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How to Take Your Mind Off Something and Control Negative Thoughts and Emotions

Learning to control the emotions you see in the mirror.

Learning to control the emotions you see in the mirror.

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.

It's therapy!

It's therapy!

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.

9. Daydream

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.

11. Reconnect

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.

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14. Talk

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.

15. Write

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.

17. Give

Find some other way to help others, give to charity, or support your community. Helping others helps a lot.

18. Move

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.

Think positive thoughts. Think positive thoughts.

Think positive thoughts. Think positive thoughts.

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.

29. Self-Medicate

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?

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.


Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on September 19, 2018:

Concerned Person: this sounds like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many people have this after a stressful event(s). I grew up with a violent step-father. I learned to forgive him because he suffered from PTSD from the Korean Conflict. He suffered all the time and we only got the overflow. Learn to forgive and let go.

Concerned person on September 18, 2018:

Wat if you have seen someone murderd and it stays with you for years and it is caousing you to have a bad relationship with the person you love more than life?

WARRIOR on July 31, 2017:

I over think everything and then i go back in time in my head and think about other things that has to do with what is going on now and I put it together and feel that I got it all Figured out. I don't like to be lie to and I have trust problems so I over think when people tell me something I always think people are lying ti me and go do g things and I start to think and think and put things together. I don't know if they are or not but when I put it all together it just makes sense to me that they are. I don't know if I have a problem or what or is it just the fear of trusting and getting hurt again for the millions of times that it has happen to me.

musical cat on May 17, 2016:

actually chest breathing is counterproductive for singing something nice. In choir, we are always advised against it, and we are told to breathe with our stomachs because it is good for controlling your breathing and producing better pitch and sound, all of which are essential to singing well.

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on March 25, 2016:

Associate your stress with the person which causes you the stress. Learn about the person and not to condemn him/her. Once you know something about the person you can probably find a new way of looking at the situation and forgive them or do not condemn in the first place.

Stress is real and so are the health effects: skin conditions, stroke, heart attack and ulcers.

ceeva on February 28, 2016:

A nice list! The imagination of problems getting resolved magically is a powerful technique indeed.

Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on January 01, 2016:

Thanks for the tips in this hub. You certainly have numerous ways to stop negative thoughts. I love the earlobe tip and have used it many times. I also like one where you pinch the eyebrow area. Breathing is one of the great relaxers as it helps oxygen carbon dioxide. The other tip I like is to repeat the body relaxing phrase. Sharing. Blessings, Audrey

Starla on December 15, 2015:

I'm just really stressed about terrorist attacks now... They just creep into my mind when I'm about to sleep, and then that one small worry stems into something big... These tips really helped, especially after the Paris attacks and that I'm going to Spain soon - a high terror risk country.... I pray everynight and follow all these tips! They work! Thank you so much!

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on November 03, 2015:

@AnoN, It seems to me that you have a lot on your mind and you need a clear head and need to get rid of your fears. One of the best tactics you can use is number 25. Keep saying I can I can I can to you and listen to positive uplifting music. mozart d major k448 is shown to improve some aspects related to what you have.

You can also start learning chess, which should help you with clear and mathematical thinking. I know because I am myself a right brain type of person and it took me a while to clear my head.

Concentration exercises help with this as well.

AnoN on November 03, 2015:

I've been through quite a lot internally trying to understand people. Trust issues, mainly. I feel worse each day knowing that I am not good to someone or the other I meet in my life. 'Thinking too much' is the only one thing that I cannot...can't seem to get control over. I am not sure if I should be even trying to get control over that in the first place but there's too much on my mind I just can't find it in me to handle. At times I just want something simple forever from here on and at times I want to be the best in what I know and learn. Afraid of crowds, for some odd reason because I cannot find it in me to trust blindly ever again. I think my issue is regaining trust which I am terrified to even try to do. What would you suggest?

