How to Take Your Mind Off Something and Control Negative Thoughts and Emotions
30 Ways to Release Stress
I used to be good at keeping my mind off of bad stuff. For stress relief I could just play a game on the internet with some friends, win some battles, and all the worries would go away. But now, no game tastes the same. I guess getting older does that to you.
Maybe more life means more stress. Now, sometimes when I go off wondering and worrying about stuff, I cannot get it out of my mind, especially if it is something that pushes my buttons.
So I searched for other ways to beat the blues and found thirty alternatives to being depressed. What to do to get rid of negative emotions, worries, and continuous reenactments of bad thoughts? Here are some things that can help.
1. Count the Darn Sheep Already
Sleeping helps combat depression, but stress and sleep problems go hand-in-hand. If counting sheep didn't help and you still can't sleep, try counting backwards from 1000 by increments of seven. No good? Read something scientific/religious or repeat the same word 1000 times. I promise that by the time you reach 300, you'll be sleepy. You can also try methods like dimming or turning off the lights a half an hour before you go to bed, thus telling your brain that it is bedtime. If, instead of plugging into an electronic device, you give yourself some time to be with your own thoughts right before bed, you might have fewer worries to deal with when you lie down.
2. Face Your Fears
A lot of times, frustration stems from fear. If you can figure out what scares you, then you can deal with your fear and other negative emotions more easily.
Sometimes our fears come from outside, not in. Sometimes, the value we place on what others think of us is a product of socialization. Many of us were raised to care what other people think by parents who needed us to value their opinion. They gave us love when we did something they liked, or withdrew their love when we did something that displeased them. This conditions the child to care about what others think of them.
What if somebody is angry at you or does not like you? If you care, that means you value him/her. If you don't care about that person, you shouldn't care what he/she thinks.
3. Work It Out
Aerobic exercise helps, believe it or not. According to Men's Health Magazine, you can fend off work stress by deep breathing. Take a deep breath and watch your stomach expand, then let it out and repeat. Do this exercise every hour because your body will start "chest breathing" when you are under stress. That may be good if you want to sing something nice or want to run away from that vicious dog, but it is bad for your stress levels and of course, weight. Chronic stress causes fat accumulation (unless you start to exercise immediately when triggered by stress). Controlling your breathing helps you control your heart rate as well, which is great.
4. Make Music
Good music will do your body good, will decrease risk of illness, and will cheer you up in a few minutes. If you are breathing from your chest, you will sound pretty good musically so you might try singing something yourself. You can also try to play an instrument, especially a drum or something to hit to release additional tension.
5. Pet Someone or Something
Do you have animals or kids? Petting either one has a similar calming effect, both on the petter and the petted, so pet and love them and you'll feel better.
6. Take a Break
If you can take a relaxing holiday, plan it or do it immediately. Sometimes, just planning a vacation can be relaxing, even if you don't actually go.
7. Get Perspective
Try to get a larger view of the situation. Try to notice gray areas instead of seeing the world in black and white. If you believe everything happens for a reason, and everybody on this earth is here to improve you and make you better, you will alleviate stress. That sounds selfish at first, but if you believe that guy who yelled at you was mean because you were bad some time ago in an unrelated incident, or take it as a sign that you need to stop and listen, then you won't feel that life is cruel and you will take it much better.
8. Find Humor
If something bad happened–an argument for example, or if your boss yelled at you–reenact the scene in your mind but this time, imagine your antagonist in a clown suit or in his/her underwear, or whatever makes the scene funny. Mentally readjust their voice to sound high (or low) pitched and then speed up the scene, like a director of a comedy. You will feel better instantly.
Start daydreaming again. It is better if the dreams are on the positive or hopeful side, opening up new possibilities for you and your soul. You can also occupy your mind with other busy thoughts like chess or other strategy games (they still work for me, though not as well as they used to).
10. Find a Higher Power
Get religion and start praying. I know what you might be thinking, but even if you consider yourself an unbeliever, you can bet that there are some things you believe in. So even if you are praying to Superman, that's your business, but I say get on it. Research shows that believers live fuller and happier lives.
If you have a friend you haven't seen for awhile or know someone you rarely call, try to get together with him/her and have a tea or coffee or something. Play mini golf or do an activity, but do something together. If you are married or have a significant other, even better. Do something with your spouse and I promise that you will enjoy it even though you don't feel like it now.
12. Have Sex
Depression lowers your libido, so try to get back in the game even if it means pleasing yourself.
