Thinking in Circles
by Frédérique Herel
You are trying to fall asleep and, for the umpteenth time, the same thought takes over your mind: "I bet I left out something important in my business proposal yesterday" or "Why did he call his ex last night?"

You are stuck on one unpleasant thought and cannot get away from it. Better face it: you are suffering from obsessive thinking. You are just like millions of people everywhere ruminating on a question when you know perfectly well that thinking about it won't help solve the problem. Well-meaning friends will seek to reassure you: "Don't lose your mind over this. Just stop thinking about it!" Easier said than done!

Over the years, I have wasted too often my precious energy on my "stinking thinking". Therefore I have attempted to find ways to stop this fruitless drain, and this is what I came up with.

When a room is dark and you want to see better, you don't push the blackness away: you bring the light in. Consequently, instead of trying to stop your obsessive thinking, welcome distractions.

At a time when you are feeling good, make a list of useful activities. While they should be pleasant or productive, above all, they have to keep your mind busy. For instance, you could watch a captivating movie, read a great book, plan for a fun event, try out a new recipe, or even accomplish duties motivated by deadlines such as paying bills or filling out your tax return! Anything that requires concentration. Mechanical tasks - like doing the dishes or walking - leave too much freedom for your mind to go on overdrive. If you decide to talk to your friends, make sure they are the type who can uplift you, or you'll be back to square one.

Sometimes being able to help out friends and to focus on their problems (not yours) can be very rewarding. But be careful not to become dependant on playing rescuer.

Twelve-step programmes (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Co-dependents Anonymous) recommend to "halt" when you feel obsessed. The letters H.A.L.T. stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (or, sometimes, Terrified). Very often hunger or loneliness increases obsessions.

So the next time you start thinking in circles, don't try to stop your thoughts. Just drown your business proposal or his ex in an ocean of fun, constructive, and colourful ideas and activities.