How To Get Your Mind Off Something (10 Helpful Ideas)

A man is trying to get his mind off something by focusing on something else

Have you ever had something that you would like to forget, or at the very least stop thinking about, but it seems like no matter how hard you try you can’t get it off your mind? 

It can sometimes feel like our own brain is working against us, and the harder we try to think about anything else, the more we begin to focus on the thing that we don’t want to.  

This thought, or thought process, we want to avoid is most likely something negative, and is probably causing a negative reaction in us like stress, sadness, anger, or anxiety.  

But why do negative things sometimes get stuck in our minds? And how do we get our minds off of something we would like to not think about?

Why do negative things get stuck in your brain? 

Research shows that as humans we tend to focus more on negative things over positive ones.  

This is because of something called negativity bias which means when bad things happen we pay more attention to them than something positive, and might even make a bigger deal out of the negative thing than there needs to be.

We have evolution to thank for this. It is a leftover survival mechanism that stems from having to watch out for predators and danger. 

So even though it doesn’t seem helpful, when your brain does this, it is actually trying to protect you.

How do you get your mind off of something you don’t want to think about? 

The most effective way to get your mind off of something you don’t want to think about is to utilize positive distractions. When we focus on something else that is positive, we can break the cycle of negativity and escape our current thought pattern.  

10 ideas to get something off of your mind

1) Go for a walk 

Going for a long walk outside can be a great way to distract you. Not only will the exercise be good for you and help release endorphins to make you happier, but there is often plenty of other distractions in the world for you to pay attention to.

However, in order for this to be successful you need to really focus on what else is going on around you and not stay stuck inside your own head, focusing on the thing you don’t want to thinking about.  

If you find a walk isn’t enough to distract you, it can be good to combine another distraction from this list as well on the walk. 

3) Listen to music 

I find that listening to music can be a great distraction from the things I am thinking about. Playing music that I really enjoy, and turning it up loud helps to keep my brain focused on the music, and improves my mood. 

I would suggest playing music that you like to listen closely to, for example songs that you like to sing along to and need to listen for the lyrics, or songs where you really enjoy focusing on the melody.  

3) Read an entertaining book 

Some people think reading is boring, however I personally feel they just haven’t found the right book for them. Have you ever had a book that you got so invested in, that you lost track of time? 

These are the perfect books to read when you want an escape, or at least to think about something else. 

A woman is reading a book as to how to get her mind off something she doesn't want to think about. It's a positive distraction.

4) Engage your mind 

When you fully engage your brain in some intellectual self-care, it can make it next to impossible to think of anything else. Puzzles, games like chess or scrabble, word finds, and even escape rooms are all great options. 

5) Stop triggering yourself 

Is there something around you that is triggering you to think about the thing you don’t want to think about? It could be speaking to someone specific, an item in your home, or even something or someone on social media.  

If something continues to remind you of the thing you want to forget, it would be wise to ensure that thing no longer has access to you—or you to it. It could be throwing out a gift from an ex, blocking an ex-friend on social media, or even avoiding a particular area of the city for a while. 

6) Speak to someone 

Maybe the reason you can’t stop focusing on that thing you don’t want to, is because your brain is trying to tell you that you need to work through it. By venting to a friend, or speaking to a therapist, you could be releasing whatever it is that keeps causing it to resurface.  

By speaking about it, it might help take away its power. 

If it doesn’t work, a therapist would also have some other great suggestions as well. 

7) Write about it 

If you don’t want to talk to someone about it, journaling is another great choice for being able to “get it all out”. A journal is a safe place for you to express your thoughts and feelings about whatever it is. Writing about it might even provide you with some needed clarity, or a solution to whatever it is you’re facing. 

If you are worried that re-reading what you wrote could trigger you in the future, you could always write everything down and then dispose of the paper.

8) Solve the problem 

Your obsessive thoughts might not be related to a problem you can solve, but if they are, one of the only ways to stop thinking about it might be to solve the problem or face whatever it is you want to avoid. It could be something like having the difficult conversation, or going out on a date with someone else after a bad breakup.  

Even if whatever action you take doesn’t immediately solve the problem, just knowing you have taken action could help you to stop obsessing over it.

9) Meditate 

Forcing your brain to be present and focused on the moment, can help break you out of your thought cycle and could even help you think more positively. 

10) Learn something new and challenging 

Learning something new will also engage your brain. The more challenging and the more brain power it takes to focus on what you are learning, the more distracted you will be. 

It could be learning a new language, or attending a cooking or exercise class, or following a Youtube tutorial. 

Final Thoughts…

It is never fun when our minds seem to work against us, but hopefully these suggestions will help you get back to focusing what is important—yourself! 

Take care of yourself.

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