Compelling thoughts have the power to take us away from the present moment. They trigger feelings of fear and anxiety, showing up like a storm in our system. Think of times you’ve been ruminating, compulsively going over something in your mind. This type of thought often relates to a past event that you wish was different or anxiety about what may happen in the future.

These are the thoughts that keep us from sleeping at night. This is the racing mind that never lets us rest. It is important to recognize the negative effects on our brain, nervous system, and lives when these gain momentum and begin to predominate in our mind.

As a culture we are beginning to be aware of the harmful effects of sports concussions and to protect young players through policies like mandatory helmet use. Compulsively banging our head is harmful, whether it is against a wall or a soccer ball. Let’s be clear that compulsive, negative thinking also hurts us.

There are healthy and effective strategies for helping to slow down your thoughts, including breathing and relaxation exercises, going for a walk, or immersing yourself in a project. Reading a book out loud can break the momentum. Develop a list that works for you.

Effective but unhealthy strategies with disastrous consequences are distractions and addictions so prevalent in our culture. These include shopping, binge watching on Netflix, compulsive cleaning or addictions like gambling, sex, food, and alcohol or other drugs.

We can change and heal this pattern.