As you know, I’m all for thinking. I research, read and write about the ways to think better, create the right conditions and develop better thinking habits. But I also admit that sometimes the best thing you can do to become a better thinker is… stop thinking.

I’ve certainly found myself in these never-ending spirals of thinking doom, when the more you think, the more confused and desperate you become. It’s not easy to just switch off and stop when this happens. Most of the time, when you try to stop thinking, thoughts become even more persistent and intrusive. All this can leave anyone pretty exhausted and with no viable solution in sight.

And this is why learning what to do to switch thinking off is as important as understanding how to get your thinking going. As with most thinking processes, this is highly individual so it’s important that you try things out to get an idea of what works for you. Here’s what helps me stop thinking when I need to.


Do a chore

This works almost every single time and can be easily implemented in your daily routine. Thinking too much? Mind going round and round? Get up and do the dishes. Fold clothes. Iron. Go through old paperwork. Clean a cupboard. There are so many things, especially if you work from home, that you can do in 10 to 15 minutes to reset your thoughts. My favourites are cleaning the fridge and re-arranging cupboards. Needless to say, there are some unintended benefits of this too.



When I start to feel that my head gets spinning, I take my journal out and just write. Anything. Everything. I write down my thoughts, I write about what I see, I write about what’s happening. Sometimes I write fiction, most of the times I write in a stream of consciousness. It doesn’t matter because just the fact of writing slows my thoughts down to a manageable pace, and when I write them down, I stop thinking them obsessively.



Albeit somewhat more difficult to just do on a whim, going on a walk, run or doing some exercise in the living room helps a lot when I need to put my thoughts to a stop. Running is of course my favourite, as the moment I get into the groove and put some good music on, my mind lets go. Plus, when I get back from my run, I’m usually more rested and relaxed than before, which cancels the tiredness caused by the head spin.


Use your hands

Very often getting out of the brainy space into the physical space works wonders when it comes to forcing your mind to stop. Just use your hands to make something, can be anything. Draw, sew two pieces of fabric together, use play-dough, bake, whatever catches your fancy as long as it engages your hands and not your head. My favourites include sketching and sewing.



Now, there’s one supposedly sure-fire way to stop thinking when you need to: meditation. This is something that just doesn’t work for me. I tried a dozen of times with different techniques, but I end up either worked up even more, or asleep. Have you tried using meditation to stop thinking, and did it work? Let me know.

And now, let’s put thought into practice!

Next time this week when you really need to stop thinking, pause and use one of these techniques. Which one was the most effective for you? Did meditating work? Share your comments below!

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Marta Stelmaszak Rosa
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I'm a researcher, academic and writer dedicated to becoming a better thinker. Every day, I practise thinkfulness: consciously adopting a structured approach to thinking in order to understand and change the world. The world needs all of us to become better thinkers, so let's start a thinkfulness revolution together!

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