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How to stop overthinking and negative thoughts: 18 ways

Updated: Apr 29

Do you ever feel like your mind gets stuck on repeat, playing negative thoughts over and over? Excessive overthinking and negativity can be a significant obstacle to happiness and well-being. However, there are effective ways to break free from this cycle. Here's how to stop overthinking and negative thoughts.

How to stop overthinking and negative thoughts: 18 ways

Recognizing overthinking -

The first step is becoming aware of your overthinking patterns. Signs include replaying past mistakes or worrying about the future excessively. You might dwell on conversations, analyze every detail, or assume the worst possible outcome in any situation. Difficulty making decisions and a constant race of thoughts even when trying to relax are other common signs.

Here are 18 ways to stop overthinking and negative thoughts.

  1. Catch Yourself: When you find yourself dwelling on negativity, pause and take a few deep breaths. Acknowledge the thought without judgement, then gently redirect your attention to something else, like your surroundings or an activity.

  2. Label Your Thoughts: Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts, label them as "negative thoughts" or "worry." This creates a separation between you and your thoughts. Imagine them as clouds drifting across the sky.

  3. Challenge Your Thoughts: Are your thoughts realistic? Are you assuming the worst?  Ask yourself questions like "What evidence is there for this thought?" or "What's a more balanced way to look at this situation?".

  4. Separate Fact from Fiction:  Often, our worries are unfounded. Gather information if needed and assess the situation based on reality, not just your anxieties.

  5. Schedule Your Worries:  Set aside a specific time each day, maybe 15-20 minutes, to address anxieties. Write them down and spend that time thinking them through. This prevents them from taking control of your entire day.

  6. Focus on Now:  Overthinking often fixates on the past or future. Mindfulness practices like meditation can help you stay present in the moment. Try short meditation exercises that focus on your breath or bodily sensations. There are many free guided meditations available online.

  7. Gratitude Boost:  Shift your focus to what you appreciate in your life. Take a few minutes each day to write down things you're grateful for, big or small.

  8. Challenge Yourself:  Sometimes, overthinking stems from fear of failure.  Step outside your comfort zone in small ways. Try a new recipe, strike up a conversation with someone new, or take a different route to work. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small!

  9. Talk it Out:  Sharing your worries with a trusted friend, therapist, or counsellor can provide a fresh perspective and emotional support. Confide in someone you trust and let them listen without judgement.

  10. Write it Down:  Journaling your anxieties can help you gain clarity, release pent-up emotions, and organize your thoughts. Set aside some time each day to write down your worries, thoughts, and feelings.

  11. Move Your Body:  Exercise is a powerful mood booster. Go for a walk, run, dance class, or anything that gets you moving. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

  12. Engage Your Senses:  Focus on sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around you. When you feel your mind wandering, take a few deep breaths and pay attention to your five senses. Describe what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in detail.

  13. Laughter is the Best Medicine:  Watch a funny movie, listen to a stand-up comedy, or spend time with someone who makes you laugh. Laughter can lighten your mood and break the cycle of negativity. Seek humor in your everyday life.

  14. Embrace Imperfections:  Everyone makes mistakes. Striving for perfection is unrealistic and can increase anxiety. Accept yourself, flaws and all.

  15. Self-compassion is Key:  Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a friend. Forgive past mistakes and focus on personal growth. Talk to yourself with encouragement instead of criticism.

  16. Reduce Decision Fatigue:  Simplify your choices. Set routines for everyday tasks like what to wear or what to eat for breakfast. This frees up mental energy for important decisions.

  17. Take Digital Breaks:  Constant screen time can contribute to anxiety and overthinking. Schedule breaks from social media and news. Turn off notifications and set specific times to check your phone or computer.

  18. Learn to Say No:  Don't overload yourself.  Saying no to extra commitments can reduce stress and free up time for self-care activities. Practice saying no politely but firmly.


Talk to Us: Don't wait to seek help:

Schedule a Free 15-minute Mental Health Consultation: Understanding your situation is key. Speak with one of our specialists for free and get personalized guidance on your mental health journey.

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