Tools for Dealing with Repetitive Thinking



One of the main ways we make ourselves miserable is by repetitive thinking.  Very few of our thoughts are new; we recycle them again and again.  We ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems.  Repetitive thinking can lead to depression and anxiety.

Below I am going to list many tools you can use when you find yourself trapped in this cycle.  They are not listed in any particular order.  If one doesn’t work for you at a given time, try another.

1)  Say “Be here now” to yourself and shift your focus to the present. Do that every time you find yourself thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or into repetitive thinking of other kinds. You may need to say the phrase hundreds of times a day when you start, but if you continue saying it and bringing your attention to the present, the repetitive thoughts will stop.  Remember that you are working to break an old habit and build a new one, and that takes time.

2)  When  you find yourself into repetitive thinking, bring single-minded focus to every moment. For instance, say to yourself “I am picking up my fork,” “I am holding my fork,” “I am picking up food with my fork,” “I am bringing my fork to my mouth,” “I am putting my food into my mouth,” I am chewing my food,” “I am swallowing my food,” etc.

3)  Pick an affirmation and say it at least 1,000 a day, or more, for 21 days.  Say your mantra internally, going as fast as you like. If unhelpful thoughts start coming at the same time, speed up the affirmation You can use any kind of affirmation. Some examples are “Be here now,” “I’m competent and capable,” “I let go,” “My needs are important,” “I am enough,” “I am smart,” “My life is unfolding as it should,”etc. Pick one affirmation and stick to the same one for the entire 21 days. It doesn’t matter if you believe what you are saying. What matters is that you want to believe it. If you say the affirmation in the 10,000 a day range, it may start flowing through your mind automatically, during the day and possibly throughout the night as well.

4)  Make a 3 second contract with yourself. Since repetitive thinking is a habit, you will probably find yourself in the midst of it without being aware it had started. You don’t break the contract when you find that you have been obsessing or over thinking for some time. You break the contract when you realize you are doing it and don’t start working to disrupt the thinking within 3 seconds.

5)  Distract yourself. Go for a walk, exercise, read, talk to a friend, etc.

6)  Write lists of what you are feeling mad, sad and/or scared about. Don’t spend time thinking about it; just write whatever comes to your mind in the moment, even if you end up writing the same thing over and over.

     I am mad that _______

     I am mad that _______

     I am mad that _______

     I am scared that _______

     I am sad that _______

     I am mad that ______

     I am scared that ______

     I am scared that ______


7)  If you are angry with someone and obsessing about that, do some anger work. Journal about your anger, write a poison pen letter telling the person off (and then destroy it), twist a towel and imagine yourself yelling at them, scream into a pillow. Stop when you feel a shift in your energy.  These techniques are for the purpose of releasing the angry energy in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself, others or the environment.

8)  Write a list of your scares in one column and in a second column write the truth about each situation.  For example:

If he leaves me I will die                           If he leaves me I will feel very sad but I will not die.

I have done nothing with my life           I have done many things with my life (and list them).

9)  Write a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for.

10)  Each time you have a negative thought about someone else, write or say three positive things about them.

11)  Each time you have a negative thought about yourself, write or say three positive things about yourself.

12)  Most often fear needs information. If you are feeling afraid, ask yourself what information you need and then go get it.

13)  If you find yourself obsessing about a negative event from your past, write a list of the things you learned because that happened to you. Also, identify the skills you have today because that event occurred.

14)  A friend recently told me about a process she finds very helpful:

The moment you get a repetitive thought, write down what scares you about that thought; i.e., what is behind it that worries or frightens you? In a stream of consciousness way (don’t go back to read what you write), write down everything you’re afraid of that comes to mind until you run out. Then wad up the paper and burn it [or tear it up] and go about your business. Do this process daily and/or every time you get a thought you don’t want.

15)  Think what your life would be like if you were able to stop most of your repetitive thinking.  Hold that vision in front of you as you make moment to moment decisions about where you put your focus.

I hope you find these tools helpful.  I wish you the best on your journey towards a peaceful mind.


Written for Challenge for Growth Prompt #8: Stop (Repetitive) Thinking

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“Stay in the Present and Stop Thinking!”

cropped File 14-12-2015, 8 59 18 AM


As I formulated this week’s Challenge for Growth, I remembered an experience I had in 2001. I described it in one of my Getting to Joy books, a series about my years of being with Amma.  While I still struggle with over thinking, this memory is etched into my mind. Recalling it whenever I’m into repetitive thinking gives me both pleasure and guidance.  Here is that section of the book:


“Stay in the Present and Stop Thinking!”