13. Make Art
Drawing with color helps you express your feelings.
Open up to someone who won't judge, but will simply listen. If you do not know anyone like that, tell somebody you know that you need them not to judge or offer solutions but to just listen. Expressing yourself like that will relieve your soul.
You can start a diary (although as I understand it, this kind of writing doesn't always work for men). Write a letter or an article or a story, even. Write a list of things to do to avoid being depressed.
16. Make a List
Make a list of what you like doing during the day, a list of things or people you feel grateful for, or a list of things you look forward to.
You might list the problems that are putting negative drains on your brain and then make a list of solutions. Write the pros and cons of each solution and then pick the solution with the fewest cons. If that does not work, go to the second solution and take action.
Find some other way to help others, give to charity, or support your community. Helping others helps a lot.
Get some action going. Taking too long trying to decide what to do may draw you deeper into depression. Don't just stand there, do something. Once you start, it will be much easier to finish.
19. Nip It in the Bud
Proactively prevent negative thoughts and emotions; when they are baby sparks, put them out before they can turn into flames.
20. Turn Toward the Light
If it is the winter that brings out the worst in you, get a bright UV lightbulb and bathe in its light for half an hour a day. The winter woes are called the SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it happens to a lot of people.
21. Imagine Happiness
Imagine that all your problems have been resolved overnight, then think how you would behave and what you would do every day in your post-problem life. If you behave like your problems have all been solved magically, who knows what will happen.
22. Find Company
Don't drink your coffee alone. Have fun! Going out for coffee with co-workers or friends is more effective in relaxing you and getting negative emotions out of your mind than isolating yourself. Find small ways to rejoin society for casual, cheerful conversation.
23. Try Growing Something
If you are feeling really bad or tired at work, try dealing with your plants. Prune the yellow leaves off, water it, take care of it, you can even talk to it. If you grow aromatic herbs like mint, etc., the smell will relax you.
24. Fess Up
If you feel like you made a mistake, don't let it back you into a tight corner. Acknowledge and accept that you made a mistake. Letting it go will feel good.
25. Cut the Negative Talk
Research has shown that a lot people talk to themselves negatively. Whether you notice it or not, sometimes it's your own mind making you miserable. But if you keep mentally repeating positive words, you will feel a lot better about yourself. Even if you repeat the positive word without thinking about it, it will still help since your unconscious mind is listening. For example, if you keep telling yourself, "I am smart, I am smart, I am relaxed, I am relaxed," you will start to believe and become those things.
26. Keep an Open Mind
If you don't get so attached to positive outcomes, you'll be more prepared for what happens. If you can prepare yourself for a bad storm, you won't feel so bad if one hits. For example, if instead of always imagining your boss will praise you with open arms, you anticipate the possibility of the boss's displeasure, it will not be such a surprise when the boss starts yelling. And then those times when the boss is happy will be pleasant surprises.
27. Say "No"
Some people have no shame and they will try to use you by continuously asking for favors and by refusing to take "no" for an answer. If you can't say no, tell them you will do it later, in some undefined time frame. Then later, let's say weeks or months or years later, tell him/her you will do it now. Of course it will be too late and they will be more hesitant to ask you for anything again. (Or you can just tell them "no" immediately and forget all about it.)
28. Say "Yes"
Say "yes" to invitations and offers of help. I promise you that even if you don't feel like it, your friends can help or you'll at least appreciate the break in your routine.
Self-medicate the healthy way: if you have the means to buy an air conditioner, buy one that releases negative ions that can help decrease stress. Of course, you can always try some fresh air in the woods or on the beach, as well. You can try to go to a swimming pool routinely (swimming releases lymphatic fluid from your body, which decreases stress and negative emotions). You should remember to take a lot of vitamin C (in lemonade, orange juice, parsley, supplements, etc.) because this vitamin fights negative emotions.
30. Remain Calm
If you decide to remain calm in a fight, you will be in control. Massage your earlobes in a circular motion afterward. Men's Health Magazine states that this relieves stress because it moves the cerebellar tentorium membrane in your brain.
What About You?
What is your best sure-fire method for releasing stress and reducing negativity?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
How do you face your fears?
If you are afraid of heights, you can go higher, step by step. You get used to it as you get higher. If you are afraid of mice, you look at them in a controlled environment, and get a closer look, taking your time. Time heals everything and you develop an insensitivity to your fear as you face them, slowly.