Can You Stop Your Racing Thoughts?

There's no easy way to stop your thoughts. Instead, you can gain control over them by not judging what pops up in your mind. Read more here!
Can You Stop Your Racing Thoughts?
Fátima Servián Franco

Written and verified by the psychologist Fátima Servián Franco.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

By not wanting to think, you’re already thinking. And then it becomes incredibly difficult to stop. Medication can help you with this. But since you can’t really stop your thoughts (or at least doing it isn’t easy), you can try to observe and take control over what you think.

When the mind is awake, it generates thoughts and emotions. About 90% of them or more are unintentional. Sometimes when you get stuck in thoughts or emotions, you mistakenly make them your own. But two or three seconds after you shift your focus to another thing, the thought usually disappears.

Focusing your attention on a mental object usually results in rumination and uneasiness, therefore increasing the probability of cognitive biases, such as the confirmation bias. The confirmation bias is the tendency to nitpick the information that confirms suppositions, preconceptions, or hypotheses, no matter whether they’re true or not.

As much as you try, you can’t change what you’re experiencing. However, you can stop fighting it. People nowadays are so used to dealing with certain aspects of life that it’s become almost automatic. Knowing how your thoughts arise in your mind can help you get rid of inner conflict and improve your relationships with others.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” 

-Thich Nhat Hanh-

A person's face covered by clouds.

The Sushi Train Metaphor to Stop Your Racing Thoughts

Imagine a black dog. In reality, it’s just a black dog. In your thoughts, however, you add your own elements. Maybe you think it looks like your ex’s dog. Thus, you start missing when you used to travel together and wishing you were together.

You can’t stop your thoughts, but you can take a look at them. This is synonymous with letting them go. Basically, you should aim to see them come and go, without chasing them or giving them more momentum than they already have. Here’s a video that explains the sushi train metaphor, which can help you “unhook” yourself from useless and repetitive thoughts.

Furthermore, being more compassionate also helps reduce the impact of negative events. It’s not about erasing the negative emotions that come with a tough moment. It’s about reducing their intensity.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thought about it.” 

-Eckhart Tolle-

Thoughts Are Nothing More than Just Thoughts

What you think already affects your perception of the world. If you try not to judge your thoughts, you’ll most definitely have a kinder world view, which can make you more assertive in choosing your path in life.

Think about this for a second. What information do you send your brain when you keep thinking about an unpleasant situation? If you process that information emotionally, you’ll find yourself in a delicate place where your thoughts become distorted.

And as we’ve mentioned above, you can’t stop your automatic negative thoughts because they’re often the result of distorted cognition. But you can identify and understand how they work in order to reduce their recurrence.

“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It’s self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”

-Eckhart Tolle-

A sad worried woman.

All your problems are mental illusions. In fact, there are no problems at all, just situations that you must face or accept until they change or until you’re able to handle them. You can’t stop your thoughts, but you can give them the importance they deserve.

Life situations will make your mind evolve. You may be asking yourself, “How will I know which experience will make me grow?” The answer is simple: every single situation makes you grow.

“My experience is that many things aren’t as bad as I thought they would be.”

-Mary Doria Russell-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Moix Queraltó, J. (2006). Las metáforas en la psicología cognitivo-conductual. Papeles del psicólogo27(2).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.