How to stop thinking about someone, even when you don’t want to? Especially when you don’t want to! Well, sometimes, it’s in your best interests to get people out of your head. For instance, if you stop thinking about someone who hurt you or stop thinking about someone who is not interested in you, you’re doing yourself a favor, right?
We’ve all been there. That person we’ve had a crush on, the one we simply can’t stop preying on our brain no matter how much we try to filter them out. And sometimes, it’s someone who doesn’t reciprocate, someone whom we can’t have, or even worse, someone who has actively broken our hearts.
It’s easy, of course, to say, stop thinking about someone who hurt you. You’re worthy of great love and romance and you deserve someone as amazing as you. Unfortunately, the heart is treacherous and disobedient and won’t give in quite so easily. You find yourself morosely thinking about them, wondering if you’ll ever be able to stop.
So, how to stop thinking about someone? We asked clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy, for some insights on how to get these dratted people out of your mind.
What Does It Mean If You Can’t Stop Thinking About Someone?
Devaleena explains, “There are usually two factors involved when you can’t stop thinking about someone – you’re either feeling intense hatred or some other deeply negative emotion, or you are madly in love with them or crushing on them so there is an element of obsession or obsessive love. Such emotions can cause both mental and physical reactions that make us think about someone all the time.”
But how healthy or unhealthy is it when you can’t stop thinking about someone you miss or someone you have a crush on. “It’s basic human nature to want to make a connection with people, and a very intimate connection with a handful of people or one special person,” Devaleena says, adding, “You could also be deciding what your exact feelings for them are or you’re wondering if they will reject or reciprocate your feelings and to what degree.”
“Another reason could be unresolved issues or a past relationship that you simply can’t get over, that is making you obsessive. Or you may be in the process of assessing where your relationship stands so you think about what they think of you and how you feel about them.
“Another root cause when you can’t stop thinking about someone who hurt you is if they have not treated you well. If they have belittled or demeaned you and you want to win them over or be in their good books, an obsession will form. It could also be that you want to get even with them.” Ultimately, though, allocating too much time to one person is not healthy, she warns.
Expert Recommends 11 Ways To Stop Thinking About Someone
How to stop thinking about someone requires a fair amount of disciplining your mind. But it’s also about distracting yourself, learning to love yourself and building a life that’s so rich and full that you don’t even need to try and stop thinking about someone you miss. Here are some strategic tips to help you figure out how to stop thinking about someone.
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1. Focus on your own goals
“It’s important to understand what focusing on your own goals means,” Devaleena says, “We know what goals are – targets we put on ourselves, things we set out to achieve. But we struggle with this because we don’t know what motivates us. We see other people’s goals, maybe we even see the goals of the person we can’t stop thinking about, and we don’t personalize our own goals.
“Setting personal goals and not just couple goals is all about setting smaller milestones to reach the bigger goal. One must have a thorough follow-through plan. For example, if you have a fitness goal in mind, you won’t get anywhere if you’re vague about how to achieve it. You need to have specifics in place.
“Also, time your goals as a proper schedule. Check how far you are from achieving them. You also need to check on your environment and make sure it is conducive to focusing on your own goals.” When you focus on your own, personal goals, you start seeing yourself outside of your obsession and your inability to stop thinking about someone who is not interested in dating, or just not into you. You start seeing yourself as a little more whole.
2. Learn or nurture a new hobby
When you spend all your time thinking about someone else, you forget to do things you enjoy and what makes you happy. All your mind space is taken up with thoughts of whoever you can’t stop thinking about.
“A lot of times, we don’t even know what hobbies to pursue. We end up thinking we don’t have special abilities. The easiest way is to transform what you already enjoy into a hobby. Even things you enjoyed as a child could become a hobby in your adult life. Try multiple things and take note of where you stick around. You could also take a psychometric assessment – an interest test which outlines where your interests lie,” advises Devaleena.
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“I loved coloring and art projects as a child. I was trying to get out of a bad relationship, and I kept wondering how to stop thinking about someone. Then, I discovered adult coloring books and joined a craft club. It was amazing how much joy it brought, and helped keep my mind off things,” says Abbi.
Make room for things that you enjoy doing, whether it’s art, hiking or a book club. You’ll meet new people, learn new things and start seeing your life change, all because you took that first step.
3. Cultivate gratitude for the love you already have – Family, friends, etc
“Most of us have a support system in place but we tend to take it for granted – we don’t see our loved ones as exceptional gifts for ourselves. At times, when you can’t stop thinking about someone you love deeply and who is no longer in your life, you tend to forget about those who already hold you with love,” says Devaleena.
