15 Ways To Distract Your Mind When You Can’t Stop Thinking About The Past

15 Ways To Distract Your Mind When You Can’t Stop Thinking About The Past

When we invariably replay how a situation went in our head; when we wonder where everything went wrong; when we can’t stop thinking about how much we messed up; those are all known as ruminating thoughts.

They’re the thoughts we replay over and over in our heads, most of the time causing us a lot of unnecessary pain.

It’s easy to get stuck in the past. Our minds work funnily: they seem to think that if we give something enough attention, it’ll either give us the answer or somehow makes us feel better.

Spoiler alert: it never does.

So instead of putting yourself into a state of self-inflicted pain, try spending your time doing these activities instead, if only to give your mind a break.

Reconnect with an old friend.

It’s easy to let friendships slip us by. We get busy or people move away. Before we know it, five years have passed since we talked to someone that used to be so close to us.

Why not invest some time into reaching out to people that once meant a great deal to you; people that you missed having in your life? Bonus: you’ll probably brighten their day too.

Hug your dog.

Take advantage of the time that your pup still has with you and accept their unconditional love. Snuggle with them, play fetch with them, or just bury your face in their fluffy fur.

Pet therapy is an actual thing that helps countless people, and dogs are proven to reduce stress. Snuggle up with your furry companion and show them some lovin’ to take your mind off things.

Think about how you want your life to look in five years.

The past is easy to dwell in since it already happened, but instead, think about how you want the future to look.

Think about how, given your life circumstances now, things will turn out down the road. If the picture you imagine is different from what you want, figure out what you could change to make those two ideas of your future life match.

Take a bubble bath.

There’s nothing better than the warm feeling of submerging your body in a tub full of bubbly water. And if that isn’t your preferred means of self-care, opt for whatever it is that you genuinely enjoy. Maybe that’s a face mask, stretching, taking a nap, or painting your nails.

Whatever you choose, a little self-care would do you some well-deserved good.

Cook yourself an elaborate meal.

There are so many benefits to putting together a gourmet meal. You have to focus on learning a new recipe, you’re physically kept busy, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor at the end.

And if baking is more your style, find an intricate brownie recipe on Pinterest and enjoy the whole pan to yourself.

Watch YouTube videos of cute animal compilations.

Don’t have a dog to hug? Watch dogs on the internet instead, or whatever your favorite animal is. YouTube is an endless black hole when it comes to adorable kitten and micro pigs videos.

Relax back and feel your heart melt.

Listen to the music you loved in high school.

I’m not afraid to admit that I loved late 2000’s punk rock: My Chemical Romance, Blink 182, Taking Back Sunday were all my jam. Whatever music you listened to in high school, crank it up, and enjoy it as you did back in the day: without a care in the world and simply enjoying the music.

Learn a new language.

Attempting to learn an entirely different language is a difficult challenge for your brain and will require much concentration on your part. But it’s a rewarding, unique skill to be able to have.

I don’t think anyone has ever considered learning how to speak French as a waste of time.

Feel the sun on your skin.

Vitamin D is proven to fight depression and elevate people’s mood. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area with a lot of sunshine, or are enjoying a uniquely sunny day, take advantage of your good fortune.

Get outside and walk around, take a nap outdoors, or enjoy a book on your patio. Pay attention to the warm sensation of the sun gracing your skin.

Take a drive with no particular destination.

Listen to your favorite audiobook, the radio, or drive in complete silence. Notice your neighborhood around you. Explore a new area of town you’ve never been too. Allow yourself to be engulfed in the act of driving. A moment to not overthink.

Walk barefoot in nature.

There is actually a word for this: it’s called Earthing. Earthing is proven to help lower stress, as well.

There’s this primal, grounded feeling you get when your skin touches the dirt and grass. Plus, you can walk barefoot outside and catch some rays: two birds with one stone.

Pick up trash in your local park/beach.

Getting outside can never hurt when trying to clear your head. Why not do some good while you’re at it?

Go for a walk, but bring a disposable bag with you. Along your walk, pick up whatever litter you see scattered around. It’s physical movement, and you’ll be helping the community.

Re-watch the funniest movie you ever saw.

Laughing will only make your situation better. Laughing is a sure-fire way to forget about what’s plaguing your mind too. And if you pick a movie you already know is funny, there’s no chance of wasting your time on a sub-par comedy that maybe makes you laugh once.

Take yourself on a solo date.

We don’t need another person to go on a date, we are the only person we need to go do something we love. Visit a museum. See that new X-Men movie. Go out to your favorite restaurant.

Take your friend on a friend date.

But if you really want someone to go to the opening of the new art exhibit with, take a friend. Offer to pay for them if you can. You’ll enjoy the activity you’ve been wanting to do and spend time with someone that you care about.

Ruminating in unpleasant thoughts is quite literally the definition of self-inflicted suffering. Even if it’s only one of these ideas, give something a chance to start working towards putting you in a better mood.

Just remember, we can only learn from the past; we can’t change it.

About the author

Kirstie Taylor

Dating + Relationship Writer & Coach