Hank on June 12, 2015:

This is a load of cobblers, didn't work at all

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on March 31, 2015:

@Sam, I have a hard time saying no as many people do. I try to get away from abusers in my personal life. In my professional life, I stop contacting them, and answer all their queries with very short answers, not letting any relationship to develop. Three word answers are the best. Minimalism is the best, and if you say yes to everything you cannot do your own work.

Satvinder S. Sihra from Queens, NY on March 30, 2015:

Saying the word " no" has so much power. Read number 27. Using that word really upsets others. Your intention is never to harm anyone, but you do it unintentionally. I care for others, but not please others to displease myself. It will make others mad, but it will set you free.

Rider_tiger what are your extended thoughts on this?

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on March 30, 2015:

Good luck angel, I am happy to hear that these tips may help you.

Angel on March 29, 2015:

I've been looking for ways to help keep my friend's mind off of things because lately he's been doing a lot of drinking and smoking to avoid those thoughts. I'm so thankful I found this and I'm hoping they will work. *fingers crossed* wish me luck

Satvinder S. Sihra from Queens, NY on March 14, 2015:


It definitely does! What are some of the things you have found that take your mind off of things?

Ninad on March 11, 2015:

If you want to get your mind off something immediately, just open this article or other posts on internet like this one and read carefully every tip.

You will get involved in it and forget about the things that are bothering you.

Satvinder S. Sihra from Queens, NY on January 01, 2015:

This hub post rejuvenates my mind rider tiger. I want your thoughts on my hub post: "How can you maintain your attitude?" because they work for me.

Emanuel Cristy on January 01, 2015:

Good ideas.. Once I read this ..I believed myself..... Tanx to hubs

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on December 04, 2014:

I am happy to hear that the article works :)

Ace on December 04, 2014:

I feel stressed down before start reading this article. By the halfway I start feeling great and when I finished with the reading i was wondering why i am reading this article. Great information. Thank you.

1D :) on June 22, 2014:

Best Ways. It really helps. :)

Satvinder S. Sihra from Queens, NY on April 09, 2014:

This is a great list of things you can regulate your state of mind with. I like this because I focus on mental health. Number 1 is true because I used to use it too except I didn't start off with 1000 but with 100.

ammu on December 10, 2013:

Nice... 22 is good

B K Dahlia from St. Louis, MO on November 03, 2013:

scaredy... whats wrong???? y wld u be scared to tell ur parents????

scaredy on November 03, 2013:

Hey guys I'm twelve and horrified because of something I learned in church today. I need help please I just need to vent and I'm 2 shy to tell my parents they probably won't care anyway. I feel like crying. :(

RAJA.S on September 11, 2013:

its my mind is given to the lot of pressure

so kindly help me to relief the mind

Boo McCourt from Washington MI on June 11, 2013:

I love this hub, so many great ideas I can't pick a favorite. Tweeted!

fa on December 27, 2012:

it works good !

bla bla bla on December 15, 2012:

i sit and relacs and do not do a single thing

sorter on December 10, 2012:

Thirty way to repress your feelings.

Or you could just face your feelings and actually cure them.

Then you don't need to avoid them.

Saves a lot of time and energy.

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on September 09, 2012:

@Jess, I lost about 12 kilograms in a year and all I did was eat just a little less at night and weigh myself every morning. No frigging exercise :)

Jess on August 06, 2012:

Wonderful ideas! I love how you justify them to-you give reasons why they should work or examples of a personal experience. I will certainly do many of these, as I have recently contemplated about needing to be more positive and alive. I also recently discovered I'm bi-polar, but I dont want to see a doctor about it. I'm so glad you posted this fantastic advice. Thankyou!

PS. I always listen to advice, and extract from it what I wish, but I never respond to people talking to me as such, "You can do it!", "Don't worry, it doesn't take much!" or "It will be over before you know it." etcetera etcetera! Actually, it really annoys me. Because of this, I struggle finding motivation. I need to ask a favor? I'm certainly not fat, but need to get fit. I also need motivation because whenever I think of exercising, I generally just dont feel bothered, but regret my laziness later. I am very lazy. I would so very much appreciate any advice please on how to encourage myself to exercise, and how to stop being lazy?