She recommends setting a daily intention about how you’ll appreciate each day and each individual in your life. “Make it like a morning prayer to show gratitude,” she says. It doesn’t have to be an actual prayer, you could just be sending out love and gratitude in your own words.
Another way to cultivate gratitude is by giving attention to our relationships. “We often lack focus toward our primary relationships and then they stop feeling special. This could be aging parents, children, extended family and friends. It could also be people who meant something to you at one point but mean less now, not because of change of heart but lack of attention,” Devaleena says.
She also recommends keeping a gratitude journal – jotting down a few things each day that you are grateful for, small things and big relationships that add love and light and delight to your life.
4. Get involved with your community
Why is community service important when you’re wondering how to stop thinking about someone? Devaleena gives the example of psychologist Alfred Adler, who proposed that a strong sense of community and service to the community leads to happiness.
It’s important, she says, to look at community service not just as an altruistic measure, but also as a means to personal joy.
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“The easiest way to do it is to think of something without immediate business benefits or gain. People may have inhibitions about reaching out to larger communities at first. In this case, you could simply look for those who are vulnerable or those who do not feel strong enough by themselves. This is a good source of getting back that community feeling through service.
“Look at online mentoring programs too, or look into volunteering at NGOs. Donate household items that you bought as mindless purchases. Organize with love and compassion, fight for a cause you believe in, attend local events or volunteer at disaster relief camps.
“The key is to step beyond yourself and your obsession. A lot of interaction happens at community events and you get to know people. You’ll feel your self-worth and value to society come back. You’re still thinking about other people but you’re getting over the love addiction about the one person you need to get out of your system,” she adds.
5. Embrace solitude and get to know yourself better
“I’d been in a relationship for 7 years. When it was ending, I didn’t know how to stop thinking about someone I’d been with so long. I didn’t even know who was I without my relationship, without this other person,” Marcy says.
Marcy started with a meditation retreat, just to clear her head. Then she went traveling solo, something that she hadn’t done since being in a relationship. She got her own apartment and adopted a kitten. “I had to get to know myself all over again, even fall in love with myself all over again. To do that, I had to spend time with myself,” she says.
“Embracing solitude sounds like such a grand concept but it really means knowing how to be content with being alone without feeling lonely. This is a healthy space where you can explore your mind and you’re comfortable enough in your skin to explore your internal self. You get to know yourself better and have a roadmap to your own life. Then you automatically start fixing what needs to be fixed, loving yourself and showing up for yourself, not just for others,” Devaleena says.
6. Have a good venting session
I always maintain that there’s nothing quite like laying your raw, untamed feelings on the table and getting them out of the way. The more we bottle up how we really feel, the more things build up and start manifesting in all kinds of nasty ways. (For instance, I’m forever eating my feelings rather than facing up to them).
A good vent, a nice long, ugly crying session and so on comes as a relief when you’re trying so hard to figure out how to stop thinking about someone. Go to your best pal, your mom, your pet or whoever really gets you and will hear you out with sympathy and without (too much) judgment. Tell them you need some time with them – this is just basic courtesy and the difference between venting vs emotional dumping.
Don’t hold back here. No matter how silly or irrational a thought seems, it’s important to get everything out there instead of letting it fester it in your brain when you want to stop thinking about someone romantically. Are you thinking of writing them a tearful text? Say it. Do you want to change your name and move to an island and live off coconuts? Let it fly. Once things are out there, it’s surprising how much simpler they become to handle. Find an active listener, and get started.
7. Try talking to a counselor
We’re major proponents of reaching out and asking for help when needed. How to stop thinking about someone can become a burden on your mental health, whether it’s someone you have a crush on or you’re trying to stop thinking about someone who is not interested in you. A personal support system is wonderful, of course, but there could be a time when a more professional approach is needed.
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Try talking to a counselor if you feel that you’re being weighed down by your efforts to stop thinking about someone you love deeply. A therapist or a counselor will act as a guiding hand to help you understand your own feelings better and get to the root of why you’re constantly thinking about someone when it hurts you.
Seeking professional help sometimes comes with all kinds of stigma, especially when it’s over something as seemingly simple as how to stop thinking about someone. Remember that even if it’s ‘just’ someone you have a crush on and can’t get off your mind, these feelings are valid and you have every right to ask for help while processing them. And, Bonobology’s team of experienced counselors is just a click away, should you need them.
8. Avoid stalking them on social media
Yes, we know. Stalking exes and crushes on social media is a forbidden pleasure that we often can’t do without. But may we recommend that if you’re in the early stages of figuring out how to stop thinking about someone, you stay off their social media as much as possible? You know, for the sake of your own sanity, since we know how social media affects relationships.
