Thursday, September 11, 2008

O Magazine: Six Ways to Stop Dwelling on It

By Naomi Barr

Stop dwelling on it
It's 5 p.m., the deadline for an important work project is at 6, and
all you can think about is the fight you had with the next-door
neighbor this morning. You're dwelling, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD,
a professor of psychology at Yale and author of Women Who Think Too Much.
"It's natural to look inward," she says, "but while most people pull
out when they've done it enough, an overthinker will stay in the loop."

Ruminating regularly often leads to depression. So if you're prone to
obsessing (and you know who you are), try these tactics to head off the
next full-tilt mental spin cycle…

Stop Obsessing

1. Distract Yourself

on music and dance, scrub the bathtub spotless, whatever engrosses
you—for at least 10 minutes. "That's about the minimum time
needed to break a cycle of thoughts," says Nolen-Hoeksema, who's been
studying rumination for more than 20 years. Or choose something to
focus on. "A friend told me that she once started counting the number
of times the speaker at her conference said 'like,'" Nolen-Hoeksema
recalls. "By the time he finished, she'd stopped ruminating."

2. Make a Date to Dwell

yourself you can obsess all you want from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., but until
then, you're banned. "By 6 p.m., you'll probably be able to think
things through more clearly," says Nolen-Hoeksema.

3. Three Minutes of Mindfulness

one minute, eyes closed, acknowledge all the thoughts going through
your mind. For the next minute, just focus on your breathing. Spend the
last minute expanding your awareness from your breath to your entire
body. "Paying attention in this way gives you the room to see the
questions you're asking yourself with less urgency and to reconsider
them from a different perspective," says Zindel Segal, PhD, co-author
of The Mindful Way Through Depression.

4. The Best and Worst Scenarios

Ask yourself…

"What's the worst that could happen?" and "How would I cope?"
Visualizing yourself handling the most extreme outcome should alleviate
some anxiety, says Judith Beck, PhD, director of the Beck Institute for
Cognitive Therapy and Research in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Then
consider the likelihood that the worst will actually occur.

Next, imagine the best possible outcome; by this point, you'll be in a
more positive frame of mind and better able to assess the situation
more realistically.

5. Call a Friend

Ask a friend or relative to be your point person when your thoughts start to speed out of control.

6. How to Move On

Say, "Oh, well."

Accept that you're human and make mistakes—and then move on, says
Dr. Beck. Be compassionate. It's harder than it sounds, so keep

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