blog post title graphic with modern yellow flowers on a beige background that says 5 Easy strategies to quiet your mind and stop repetitive thoughts

Learn how to stop repetitive thoughts and get practical tips to help you quiet your mind.

Repetitive thoughts, or thoughts that circle round and round, are called rumination. The repetitive thoughts usually focus on the following:

  • why a situation is the way it is or the cause
  • what could happen because of the situation or the consequences
  • how or what the person is experiencing or the symptoms

For example, when something embarrassing happens, it’s unpleasant, which can result in thinking about the situation over and over after it is over. When you ruminate about something negative, it often feels like you can’t turn off the thoughts, which usually leads to feeling even worse. That’s how repetitive thoughts transform a situation from a regular human fumble into a big event that leaves you feeling emotionally spent, ashamed and regretful.

Here are some things that may lead to rumination:

  • Stressors (kids, work, relationships, money)
  • A traumatic event (chronic illness diagnosis, unexpected accident/loss, natural disaster)
  • Perfectionism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Facing a fear
  • Reminders of a past mistake or failure

2 Types of Rumination

Repetitive thoughts or ruminations with a quality of being obsessive are one of two types: reflective or brooding. Reflective rumination is a cycle of thinking focused on problem-solving. Brooding rumination is passively comparing your situation to a standard you haven’t attained.

Brooding usually leads to negative self-talk, which can then lead to a cycle of negative coping behaviors, such as pessimism, comparisons, worry, stress-related eating, drinking, over-exercise and the list can go on and on.

On the other hand, reflective rumination, while uncomfortable, is more forward-thinking. It involves thinking about changing the situation and relieving stress to get unstuck from the repetitive thought cycle.

How to Stop Repetitive Thoughts

1. Gratitude

Showing gratitude can seem far too simple, yet the research suggests that gratitude teaches repetitive thoughts. Practicing gratitude can lead to being more appreciative of difficult situations and lead to strategies that transform them into positive ones. Starting a gratitude practice is simple. It could be listing three things you’re grateful for in your day before you go to sleep, saying ‘thank you,’ or even smiling at someone who has helped you. Small gestures of kindness and appreciation can go a long way.

2. Body Scan

Body awareness can help you be in the present moment instead of focusing on the past, which is what repetitive thinking does. A body scan lets you locate your body in space and time and supports your ability to stay grounded in the present. Do a quick body scan the next time you notice thoughts cycling in your brain. You can start with your feet or at the top of your head. Pay attention to physical sensations – your feet, legs, torso, arms, neck and head will all feel slightly different. Allow the experience to ground you in the present moment and focus only on your body scan. You’ll notice that the repetitive thoughts are quiet as you give your brain a new task to focus on.

3. Meditation

Consistent meditators with long-term meditation practice report fewer instances of both rumination and depression. Meditating can help improve your emotional awareness by staying present and reducing your focus on regrets. Meditating also helps to strengthen self-compassion, which is essential when the repetitive thoughts focus on mistakes or negative situations.

4. Stop Overthinking

Many studies in the psychology literature show paying too much attention to your thoughts leads to distress. Most people who struggle with repetitive thoughts report their thoughts are about negative situations or evaluations of themself. Many repetitive thoughts are likely focused on shortcomings in your life, your ability to control your emotions, or relationships. Mindfulness can give you some mental space and reduce overthinking so you can transform it into increased self-awareness.

5. Self-compassion

Rumination is often focused on a negative interpretation of a situation and self-criticism usually follows, resulting in fueling the repetitive thought cycle. The antidote can be found in a self-compassion practice. The psychology research shows that a self-compassion practice makes it less likely that adverse situations will lead to repetitive thoughts and depression. Another benefit of self-compassion is it can help reduce overthinking by getting you outside of yourself and connecting you with others. ​


If you struggle with repetitive thoughts or rumination, the tips above can help you stop overthinking and break the cycle. The result is that you feel less isolated, so you can interrupt the cycle. The first step is to take action and break the cycle so you’re in control of your thoughts.