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Overcoming Negative Intrusive Thoughts

Updated: Sep 9



Unwanted and negative thoughts are something that everyone faces. The human brain, mind and thoughts are an enigma and neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, and even ordinary people are trying to decipher and understand this enigma. The questions about the working of the human mind and thought always kept these people on their toes. Let's talk about the brain or mind, where everything begins and is rooted. Is it the brain, or is it the mind? Are these interchangeable or two distinct entities? Caroline Leaf a neuroscientist explained the difference between the two. For Dr. Leaf, the mind is a distinct but inseparable part of the brain. The brain is the physical part/organ, and the mind is the abstract part. It consists of every thought process that happens within the brain. But some other neuroscientists have used the word brain instead of mind, like Dr. Daniel G.Amen.


Biology of the Brain


To understand all the emotions, reasoning, thoughts, feelings, stress, anxiety, depression, happiness as well as sadness, it is crucial to understand the working of the brain, its biological structure and the abstract part that creates all the thoughts. In his book Change Your Brain Change Your Life, Dr. Daniel G. Amen elaborated on the brain's working in detail. He states the most crucial organ in the human body is the brain, which is responsible for every sort of human behaviour and thought. The average human brain consists of about three pounds of soft buttery material and resides in the safety of a hard skull. The brain has a large cerebral cortex, divided into four lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital. These lobes are responsible for thought, judgement, organization, control, empathy, and planning, especially the prefrontal lobe. Underneath the cerebral cortex resides the limbic system, responsible for the emotional and behavioural part of the mind. All sorts of stress, anxiety, unwanted thoughts, happiness, and sadness originate from the limbic system of the brain. Understanding and training your limbic system is the ultimate way to control and train your thoughts. There are two ways to deals with the limbic system, one is medical prescriptions for depression and anxiety, and the other is a mental exercise. This article focuses on the mental exercises through which you can get your mind off things that are disturbing you.


How to Take Your Mind Off Something and Someone


Getting rid of unwanted thoughts, stress and anxiety is a struggle. People cope with these unsettling thoughts differently. The unwanted thoughts are triggered by different things. They can be a result of some repressed traumas, from an experience with a person, from an accident or witnessing an accident. These anxious, stressful, and unsettling thoughts hinder a person from having a relaxed, happy, and joyful life.


Change in small things, the usual thinking process, can open a way to deal with the following problems;


  • How to get your mind off something

  • How to take your mind off someone

  • How to get your mind off something scary

  • How to take your mind off something worrying you

  • How to get your mind off something disturbing


Activities and Habits to Take Your Mind Off Something or Someone


Medical prescription is not our focus here. Other than medicine, there is a plethora of mental and physical exercises and healthy habits that can have a good impact on daily life. These can help you get rid of unwanted thoughts. They can help get your mind off something or someone.


i. Surrounding yourself with soothing scent is a great way to calm your mind and get rid of bothering thoughts. Sense of smell is processed by the limbic system. Unpleasant odours are always repelling to everyone. Pleasant perfumes and fragrances are attractive and induce a sense of happiness and calmness. The Lancet, a British journal, published research that stated the advantages of lavender oil's aromatherapy. The fragrance of lavender oil helps people reduce stress and have a deep, peaceful sleep. So, surround yourself with a natural, pleasant aroma, the place where you usually sit and your bed.


ii. Distracting yourself is an excellent way to divert your thoughts and get your mind off something. The distraction can be achieved in any manner, by exercising, by walking, writing down, watching your favourite movie or sitcom, listening to your favourite music, playing a musical instrument, meeting your friends, meeting new people, and talking to the people you trust. Distracting your mind means occupying

your mind and thoughts with something other than what's worrisome or scary to you. If you do not engage your mind and occupy your mind with other things, you will not be able to get your mind off something or someone.


