Repetitive thoughts about anger, frustration, or suffering serve to keep you continually visiting the past or future-projecting into the future. You become comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings, giving them permission to take over the present moment.
Like an itch to be scratched, you keep going for the wound, hoping that this time you will come up with a solution to your pain.
Getting caught up in negative repetitive thoughts can be habit-forming. At some point, these thought loops become not just a habit, but depression can set in if these thoughts continue to run rampant in your mind.
How do you stop these negative repetitive thought loops? Here are some ideas:
- Do something fun. Looking forward to having fun can change your state of mind. Having fun definitely changes your state of mind and the thoughts you’re thinking.
- Do something new. Engage your brain by focusing on the newness of things. Get out of your rut.
- Do something challenging. Engage your brain by really engaging your brain!
- Talk with a therapist.
- Check on your physical health. You may be experiencing fluctuating hormones, going through menopause, have a low thyroid, be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, etc.
- Start a gratitude practice. Focus on the good. Eventually, this becomes a habit.
- Get outside more. Sometimes these negative thought loops may be caused by a lack of sunlight (SAD–Seasonal Affective Disorder).
- Go out in nature and be present to the environment around you.
- Help someone else.
- Start an affirmation practice. Print out 3 or 4 and keep them handy for when you start thinking negatively.
- Meditate. Use a recording to guide your meditation at first so you won’t automatically succumb to the negative thoughts. Gradually, sit for 2, then 5, then 10 minutes in meditation on your own.
- Choose a time during the day to think only of those thoughts. For half an hour, let them have the show–don’t judge them, just observe them. Only think of these thoughts at the allotted time.
- Write your thoughts down in a journal and leave them there. Each day, “dump” your thoughts on a new page.
You are are not a victim–you are 100% responsible for your thoughts. It is up to you to take charge and change them. If they don’t enhance your life in any way, then they are detracting from it.
Acknowledge the thoughts, find new ways of addressing them, and move on in life instead of being in a place that already happened or might never happen. Your life right now is a direct reflection of your thoughts. How do you want your life to be?
Take control, take action, do something different.
Do you get stuck in repetitive thought loops? What are they about? Do you feel helpless? Do you feel unheard or misunderstood? Are you addicted to drama in any way?
I read somewhere (can’t remember where so I don’t know who to give credit to) about “thought replacement therapy”. When you have a negative thought, quickly replace it with a positive one. It can be hard, but eventually the more positive thoughts you have, you will feel your whole mood life. It really does work!
Hi Leah! I love that idea — “thought replacement therapy!” That’s where affirmations would help take the place of negative thoughts. Or, a gratitude practice so that you’d have positive thoughts readily available.
Great points and tips! I’m trapped in the vicious negative thought cycle right now. Planning on disconnecting for awhile today, just to regain some sanity. I will say, meditation HELPS! 🙂
I’m glad you’re taking the time to disconnect!
Hi Nicole. I def have negative thoughts but they are usually centered around myself. I get very upset with myself. I make plans to make change…be more organized, eat fewer calories, workout more, etc. When I don’t follow through with my plans I feel very disappointed in myself. It starts a really bad cycle. Lately I’ve been trying to change the voices in my head and be happy for the things I did accomplish instead of the things I didn’t. I find that if I stay busy (less sitting around) I am much happier at the end of the day. Thanks for your encouraging post.
Hi Tammy! I know lots of people who feel just like you do–we can be our own worst critics. I think action (and less sitting around) is a great idea to bust up the negative thought cycle–great suggestion! Especially when you accomplish some things on your to-do list or do something fun, different, or challenging (so your brain is engaged in something else).
I try to focus on the good in my life. If a situation stays bad then I try to figure out what I can do to change it. If I don’t have control of it, then I try to figure out how to stay happy in the midst of a difficult situation.
Smart strategy! I have a sign over my desk that says “Work smart, have fun, no drama” (Cheryl Richardson) to remind me not to become involved in trying to change something/someone I can’t.
One reason your running is not a selfish persuit: I ran 9 miles to work 4 days in a row recently. Until I read about you and Geoff I thought that was too far to do coyetstsniln. You have helped me put mileage in it's proper perspective. We gotta get off of fossil fuels, and the more folks that realize they can go 9 miles on foot the better.