We’ve all been there, trapped with a nagging thought that keeps going around and around in our head. With each loop it feeds our anxiety, distracts our focus, and wears us down. What’s worse, it is said that up to 90% of our thoughts are the same as the ones we had yesterday, so we have probably been aboard this train before. But we don’t have to be stuck onboard forever. Try these easy steps to derail looping thoughts and reset your thinking in a positive way.
Step 1: Observe what you are thinking
Stop what you are doing and notice what you are thinking right now.
Were your thoughts focused on the here and now? Or were they wandering in the past or worrying about the future? When feeling stressed or anxious, it is very helpful to stop and examine what you are thinking. Much of the time our thoughts are not on the present moment. This can cause disconnection with what is real and leave us feeling insecure.
Looping thoughts are almost always disconnected from the present. They often obsess with things we cannot control, either because they are long past, or because they are fears for the future. The first step in draining their power is to bring them into conscious awareness.
Step 2: Ask yourself “Is this story true?”
Be honest with yourself and consider if the thought that is troubling you is really true. If it is a thought about the past, could it be interpreted a different way? If about the future, realize that it is just a story you are making up, you don’t know that it will happen this way.
If you determine the thought is not true, try saying out loud to yourself, “This story doesn’t have to be true.” The simple act of acknowledging that it is a story you are telling yourself can stop a thought right in its tracks. It helps you see things in a different way and opens your mind to new thoughts and possibilities.
And if the thought is true? Determine if it is something you can control. If so, take action to deal with it. Even small steps can retrieve your power from the incessant thought and bring it back into your soul. If it is something beyond your control, let it go. Close your eyes and visualize tying the thought to a balloon and letting it rise up, up and away. Or chose a visualization that works for you. The point is to be willing to release those burdens that are not yours to carry.
Step 3: Recognize negative patterns
As you become consciously aware of your thoughts and how they are effecting you, you may notice patterns developing. Perhaps you find yourself in similar loops or that one loop leads to another. Recognizing these patterns is an important step in changing the pattern of your thinking.
When you recognize a pattern, ask yourself what might be causing you to repeat this type of thinking. Our looping thought patterns are often an indication of things that need healing in our lives.
Step 4: Rewrite your mental script
Once you observe a looping thought, determine whether it is true, and recognize whether it is part of a pattern, you have already brought yourself out of mindless thinking into conscious awareness of the present moment. That is a powerful thing. Now is the only moment we can influence. In the present you can choose where you focus your attention, what actions to take and what thoughts you think.
With practice, you will no longer be a helpless passenger on the train of thoughts going nowhere. You can take charge. Board a new train and set the course of your life (and your thoughts) in the direction you choose.