iii. Physical exercise is essential for both physical and mental health. Going for a walk, a run, doing light exercises help you reduce the worries in your mind. The energy you were using on the rumination and regurgitation of negative thoughts is now with exercise will be used to distract you and freshen your mind and body. If you can not manage to go outside for some physical activity or exercise, you can arrange it indoors. Playing table tennis with your friend, roommate or partner is an excellent physical activity to engage your mind somewhere else.


iv. Writing or Journaling is considered an excellent, cathartic, mental exercise. By writing down all your thoughts, the negatives ones, that are bothering you and causing you stress and anxiety, you will feel lighter. Keeping all the worries inside will not help you, it would help if you got them out. Writing all the thoughts that you can't stop thinking will give your mind a much-needed release. You can later throw

that page away, and symbolically, by doing this, you're throwing the unwanted thoughts away and eliminating them from your mind and life. This exercise will give you a sense of control over your mind, emotions, and thoughts.


v. Bonding with your family, friends, partner, and people that surround you also helps you to get rid of stressful thoughts. Human beings are created by nature to live among society, among other people. It is observed by psychologists that people with little to no bonding with someone are more likely to get anxiety, stress, and depression. But sometimes, you might need to get away from the people surrounding you, as they might be the reason for the negative thoughts in your mind. In this case, give yourself

time and space and find better people to bond with. Talking to the people you can trust about your worries and unwanted thoughts is a great help in forgetting something and someone.


vi. Meditation is a mental exercise and a popular one per se. Mindfulness, controlled breathing, focusing on one thought and training you're conscious and subconscious are all part of meditation. By making meditation part of your life will change your life. Initially, you can practice meditating exercises for getting your thoughts in control on particular occasions to help your mind stop the thoughts of unwanted people and events. Once you achieve that, you can make meditation part of your lifestyle. The meditational exercises require you to be non-judgmental and be in the moment, focusing only on one thought and breathing. This mindfulness allows you to channel your thought and help you focus on the current moment. As a result, you will find yourself in control of your thought process and mentally relaxed.


vii. Finding purpose in small activities in daily life will occupy your mind and distract you from the things you don't want to think about and can't help getting rid of. Going to a community centre, volunteering with animals, kids, older people, handicaps, painting, playing instruments, reading books will be a great way to keep your mind busy, and you will find your time being utilized in something positive.


Thought-Stopping Technique


Psychologists suggest different techniques to deal with anxiety and stress. Those techniques could help you get rid of unwanted thoughts and get your mind off something scary and troublesome. We discussed in the previous section different activities, habits that can help in training our thoughts. The thought-stopping technique is quite effective in getting your mind off things, whether it is a person, a particular incident, something scary or disturbing. Thoughts are the shaper of a person's life. The thought-stopping method takes some time to be fully active, but once mastered the technique, and life becomes more manageable.


List the things you want to get out of your mind. Writing down your thoughts is encouraged. It helps you to realize your thoughts fully. Write down your thoughts about someone who you want to forget, something that is scaring you, something that is causing you to worry, disturbing you and having a negative impact on your life.


  1. Write everything down in the first step. Start writing the list of your thoughts, from the scariest, stressful, and painful thoughts to the least scary.

  2. In the second step, lie down somewhere private and close your eyes. Think about the thoughts you listed on the paper; focus on them. Set a timer for three minutes, focus on the thought, and when the timer beeps, say 'stop' aloud. This will help you empty your mind.


Start again after thirty seconds. Repeat this exercise at least three times. Repeat it again but with saying 'stop' in your normal voice. This exercise helps you control your thoughts consciously at your command.


Thought-stopping can be achieved by some other exercises as well. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine the bright red stop sign. The sign is saying STOP in the capital. Imagine cars stopping at the sign and waiting for their turn patiently. You are also waiting for your turn; breath deeply and go ahead. This mental exercise will profusely help you forget the scary and unwanted thoughts you were having in mind before starting the exercise. Once you achieved the goal of getting your mind of something unwanted and scary, add some pleasant and happy thoughts to your image. It will help you calm.

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