I had planned to spend some time at Christ in the Desert monastery after attending Amma’s Santa Fe programs. As I started thinking about my upcoming monastery visit, I began to cry. The more I thought about it, the more I cried. Why did I have so much grief? Old questions arose once again. Was I supposed to be moving into an ashram [monastery]? Would I ever move into an ashram?   I felt certain that now was not the time for ashram living, but how was I to deal with all of the sadness?

It occurred to me that I could discuss this situation with Amma. By then, it was past noon and she takes only a small number of questions each day, so I assumed that the quota for that day had long since been filled. Nevertheless, I felt drawn to check out my assumption. I was surprised to discover that Amma had not put any limit on the number of questions she would answer that day. Within a half-hour, I was sitting in front of her.

Through the translator, I told Amma how difficult it is for me to live a life that is not in an ashram, yet is not fully engaged in worldly activities either. I said I felt certain that it was not time for me to move into an ashram, and asked for her advice about how to deal with all of the grief I felt about being torn between these choices.

Amma indicated that there might eventually be an ashram in Seattle. For now, she said, I should remember that I am Amma’s child and that she is always with me. She then advised me to stay in the present and stop thinking! What could I do but laugh? Staying in the present and stopping unhelpful thought processes seems to be one of the major challenges of my life. I knew that over-thinking consistently pulls me into a downward spiral and that if I focus on what I have instead of what I do not have, it is much easier to stay in the present. I am also more likely to stay in a place of gratitude instead of moving into suffering. For some time thereafter, I used “Stay in the present and stop thinking” as a mantra whenever negative thought processes began. I found it to be a very effective technique in quieting my mind and shifting my focus.


Posted for Challenges for Growth Prompt #8: Stop (Repetitive) Thinking


Challenge for Growth Prompt #8- Stop (Repetitive) Thinking


Stop Thinking

This week’s challenge is:

“Today I stop my repetitive thinking.”

So few of our thoughts are actually new; we recycle most of them again and again as we ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems.  Overthinking keeps us trapped in our heads, rather than living from our hearts.  It also leads to depression and anxiety.

We may believe if we think about a problem long enough, we will figure out what to do about it. The reality is that inspiration is much more likely to come when our minds are silent than when we are in a never-ending cycle of analyzing.

This week, for 1, 2, 3 days or longer, commit to stopping your repetitive thoughts. One way to do that is to say “Stop…..Be here now” and then focus solely on the present moment whenever you find yourself in unhelpful thinking processes.  Distracting activities such as working in the garden, exercising, reading, writing, walking, etc. may also be helpful. If there is a problem you actually need to think about, set a beginning and ending time for doing that, rather than letting it take over your day.

Sometime during the week, write a post about some aspect of this topic or about experiences you had when you stopped your repetitive thinking. Feel free to use whatever form you desire: i.e., prose, story, poem, photograph, etc.  (If you don’t have a blog, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.)


General Prompt Information:

New prompts will be posted at 5 a.m. (PST) every Wednesday.

Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges will start with “Today, I focus on…….” It will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— one, two, three days or even longer. At some point during the week, publish a post that relates in some way to the subject of the week.

Link your post back to this prompt post. If the pingback doesn’t work, then leave the link to your post in the comment section below.  Be sure to include “Challenge for Growth Prompts” as one of your tags.

Throughout the week, I will publish the links for the posts that were created as the result of this prompt.  I will also post the links from those who participated the previous week. That way they will be seen by anyone who comes to this page.

This week’s contributors to: Stop (Repetitive) Thinking

“Stay in the Present and Stop Thinking” – Living, Learning and Letting Go

Stop Repetitive Thinking- Home and Loving It

Mind: Shut Up Already!- Traces of the Soul

Challenge for Growth Prompt #8/stop repetitive thinking- Annette’s Place

Tools for Dealing with Repetitive Thinking- Living, Learning and Letting Go

My thinking corner/thoughts for the week- Annette’s Place

Hush…- Nik’s Place

How about you?


Last week’s contributors to: I unplug

Challenges for growth prompts/unplug- Annette’s place

Unplugged- Home and Loving It

I Unplugged!- Living, Learning and Letting Go

OFF- Nik’s Place