Thought loops and how to break free

May 15, 2024

Thought loops are simply thoughts running on repeat. They might be true, and they might not be true. They may or may not be thoughts that serve us. They may or may not be kind.

Thought loops are often made up of thought errors, which are faulty patterns of thinking that are self-defeating.

It's possible to get caught in a loop of negative thinking that can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Because thoughts cause feelings, and feelings drive action, for better or worse.

Thought loops can be a spin cycle that’s hard to break out of.

They can sound like:

How can I please this person?  Or make them like me?

I must have done something wrong.

I must be a terrible person.

I’m failing at this.

What are people thinking about me?

They can be fear-based thoughts that cause worry, such as:

I’m afraid I’ll make the “wrong” decision.

It’s not safe.

Or they can be thoughts that cause of overwhelm, for example:

There’s too much to do.

The more we practice any thought, the more it seems true. Because of confirmation bias, the brain then seeks out even more evidence that it is true, and blocks out any evidence to the contrary.

So thought loops can self-perpetuate.

Which means that we experience the same old familiar and uncomfortable feelings, day in and day out.

Which means that we keep taking actions that we’d rather not be taking. Like overeating or overdrinking, over-scrolling, overspending, or staying overly busy, to name a few.

It’s easy to get frustrated and self-critical and disgusted with ourselves.

Which makes it even more difficult to see a way forward.

When you find yourself stuck in a thought loop, and I say “when” because we all have them, here is what can help:

  1. Download your thoughts. Write them down so that you can see them in the light of day. Recognize that you’ve been thought looping.
  2. Next, normalize it. Everyone finds themselves in thought loops. It’s just what your brain is offering you at this time. That’s what brains do is offer thoughts. They’re hardwired for efficiency, so it’s natural that they’ll choose a certain brand of thoughts and play them like a broken record. Say to yourself, “My brain is offering me this thought loop, and that’s normal and okay.” Notice how you’re bypassing loads of self-judgement here by normalizing a thought loop.
  3. Search your thoughts for truth. Meaning is it factually true? You’ll be surprised by how often your thoughts aren’t.
  4. Ask yourself how each thought makes you feel, and what actions you take. This is how you can decide if the thought serves you – based on how you feel and based on whether you want to be taking the actions you’re taking.
  5. Think true, useful and kind thoughts, on purpose, every single day.

Think them proactively, while you brush your teeth. And also, think them when your brain offers a thought error.

Brains offer thoughts. It’s what they do. We won’t ever be able to control the first thought. That’s the unintentional, default thought.

But we can have complete control over the next thoughts- the ones that we choose to think, on purpose. And that’s incredibly important in this life after the loss of a spouse.

Intentional thoughts that fuel healing sound like:

I’m learning who I am, now.

My brain is starting to understand this new reality.

I’m doing my best in the worst of circumstances.

I can’t do everything, but I can do the very next thing.

I don’t expect people to understand what this is like for me. In fact, I’m glad they don’t.

I’m safe.

I’m learning.

Those are just a few examples. Feel free to borrow them, try them on for size, and see how they make you feel. And ask your brain to come up with true, useful and kind thoughts that you can think, on purpose, every single day.

That's part of what we do inside of Life Reconstructed, my coaching program exclusively for widowed people. Click below to learn more. 

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