Ember on May 14, 2012:

Tip 5 made me cry, my mom took away my cat and then I had to buy her back and sell her, I'll def do tip 18, 22, and 26

ajax on May 09, 2012:

wow i didn't even finish reading this nd i alredy know ur horrible

vinay maurya on May 01, 2012:

i dnt have much to say.

but it was very good...

dave on April 20, 2012:

i like shafeeqs comment, i think that would solve everything and then more. lol, not. You were on this web site for a reason so dnt act like a dick. If that's how u think than u pull it urself.

Nitu on April 20, 2012:

Thnks for tips it's really helpful for all depressed persons like me

Indenial stage of depression on March 08, 2012:

I leave my son to work abroad so I guess the reason why I am depressed, stressed and thinking so much about negative and dreaming a lot of things that is bad =( i wish this can help me. Thank you for sharing

Harini on February 25, 2012:

Nice tips.......hope it works on me......thanku hub

kim on January 30, 2012:

This was great to read. I had such a ridculously uncontrolable emo morning and this was so helpful. Bookmarked for sure.

Robdogg29 on January 26, 2012:

man I think about the direction of the sheeep and which way there suppoed to go... talk about internal issues...

Robdogg29 on January 26, 2012:

man I think about the direction of the sheeep and which way there suppoed to go... talk about internal issues...

Zoe on November 25, 2011:

Love the comments! Thank you s much! :D

Dane Miller on November 10, 2011:

I Need help With My Head

Cat on October 18, 2011:

Spectacular list, filled with many helpful suggestions. Thank you very much! I say, well done, Sir.

shafeeq kasaragod udyawar on September 16, 2011:

if u want to free your mind you smoothly take a revolver to your head and press it

emyP on September 07, 2011:

i will do #4 n 10....thanx!

enlight your soul from Bangladesh on May 05, 2011:

it will help to control anger..

Thanks for your helpful tips.

Jodee-cool on January 01, 2011:

I love reading this article it means a lot for me because it helps me to relieves stresses in life....

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on December 21, 2010:

Thank you all for your nice comments. Lately, I have also discovered that if you tell yourself that you do not have to remember everything, you will forget negative feelings more quickly as well. This is counter-intuitive, especially if you are a scientist or a teacher, but it helps your work if you are in peace, as opposed to struggling with bad memories. Having a sharp memory is useless if you cannot focus on your present work. And then, when you get on with your life and your wounds heal, you can condition yourself back to having a sharp memory, though it may be slightly harder than losing some of it :)

Shahid Bukhari from My Awareness in Being. on December 11, 2010:

We tend to be distracted ... if and when, we are searching with the wrong Tools.

The right tool of Human Cognition is Correct Belief ... not Reason.

ItsThatSimple from Florida on December 09, 2010:

Your list of tips is excellent for overcoming negative emotions because it provided so many options for a wide variety of people. While every tip may not work for everyone I believe there is something here to help any type of person! What an impressive list!

:) on December 03, 2010:

31. Did this list take your mind off it?

:) on December 03, 2010:

31. Did this list help?

Ingenira on November 29, 2010:

Excellent suggestions. Voted up and shared.

For me, I like to watch a thought-provoking movie to divert my mind to another issue in life.

Ranjeet kisve on November 15, 2010:

I think negative for eg. I have study to homework so my mind is answerd me you have not doing for studying

impressed on September 29, 2010:

You are so kind to share such valuable information with everyone. Thank you so much, I really mean it! I was at a complete loss of how to cope/deal, and wow, here you have 30 fabulous ideas for me to try that I never would have thought of on my own. You have helped me tremendously just by supplying this information. Thank you, thank you! You are so nice. :)

TroyM on July 30, 2010:

Excellent topic. Lots of times it's the way we speak to ourselves that helps drag us down. Need to put in new positive thoughts, like sayings, quotes, Bible versus, etc. that are inspiring. Then when times are down, your brain will have more positive things to focus on and turn to.

