Romeo and Juliet, Helen and Paris, the list goes on, but I won’t. These are stories of lovers who might have benefited from a class in “how to stop obsessively thinking about someone” but that class was overbooked that semester, so go figure. But in all seriousness, we’ve probably all been there at some point, and to some degree felt out of control with our feelings about someone, vowing to never let it happen again. Because it only feels good when the other person feels the same….often it’s not quite like that. And if you’re the one feeling distracted and preoccupied, okay, a bit obsessed, then it can feel disempowering. Why? Because it is. And sometimes it’s not a romantic prospect but someone who’s aggrieved us in some way. So how do you take your power back? As the saying goes, they’re living in your head and they ain’t paying rent, so it’s time to evict them. This article will tell you how to serve that section 21 and learn how to get someone off your mind.
Why Is It Hard to Get Someone Off Your Mind
So how do you stop thinking about someone? Indeed it’s a complex issue that requires articles and whole books on it. It also lands many people in therapy. But with some effort it is possible. First, let’s discuss why it’s so hard. Attraction is one reason and it’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s quite normal during the early stages of a romantic relationship. It only becomes problematic when it starts to take over too much. For example, if you’re phone watching to see if someone’s read or replied to the message you sent just ten minutes ago or, if you can’t focus on your work because your mind keeps wandering with thoughts about them (good or bad).
Another reason why it happens relates to attachment. If you notice a tendency to become obsessive with partners, and even friends or co-workers, this might relate to your Internal Working Model (IWM), a concept coined by Attachment theorist John Bowlby. Your IWM is a blueprint that is made from your earliest attachment relationships and which will teach you how to behave in relationships.
Sometimes mental health problems like anxiety, low self esteem, loneliness, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can also play a role. Similarly, personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD), dependent personality disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), or narcissistic personality disorder can predispose someone to these kinds of interpersonal problems
How Long Does It Takes to Get Someone Out of Your Head?
When you’re thinking about how to get someone off your mind, you’re probably wondering how long it takes, especially when you and others around you start to worry it’s been too long. But there is no one definitive answer to this. It depends on how close you felt to the person, how attached you were, and not necessarily how long you knew them. The deeper the connection, the longer it will take but this does not mean you’ve been sentenced to a passive limbo state. It’s important to be proactive. Start by asking yourself some questions, for example: how do I stop thinking about someone, and how to stop obsessive thinking about someone? These are the starting point of your journey. They will carry you to the next step which is learning the how, and next, doing it. The reason this is so important is because the how long question is directly impacted by your thought process. If you’re thinking about the person, imagining conversations, reliving memories, you’re still stuck. This extends your sentence. But, if instead, you’ve realised what is going on, and rather than let yourself indulge in this state, you ask the right questions, you can move to the next stage and decrease the time taken.
Tips on How to Get Someone Off Your Mind
Stop Stalking on Social Media
This is a very modern problem that can keep you stuck with the ghost of someone. So one tip for how to get someone off your mind is to get them off your screen. As the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind. This may sound like a cliché, but that doesn’t take away from its wisdom. When clients are anxious or depressed and they watch things on social media, or the news, that makes them feel more anxious or low I ask them to reduce this, and they notice a change for the better. If you virtually stalk the object of your ire or affection, you keep them ever-present in your life, and mind, they ain’t going nowhere. And maybe that’s why you do it. But it only harms you, as they get on in life, you watch them getting on…but you’re a speck in their rearview, so it’s time to move off. This might mean you need to come off social media for a time if the urge is too strong. Logging each day you’ve abstained can also make you feel accomplished and motivate you to continue.
This one may seem obvious when considering how to take your mind off someone but it’s astonishing how many people will break this rule. Even when they’ve broken it before, and returned to someone who’s bad for them, and even rinsed and repeated. So when clients ask me: how can I stop thinking about someone? One thing I will always ask them to do is stop contact. This is difficult but it’s necessary. Think of it like the addiction it is. Our video about addiction explains how we can become addicted to almost anything. Addiction is a chemical and emotional issue and when you get that contact, you feel relieved, safe, and eased to some extent. You also get that hit of dopamine and maybe some oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ as a side. Stop contact and stop feeding your bad habit.
Get Rid Of Nostalgic Items
If you want to know how to stop thinking about someone, decline nostalgia. Nostalgia is like an emotional memory that makes us feel warm and wistful. But when you’re wondering about how to stop fantasising about someone, it’s important to get rid of any keepsakes, this might even be messages you’ve exchanged, and while you’re at it, get rid of those rose-tinted lenses too. If this one feels too difficult, put all the cards, soft toys, and other gifts in a bag and give them to someone to store. Maybe down the line when you’ve mastered how to take your mind off someone (i.e., the person of interest), you can go through the bag and (responsibly) conduct a therapeutic burning ceremony, or sell or give away any items you deem of monetary value, and recycle the cards. I remember seeing a copy of Final Fantasy XIII in Computer Exchange with the message “To the best girlfriend ever” scrawled on the front…it’s good to see that said girlfriend decided to make her fantasies final by exchanging the game and maybe one day, a new beau too.
