How to Get Your Mind to Stop Spinning

How to Get Your Mind to Stop Spinning

Even though we all worry at times, some of us aren’t able to turn off bothersome, intrusive thoughts. Although it may not warrant a visit to a therapist, having repetitive negative concerns circling through your mind can cause tension, stress, stomachaches, headaches, and irritability. Your day-to-day thoughts and behaviors also have a powerful effect on your brain chemistry. They can affect your moods, motivation, and ability to focus and follow through on things.

Maurie, 32, worried incessantly about his job and despite getting good performance reviews, he was sure his boss didn’t like him. The constant worry frequently upset him. He couldn’t get the thoughts out of his head—they looped over and over and over. No amount of rational inner dialog could get them to stop. The swirling thoughts filled Maurie with tension, gave him headaches, and made him feel irritable. He wanted help to make his mind stop spinning.

The Brain’s Gear Shifter at Work

People like Maurie, who get stuck on negative thoughts, often have too much activity in the brain’s frontal lobes, especially in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG). The ACG is like the brain’s gear shifter. It helps you go from thought to thought or from action to action. It is involved with being mentally flexible and going with the flow.

When ACG activity is heightened, usually due to lower serotonin levels, people can have trouble shifting attention. They are also prone to worry and hold on to hurts from the past and tend to have cognitive inflexibility and rigidity. In severe cases, it is associated with obsessive compulsive disorder.

SPECT Scan Showing Overactive ACG Function

A brain scan using a technology called SPECT showed that Maurie had an overactive ACG. Here are some of the strategies Maurie used to help him balance his brain and gain control of those racing thoughts.

5 Strategies to Stop Getting Stuck on Negative Thoughts

1. Practice Thought Stopping

Whenever you notice thoughts looping or getting stuck in your head, imagine seeing a traffic stop sign in your head and silently say to yourself, “STOP. THIS IS MY ACG GETTING STUCK!”  Some people have had success by wearing a rubber band around on their wrists and snapping it when they notice thoughts starting to loop. 

2. Notice When You’re Stuck, Distract Yourself, and Come Back to the Problem Later

A primary way to overcome a busy ACG is to notice when you’re stuck on a thought and do something to distract yourself. For Maurie, every time one of these negative thoughts came into his mind, he would sing a song. This worked for him. He liked the music, and he felt that it gave him a measure of control over his bothersome thoughts.

You may find it helpful to make a list of a variety of things you can do to distract yourself when you get hit by harassing thoughts. Here are some examples:

Sing a favorite song.

Listen to music that makes you feel positive.

Take a walk.

Do a chore.

Play with a pet.

Do structured meditation.

Focus on a word and do not allow any other thoughts to enter your mind (imagine a broom that sweeps out all other thoughts).

3. Write Out Options and Solutions

When you’re stuck on a thought, write it down. This helps to get it out of your head. Seeing a thought on paper makes it easier to deal with it in a rational way. After you write out a thought that has “gotten stuck,” generate a list of things you can do about it and things you can’t do about it. For example, if you’re worried about possible layoffs at work, do the following:

Write out the thought:

“I’m worried that I will get laid off and will be out of work.”

Make a list of the things you can do to offset the worry:

“I can do the best job I can at work to make myself indispensable.”

“I can make sure the boss knows I am willing to learn new skills.”

“I can update my résumé and skills just in case I do get laid off.”

Make a list of the things you can’t do about the worry:

“I can’t make the decisions about layoffs for the boss.”

“I can’t control the timing of when layoffs might occur.”

“Worrying about it will not help.”

4. Seek the Counsel of Others

When all of your efforts to get rid of repetitive thoughts are unsuccessful, it’s often helpful to seek the counsel of others. Finding someone with whom you can discuss your worries can be very helpful. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.