TroyM on July 16, 2010:

"Research has shown that a lot people talk to themselves negatively" so true. I volunteer at a prison, and wow, mindset changes needed in abundance there.

Madison from NYC on May 13, 2010:

These are all great tips! Sharing with others and exercising help me immensely with keeping my mind of negative emotions, as well as spending some time with pets, they seem to have a soothing affect on my behavior. Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful and helpful hub!


Ruchira from United States on April 08, 2010:

This is a great and informative hub. Thanks for writing such a detailed hub esp during these difficult times, when one is in need of some tips to attain a peace of mind.

scheng1 on February 03, 2010:

haha, love the first idea. I bet I wont sleep until I get every sheep in the fold!

Rishfa on December 24, 2009:

woooow!! great help thanks a lot

now i am gonna do it whenever i feel dipressed..loved your hub

Capci on December 01, 2009:


tvance from Chehalis, Washington on November 06, 2009:

You have a very thoughtful list of great ideas. You must stay awake inventing ways to go back to sleep. Just kidding!

You might like to go over to see my article here on the hub about "Mind Chatter" and my solution here -- If I'm ever awake I say the positive word three times: peace, peace, peace! or Rest, rest, rest!


Jac Jim on October 15, 2009:

Great Tips, thanks!

My method to sleep is imagine a chalkboard, a chalk and an eraser. Then take the chalk and write number 1, leave the chalk, take the eraser, erase it, leave the eraser, take the chalk again and write number 2 and so on. If you do it right you wont make it to 30!

Another tip that relates to tips 3 and 29 to fight depression is BREATH! Deeply, slowly... concentrate in all the air that comes into your lungs, how it cleans and purifies all your body. Breathing is the most basic action that reminds us we are alive!

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on September 25, 2009:

Thanks for all your nice comments :)

elvislady from IONE, California in the USA on September 24, 2009:

Lots of good tips on how to relieve stress. We are all living in very stressful times. Thanks for sharing your information.

Mageo on September 16, 2009:

This is a long list to follow...but if I want to get over with my stress problem I will stick to some of your tips.Sounds helpful! Thank you!

metaphysician on September 09, 2009:

Impressive 30 ideas!

angiporter from London and Melbourne on September 01, 2009:

This is a brilliant list. I haven't read about massaging your ear lobes in circular motion to relieve personal stress. I have a stressful meeting coming up next week and shall certainly try it if I start to stress. One other thing I would add to help keep positive (no. 26) is to read positive and inspirational books and magazines. The media is so full of negative words and images. I gave up reading those free newspapers (in London and Melbourne) full of bad news and celebrity gossip and it has really helped me stay more positive. Peace and love. Angie PS I would also recommend Melatonin

Vincent Lionheart (author) from Ferenginar on August 18, 2009:

Dear glassvisage,

Thanks for your comments. If sheep keeps you up, try goats. Just kidding :)

In my personal experience, counting backwards from 1000 by 7 increments or some other increments really works. It helps you keep your mind off whatever is bothering you and you can sleep. If that is still a no go for you, try the other suggestions. Sleep tight!

glassvisage from Northern California on August 18, 2009:

You certainly have a lot of tips here! I find the sheep just keeps me up, but exercise definitely helps. Also, interesting that you said keeping a diary works for a woman, but not men. Expression in general, as you have mentioned, is generally nice.

nopalea from Brigit Wemhoff, Indep. TriVita Affil. Member 13292223 on July 26, 2009:

i'll try tip 22 tonight.

my issue is that i wake up in the middle of the night and immediately think, "now what is it that i am not supposed to think or worry about?"


immediately i start fretting over every worry in the world.

one thing you didn't mention that may help nighttime worriers in Melatonin.

thanks for your tips.

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