Stop Trying To Figure Out What’s Going On Inside Their Mind
Something that is a fruitless task and can feel like a torturous one when you’re wondering how to get someone off your mind, is when you spend your precious time trying to get in theirs! People can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even months and years trying to make sense of the situation by trying to get inside the head of the other person. But all you’re doing is keeping that person present in your present. That person has likely moved on, and probably thinks of you rarely, if at all, but you’re not able to let go and are still trying to figure them out so you can understand what happened and why. It’s understandable but if you want to learn how to stop obsessive thinking about someone, you have to realise you can never know another’s mind, and anything you conclude is your conclusion alone.
Stop Living In False Hope
There’s always a part of us that wants to keep the possibility of reconciliation alive. So when you’re thinking about ways how to get someone off your mind, there will be a part of you that might resist and fight. This is the internal battle that rages. You want to move on because your rational brain knows the truth – that it’s over. But your emotional, relational, attached brain will not so easily want to give up hope, even when you know on some core level, it’s false. But the falsehood of this wish is like the Siren’s call, it lulls you as the trap closes in. You aren’t able to truly let go and move on while you’re hanging on to this idea. You have one foot in, and the other barely out. You have to walk through the door and close it. Because when one door closes…
When clients ask me how do I stop thinking about someone? One thing that comes to mind, and one that I try to emphasise is the idea of respecting themselves. This idea should be so obvious its obviousness is taken for granted and becomes missed. Family and friends might try to hint at this when they say things like “you were too good for them” or “you deserved better” but it’s more than that. It’s about recounting all the times when you were disrespected, and realising how you allowed that to happen because you weren’t respecting yourself. Or maybe the person did nothing wrong, maybe you caused the end. If this is true, you have to respect yourself now. You have to bow out with dignity and give them, and yourself space and time to learn, heal, and move forward.
Learn To Redirect Thoughts
But what if like Kylie, “I just can’t get you out of my head” is your daily mantra? Well, thoughts are not so easy to control and we can’t just tell ourselves to stop. So one way you can learn how to stop obsessive thinking about someone is to redirect your thoughts. This can be done in different ways. One way how to stop thinking about someone is with formal mindfulness practice. This means finding a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and focus your mind toward your breath, slowing it down, whilst focusing on different sensations, like the taste in your mouth, the feeling of the chair or ground under you, the sounds you hear, etc. Pick one sense to focus on in turn and spend some time with it as you slow your breath. If you cannot practice formally, you can try informal practice. This is simply noticing the thoughts and consciously moving away from them by first accepting them without judgment and then choosing to let them go.
Allow Yourself To Feel The Pain
This one might seem strange because as Freud said, most of us seek pleasure and try to avoid pain. But this isn’t seeking out pain. This is processing the pain that exists. A reason why you struggle with how to get someone off your mind is because it’s painful to lose them. So not thinking about them means you lose them yet again, but by thinking about them, you can hold on. This in some strange way seems to minimise the hurt. Why is this? Because you’re also processing what happened and this helps. Even though some of the other suggestions in this article would seem to contradict this one, they work together. That is., you must give yourself some time to feel the pain….this is grief. But grief can become complicated and this is detrimental. Feel, process, but heal.
One of the things I emphasise is the mind-body connection. Staying active is important because it helps us release important mood-regulating hormones like endorphins. These offer us a natural chemical high and can promote our healing process. Staying active also means the focus is on the body, allowing us to come out of the mind and we can also incorporate mindfulness, especially if running in the outdoors (recommended, on grass not concrete!). Plus, you’ll feel accomplished because you’re taking care of your body as well as your mind. Staying active can also help us to feel strong, as we physically get there, we emotionally do as well. So don’t rule this one out so easily. As with any of the tips, I would also recommend you give each several attempts, because you might not feel the benefits, or motivation, right away.
Mindfulness has already been touched on but it should be emphasised when we’re asking how do you get someone off your mind. Why? Because the ancient Buddhist teachings of mindfulness teach us to be present. Buddhists use mindfulness meditation to do three important things: to know one’s mind, to train it, and to free it. When we are worrying about how to stop obsessive thinking about someone, our mind is like a yapping dog in a cage. We have to throw it a bone here and there so it can relax. Eventually, the yapping becomes quieter and less frequent, until we are free of the stress. It’s no surprise then, that studies report mindfulness helps manage stress, cope with illness, and improve mood and self-esteem. Many also found it increased the ability to relax, and offered a newfound enthusiasm for life. All great when on the road toward how to stop thinking about a person.
This one might seem counter-intuitive when you want to learn how to get someone off your mind but it’s an important one. Just as it’s important to feel the pain you may be carrying about the person you want to evict from your mind, it’s also important to express how you feel, what you think about them, and what’s happened. But again, with a caveat; this part of the process should also be limited to a degree. Indeed, you know what it’s like when someone you know fixates on, and talks incessantly about someone. At first, this is okay because you understand they need to do this. But, as time went on, so did they; on, and on, and on. It’s important to be compassionate toward yourself and others when this happens but also focus on moving through the stages of the process, so that the person on your mind, isn’t squatting there forever.