“You can’t stop thinking about someone romantically if you’re staring at their face on your phone screen for hours a day,” says Jo. “I was trying to get over someone I was romantically involved with and every time I went online, there they were. And I would keep trying to figure out if they were dating someone else or if a post they put up was about me. It drove me crazy.”
Staying off social media is possibly one of the toughest things to do if you’re someone who spends a lot of time online for work or otherwise. But when your brain is trying to figure out how to stop thinking about someone, constant visual reminders of them really aren’t what you need. No, you don’t need to know if they checked into your favorite café or if they’re planning a vacation. Give yourself a break.
9. Don’t beat yourself when you do think about them
Listen, feelings will come and go. It’s kind of what they do. Some feelings take up more space in you and for a longer time than you would like, even as you struggle to free yourself from them. To stop thinking about someone you love deeply is a constant battle with your feelings, but to to feel your feelings is one of the ways to feel better after a breakup, or recover from unrequited love.
Maybe stop struggling. Don’t assume that you’re weak or foolish for having these feelings, for wanting someone you can’t have, or someone who simply doesn’t reciprocate how you feel. We’ve all been there, and it’s one of the most human experiences you’ll ever go through. There’s nothing neat or planned about these feelings.
Let the feelings come. Let them flow over you, no matter how strange or silly it all seems. The more you try and fight them, the longer it will take you to let them go. That’s not to say you act on every feeling that comes your way, but don’t make yourself feel bad and try and lock the feelings away, hoping that they’ll be gone that way.
It’s all right to grieve a relationship that’s over or even one that never materialized. It’s all right to have mixed-up feelings of equal parts love and anger about the same person. Let the feelings come, and eventually, with time, they will pass.
10. Spoil yourself
Have we mentioned how much we love us some self-love? We have? Well, we’re just going to go into it again so you never forget how much you deserve some loving! When you’re wondering how to stop thinking about someone, you tend to neglect yourself and forget that the best kind of love is to hang out with yourself and give yourself endless attention.
Related Reading: Feeling Neglected In A Relationship: Psychologist Shares Ways To Take Care Of Yourself
When you’re struggling to stop thinking about someone, it’s so easy to start seeing yourself only as someone who was left or unloved. Don’t forget that you’re fabulous in your own right! That you’re someone with goals and dreams and someone deserving of wonderful things, whether or not you have a romantic partner.
Take yourself on a shopping trip. Buy that watch or the bag or those earrings that you’ve been eyeing while wondering if you can pull them off. You absolutely can! Book a spa weekend for yourself and your closest pals and sink into some decadent massage sessions. Cook yourself a three-course meal or order in the salted caramel mousse that’s for ‘special occasions’ only. Maybe you’ve been giving too much in a relationship, and now it’s time to give to yourself.
11. Try and imagine them as friends
Uhh, say what?! We don’t want to be friends with them, we’re trying to stop thinking about them! Yes, but hear us out. We’re talking about changing the narrative here. So far, you’re trying to stop thinking about someone romantically. Instead of constantly picturing them as a romantic partner, think of them as someone you could befriend on a platonic level.
Mind you, don’t assume you’re going to be best friends with an ex you still love right away. We hate to darken your hopeful glow but you may not be friends with them at all. This is more of a way to gently redirect your mind from seeing them strictly as potential romantic partners and put them in a more general category of people you know and like but who are not your ‘one and only’.
Instead of fantasizing about them in a candlelight setting for two on a pretty beach, try thinking of them in a group setting where a bunch of you are out for drinks or coffee. Here, they’re just one of many people you hang out with and like. You might miss them when they’re not around but you have people to fill up the love gap.
Figuring out how to stop thinking about someone, especially someone you’ve known a long time or been with for a while, is tough. Heck, it’s tough even to stop crushing on someone you met a week ago and can’t get out of your head. There’s no one way to do it, apart from putting in some good, old-fashioned work and emotional labor.
So, give yourself some exclusive me-time, go out there and do some good for your community, reconnect with friends and family who already adore you and remind yourself that you’re worthy of a whole lot of love from yourself and from others. You’ve got this.
When you can’t stop thinking about someone, it’s usually either because you have deeply negative emotions toward them that you’re unable to purge, or because you’re completely in love with them and can’t do much about it.
To get someone off your mind, focus on your own goals and dreams, remind yourself that you’re worthy of love and try and see them simply as real people with flaws and quirks, rather than some perfect ideal.
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