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Understanding Repetitive Thoughts.

Updated: Jan 11

Laurie Harvey Cognitive Hypnotherapist offers insight into why we have repetitive thoughts.
Understanding Repetitive Thoughts

According to the laboratory of Neuro-Imaging at the University of California, the average person has 48.6 thoughts per minute which adds up to 70,000 per day. (

Our mind is an amazing thought factory that generates creative ideas and inspiration that has enabled humans to go to the moon and solve problems such as inventing medicines and machines that keep us alive.

Some of these thoughts are wonderful and helpful others are weird and crazy but most are mundane and help us navigate through each day.

When we’re in good shape emotionally, thoughts pass through our minds so quickly we forget them as soon as they’ve passed. For example have you ever walked into a room and then can’t remember why you went there? The original thought was quickly replaced by the next thought.

Why do we experience repetitive thoughts?

So why do some thoughts come and go so quickly and others are repeated over and over again?

The reason why some thoughts keep coming back is because our mind assigns them as important and therefore repeats them until we take action.

So if it’s essential to pick up our son from nursery, the thought will keep coming around because it’s important that we don’t forget, then once he’s picked up the thought gets replaced with another.

If we face a challenge our mind will create a series of thoughts aimed at finding a solution. Some thoughts may be really helpful and others may be strange, unhelpful or shocking. Our mind generates a selection for us to choose from.

Our emotions generate our feelings and our thoughts will respond by setting up the necessary response. If we’re feeling positive and optimistic the quality of our thoughts will reflect this.

If we’re feeling sad, anxious or stressed the quality of our thoughts will reflect this and because our mind is always trying to bring us back into balance, our thoughts are assigned as important and can become even more extreme as our mind works harder to bring our feelings back to normal.

These more extreme thoughts can feel very real, very urgent and recur over and over again and we feel compelled to take some sort of action to resolve them.

Strong recurring thoughts are hungry beasts and the more you fear them, the more attention you give them which means the better they thrive and the more attention they demand!

Trying to avoid intrusive and repetitive thoughts and push them away is almost impossible. If I say “don’t think about a pink elephant”, your brain has to think about it. Trying not to think about a thought that’s frightening you is the same.

It can help to recognise that they’re thoughts, just electrical pulses of energy in your brain trying to help you feel better but they’re like a dog barking at the postman, he thinks he’s helping and means well but actually he’s making a lot of random noise which is meaningless.

Accept them without judging them to be good or bad.

You’ll find that if you can invite them in without taking them seriously - they’ll eventually get bored and leave. They’ll probably keep coming back for a while just out of habit but when they realise they’re not important any more they’ll lose their power.

It is also important that you address the underlying emotions and take what action you need to look after your mental health. For more information on this I suggest you take a look at my earlier blog on the subject:

If you’re stuck in this emotional cycle and would like help to change some things, please feel free to contact me for a free introductory chat to explore what working together might look like.

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