So how can enjoying life help you learn how to stop fantasising about someone? Because you live in your lifeworld, rather than in your mind. This means starting to do things you once enjoyed but perhaps let slip away. This might need to be forced at first but I assure you, when taken in tandem with some of the others on this list, you’ll fake it until you make it so at some point it won’t feel forced. Something I have seen many clients do is dwell on and indulge their sadness because in a strange way, they almost enjoy it. But this is not joy, it’s Stockholm Syndrome, you’ve become attached to your captor, who is actually you. Instead do something you’ve always wanted to do. Indeed, when we try or learn something new, we gain a multitude of benefits: we create new experiences and opportunities, pick up new skills, socialise, and facilitate mood-regulating rather than stress hormones.
Keep A Journal
This one might not be for everyone but many clients report the benefit of keeping a journal even if it’s not about how to stop thinking about someone all the time. But when the goal is how to get someone off your mind, there are benefits too. When you write in a journal, you can focus on yourself, and reflect on your experience. This ties in with the idea of feeling your emotions and expressing yourself. It offers you a personal place where you can put pen to paper and offload what you carry, process it a bit, and without judgment. You might even learn things about yourself and you can use journaling to log what you’ve tried to help yourself when it comes to how to stop constantly thinking about someone, and notice what seems to be working, and what you’re finding less helpful.
Imagine A Bright Future
When it comes to how to stop thinking about someone, imagining a bright future is crucial. I’m in the business of helping people to be rational and realistic, not fantasists so this is not about fantasy or falsehood, or lying to yourself. There’s something called a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. Pessimistic people view situations through a negative lens and make bad things happen – how do they do this? Well, if I don’t believe things will improve, I will likely behave in ways that make it true. For example, I will avoid socialising, I might take to substances for relief, and I’ll sink deeper. But if I believe things will get better, I will act in ways to make it true. I will do the kinds of things recommended here so I can help myself, and create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy, and a brighter future.
So if, for example, you want to learn how to stop thinking about someone you can’t have, what do you think drugs, like alcohol, will do?
A: Help you stop thinking about them and lead a productive and successful life, or
B: Ruminate and become more vulnerable to mood and anxiety problems due to the hormone depletion caused by some substances?
Another thing that substances do is keep people stuck, and withdrawn, and eventually affect functioning in the day-to-day, such that getting out of bed and doing one’s work might pose challenges. They pose a risk to life as well. This is because drugs affect us physically and can lead to numerous health problems, but the mental toll could lead to suicidal ideation as one’s world becomes darker and smaller due to an inability to function and heal. So, when we’re especially vulnerable, it’s important to avoid substances that might appear to feel better in the shorter term, but actually lead to a world of pain in the long term.
Try To Forgive
If the reason you struggle with how to not think about someone relates to being wronged by them in some way, it’s important to come to forgiveness. Many people will stubbornly react to this suggestion with a “no, never” but that’s because they think they’re doing it for the other person or because they think it means they accept the transgression. It means neither of these. When I recommend forgiveness it’s first and foremost for the benefit of the wronged person. Nelson Mandela said something like: “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die”. When we hold onto grievances, we chip away at our ability to be happy. So put the poison down and forgive. This does not mean you’ve accepted the wrongdoing. It means you’ve accepted the reality that it happened and chosen not to burden yourself any longer because they don’t deserve more than they’ve taken.
Talk To Friends and Family
This one might also seem to contradict the intention of how to stop thinking about a person but it’s not strictly the case. Often just talking to someone about how we feel in situations that trouble us can feel like a weight off. It comes back to the idea of expressing oneself, and feeling and processing. But it’s important here to not simply use others as a soundboard for indulging in someone you want to learn to let go of. This means the focus might be better placed if it’s on your feelings about the situation, rather than on the situation itself. Or you might talk about other things to help you come out of your head. This one is important because it keeps you connected to your social network, and socialising is important when you want to practice how to stop thinking about someone all the time.
Talk To A Therapist
So sometimes I’m working with someone in therapy on one particular problem, and their relationship abruptly ends, or they suffer a bereavement. This becomes the focus of the work and they have that space to validate and process their pain, anger, whatever it is. They express themselves. They learn ways to redirect their thoughts and make sense of the loss. They might learn some mindfulness techniques to ease anxiety and panic. And at some point, they might ask: How do you stop thinking about someone? Depending on the reasons for the loss, the answer can vary. Talking to an impartial, skilled, and empathic therapist who can provide a facilitative space to process and heal can help you learn how to live for you and those who are around.
When you are battling how to get someone off your mind, there is no one size fits all solution and as you probably know, it cannot be switched off. But we can help ourselves along the way, and these tips may help you. It is a process but it doesn’t have to be a long and winding path, it can be made smoother and straighter, so you can get to your destination faster, with fewer challenges, until you’ve mastered it so you can evict the unwanted tenant and live more fully and free.
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