Ways to stop obsessive thoughts
Effective ways to stop obsessive thoughts start with these seven toolsExperiencing worrisome thoughts from time to time is normal, but getting caught in a loop of obsessive thoughts can be distressing and result in anxiety. Constant obsession prevents you from being present in your day-to-day life. Whether you sometimes have recurring obsessive thoughts or have full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), use these seven ways to stop obsessive thoughts and gain control again.
1. Practice Breath Work
Focusing on your breath can be an incredibly powerful way to center yourself and stop obsessive thoughts in their tracks. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer of integrated medicine, "Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders."
For those who specifically need to relax, he recommends a breathing exercise that entails breathing in for four counts, holding the breath for seven counts, and exhaling for eight counts. After repeating this cycle four times, you should find yourself feeling calmer and clearer.
2. Distract Yourself
When you get caught in a cycle of obsession, you can't stop thinking about something or worrying. This is called ruminating, which is the same word used for when ruminant animals (like cows) chew their cud. It means you keep chewing on the same thought or idea and can't stop.
One of the best ways to do this is to put your mind toward something else. Listening to music or watching TV may not be enough; try going to the gym, playing board games with friends, concentrating on peaceful living cds, working on a project around the house, or go to the library. Distraction is one of the best ways to direct yourself away from your thoughts.
3. Assign a Constant
Designate someone to be your go-to person when you are not able to stop obsessing about something, whether you just call him or her, or hang out in person. Having a safe, constant person to go to can give you a sense of relief, especially when it's someone you know will not judge you. Whether a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone in your community, having someone who can provide you with support is important, and they can also distract you with something fun.
4. See a CBT Therapist
Cognitive Behavioral Training, or CBT, is a powerful tool for reducing obsessive thoughts. It helps retrain your brain, and it has been very useful for depression, anxiety, and obsession. According to the International OCD Foundation, "About 7 out of 10 people with OCD will benefit from either CBT or medicine. For the people who benefit from CBT, they usually see their OCD symptoms reduced by 60-80%." The type of CBT that has proven to work best for obsessive thoughts is Exposure and Response Prevention. You can find a treatment provider near you on their website.
5. Take a Yoga Class
There's nothing like a difficult yoga pose to keep your mind in the present. Not only is yoga fantastic for strength and flexibility, but it is also a helpful practice for your mind and soul. The challenge of the poses keeps you in the present and can help you let go of repetitive thoughts. Breathing in yoga is a valuable tool; much like the breath work mentioned above, these additional techniques will help.
According to Dr. Christian R. Komor of the OCD Recovery Center, "Researchers at UCLA developed and test a yoga breathing technique which reportedly reduced some forms of OCD by 70% or more." Dr. Komor has many other excellent tips for freeing yourself of obsessive thoughts. Throw on some yoga clothes and unwind.
6. Journal Your Thoughts
Writing can be an excellent way to stop obsessive thoughts. Rather than letting your thoughts spiral around in your head, put them down on paper. Write about your fears, what is bothering you, and if you think there might be any underlying issues causing your thoughts.
Do not hold back or judge yourself. When your thoughts are running out of control, try to sit down and write in your journal for at least 10 minutes. You will be surprised how cathartic this experience can be!
7. Laugh Out Loud
The act of laughter has proven time and again to be a healthy and beneficial way to fight off depression and anxiety. Having a good belly laugh at something funny will give you a rush of happiness and distract you from your thoughts. Go see a funny movie in the theater or attend a comedy show, and before you know it, you will be enjoying yourself and no longer obsessing.
Sometimes, it can also be helpful to laugh about your obsessive thoughts; when you stop fearing something and can have a good laugh about it, you will feel more relaxed.
Use these tricks whenever you feel trapped in a cycle of obsessive thoughts, and you will find yourself in more control of your thoughts.