trick too!
9. Laugh more. Be around people who make you laugh. Go to a comedy club. Watch a comedy or a TV show with a funny cast that you really like. Watch some funny YouTube videos. Do whatever you have to do to make yourself crack up, toss your head back, and not care about all of the things that are on your mind. Don’t underestimate the importance the role of laughter plays in your mental health.
Edited by , tsuna(mi)ke !?, KcH, julia bee, Maluniu and 57 others