It is normal to think about the past. However, do you have negative thoughts playing over and over in your head? Many times we wonder how to stop thinking about the past. We often want to end this loop of negative thoughts in our heads. This overthinking about the past is known as rumination. It has adverse effects on our productivity and mental well-being. In this article, we discuss how to stop thinking about the past and negative thoughts that come up over and over again.
What is rumination? Rumination is a process where thoughts about the past keep running in your mind over and over. These thoughts or memories are usually negative. This article discusses the reasons why we can’t stop thinking about the past. We also examine the impact of negative thoughts running over and over in our heads.
Why Can’t We Stop Thinking About the Past?
Our minds function in a way that it can be challenging to quit dwelling on the past. Moreover, if certain memories, emotions, or cognitive patterns center on a single event in the past, they frequently group. Therefore, if we felt sad after an event in the past, if we keep thinking about it, it makes us sad again.
In many cases, we are sorry for what happened in the past. We want to undo our mistakes. We keep thinking about the past to understand how things could turn differently. Additionally, we try to search for answers in the past.
How Do Negative Thoughts of the Past Affect Us?
- Productivity: When we keep thinking about the past, it leaves us with little space to be present in the current moment. Additionally, our productivity is impacted because we are always thinking about what happened in the past. This wastes a lot of time. Moreover, when we keep thinking negative thoughts over and over, it makes us sad. It is difficult to work in a sad mood.
- Impact on mental health: This loop of thoughts about the past can affect our mental health It can make us feel helpless. Further, it can worsen any mental health disorder, if present. Since we cannot undo what has happened in the past, it can make us feel powerless. This can frustrate us.
- Stop us from taking risks: We think that a certain bad thing happened in the past therefore it will happen again in the future. This overthinking stops us from trying new things. It makes us fearful. For example, if we fumbled on stage in the past, we will stop giving stage performances altogether. This can lower our self-esteem in the future.
How to Stop Thinking About the Past
If you already experience depression or anxiety, this negative thought cycle can worsen your symptoms and hurt your mental health. Rumination is when we keep dwelling on the bad without trying to find a solution or a path ahead. Rumination is a behavior, not a disease of the mind. But it’s a typical sign of anxiety and mood disorders. However, it does not need to be long-term. To control it, you can learn how. Here are some ways in which we can stop thinking about the past.
Re-write the past on a piece of paperTry to pen down your thoughts and feelings. This way you can de-clutter all the thoughts you have been having. Maintain a journal where you can note down all the troubling thoughts and feelings. This will help you understand that what can be done right now rather than dwelling on your past problems. Moreover, a thought journal will also help you stop thinking about the past because you now know that certain events are not in your control. Further, you can even write a message to the person you may have hurt in the past.
Think of the possibilitiesYou might find that thinking about your priorities can help you stop suffering from painful ruminations. Try to be deliberate and decide what you want in your life rather than dwelling on the things you don’t. This can be friendships, occupations, pastimes, or locations. When you notice yourself pondering, softly refocus on a picture of your cherished life.
ExerciseExercise is a good way to be present in the here and now. When we exercise, our focus is on the present moment. Additionally, it helps us keep our mind and body fit. Exercise boosts dopamine and releases feel-good hormones called serotonin. They help in letting go of the negative thoughts.
Focus on the presentWhen you find yourself pressing backward, make an effort to shift into forwarding gear. You may even choose neutral. You might be able to reroute your negative thoughts by establishing your presence in the present moment. Therefore, if you find yourself thinking about the past, try to return to the present, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first.
Here is a small exercise you can do to focus on the present and stop thinking about the past.
- Understand that your self-worth should not be dependent on your past failures.
- Practice a self-care routine. Whenever you find yourself thinking about the past, stop and be kind to yourself.
- Show yourself unconditional love and support.
- Engage in a breathing exercise if you can’t stop thinking about the past. Additionally, practice mindfulness meditation daily to keep reminding yourself that failures are common to humans.
- Take breaks from work if you find yourself not being able to stop thinking about the past. You can take a short tea break and refocus during that time.
- Activities like body scans or simple stretches can be performed to bring back the focus to the present moment.
- Additionally, when you can stop thinking about the past, try some simple activities like coloring or indulging in a craft-related activity.