5. Boost Serotonin to Calm Your Busy Brain

People with an overactive ACG who get stuck on negative thoughts often do better when they boost serotonin. Some helpful ways to do it include:

  • Eating complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans are a healthy way to boost serotonin.
  • Exercising can be very helpful in calming worries because it increases brain levels of l-tryptophan, which can boost serotonin.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (the kind that are higher in DHA), 5-HTP, inositol, tryptophan, and St. John’s Wort are the most helpful supplements to raise serotonin and calm this part of the brain.

If your negative thinking patterns are impacting your performance at work or school, causing problems in your relationships, or keeping you from living the life you want, it’s time to seek help. At Amen Clinics, we have helped thousands of people change their thinking patterns and change their brain so they can feel better, perform better, and interact better.

To find out how we can help, call 888-288-9834 to speak to a specialist or schedule a visit online.


  1. I’m a young 82-year-old female. Always full of energy and enjoyed life. Whiten the last 26 months, I am suffering with unending , all day
    every day Vertigo. Tried every possible doctors, i.e. Northwestern, Rush and Neuro doctors, noting has worked. Followed by short term
    memory, which is getting worse, I am dependent on my husband who has helped me every day. The Neuro Science Dept. at St. Alexian Bros.
    enlisted me in a program that lasted 2 years and can do noting for me.

    Can your doctors tackle this double trouble that is getting worse every day???

    Comment by Frances La Brasca — June 28, 2019 @ 7:32 AM

  2. I also have vertigo and a couple of years ago read that one out of every three people is helped with the use of the herbal supplement Ginkgo.

    I use the Eclectic Institute brand Raw Fresh Freeze Dried Ginkgo Gotu Kola. That is the only brand that has a good rate with me. I have tried several. I am lucky to be one of those this helps. You might look on line for more information about Ginkgo. It also helps with memory. It comes in a capsule form so there is no taste issue.

    I hope this helps you. Some of my episodes were just awful and like you, the doctors could not help me.



    Comment by Carolyn — June 28, 2019 @ 11:31 AM

  3. Frances, you should look into the work of Anthony William, which is a lifesaver ( He says memory loss comes from oxidizing heavy metals in the brain and vertigo is due to a virus in your vagus (not positive which) nerve. He shows foods that can tackle these problems.

    Comment by Viviana — June 28, 2019 @ 4:31 PM

  4. I have noticing that my feelings are changing. I used to be a very lovely person, care for others. And willing to help any time, still doing it, but not with the same rejoying, is like mechanical. People that been in my life for long time used to love me. They still around me, the happiness that I used to feel sharing with my friends and family is just not there, anymore. I don’t know what’s going on with me.

    Comment by Carmen Munoz — June 29, 2019 @ 3:05 AM

  5. Do you do spect scans in new york city and will it help for autism ( lower spectrum)

    Comment by Geraard buthorn — June 29, 2019 @ 8:52 AM

  6. When my fellow doctors and I have trouble sorting out a complex situation, or we think the patient has some obscure disease we do not know about, we send them to the Mayo Clinic. NOT the satellite Mayo Clinic in Florida. The real, original one in Minnesota.

    Comment by Aud — June 30, 2019 @ 8:03 AM

  7. I believe in changing your thoughts help. I also believe in God to help us overcome wrong thinking and heal our thought closets .

    Comment by Kathy Michelsen — July 1, 2019 @ 7:41 AM

  8. I have obsessive compulsive disorder as well and have
    have had alot of problems and have turned
    to prayer.

    Comment by Irene Rowland — July 2, 2019 @ 8:42 AM

  9. Frances I had vertigo for 10+ years. I had every awful treatment and test nothing worked. Have your atlas assessed and treated. It was the only thing that gave me relief. Contact Dr. Scott Rosa in Rock Hill. NY. at Atlas Chiroptactic. You will be glad you did. Be blessed.

    Comment by Lori M Massarelli — July 23, 2019 @ 3:32 PM

  10. I had vertigo and there are exercises, I looked up on tube, he helped me within days, so very frustrating, praying for healing

    Comment by Laurie dunn — June 7, 2023 @ 6:09 PM

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