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How to stop thinking about someone: 28 steps to move on with your life

Image credit: Shutterstock - By Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley
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Can’t stop thinking about someone? A new love interest that won’t reciprocate? An ex you can’t get over?

Whoever it is, it can be tough to get them out of your brain. The worst part is that the more you try to stop thinking about someone, the more you think about them!

It’s a cycle that’s tough to break. But while you can’t exactly control your mind and what it thinks, there are several actions you can take to get over this person so you can get on with your life.

So if you are ready to get over your ex or your unrequited love and stop thinking about them once and for all, we can help.

Do these 28 things to stop thinking about them, get over them and get on with your with life.

1. Cut All Contact

As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

When you want to get over someone, you need to stop seeing them.

The problem?

It’s almost impossible to cut all contact with someone whose life is intimately intertwined with yours without drastically changing some pieces of your life.

It might not be something you want to do, but if you really want to get them out of your mind, it’s absolutely necessary.

Make the changes necessary to rearrange your life in a way that it stops intersecting with theirs.

There can be massive growing pains here, simply because changing your life isn’t always easy (or even possible), but until you stop seeing them for a significant amount of time, you’ll never truly get them out of your head.

2. WANT To Move Forward

So you want to stop thinking about someone because it’s weighing down on the rest of your life.

But ask yourself: do you really want it?

So many of us suffer in silence, and it’s not always because we have no choice, but because it’s the only thing we know how to do.

Having that person in your life, or even just in your thoughts, is something you’ve become accustomed to, and you don’t want to stop thinking about them even if all it’s causing you is pain.

To truly stop thinking about another person, you really need to want it.

Repeat it to yourself as a mantra: “I want this person out of my head. I want to live my life without thinking about them. I want to finally move forward.”

You have to convince yourself wholeheartedly that your time to move on is overdue.

3. Appreciate yourself 

One of life’s biggest myths is that we can find genuine happiness and love for ourselves by being in a relationship. 

The truth is, happiness comes from within, and it can’t be dependant on an external source like a partner or a job. 

I learned the importance of this through a free video on Love and Intimacy, created by Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandê. 

Rudá is a modern-day shaman who gets relationships. Drawing upon his own experiences and the life lessons he’s learned through shamanism, he’ll help you identify negative traits and habits in your past relationships.

Like me, once you begin this journey within yourself, you’ll realize how much more there is to forming healthy relationships. The first and most important being the one you have with yourself.

But you need to take that first step – appreciating and loving yourself means undoing a lot of past damage and unhealthy perceptions of relationships, which Rudá can help you with. 

And once you’ve got that sorted, you’ll find it a whole lot easier to forget about your ex and start focussing on yourself.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

Recommended reading: How to love yourself: 16 steps to believing in yourself again

4. Start doing things

Lying in bed all day scrolling through your phone isn’t going to get your mind off him or her, and it’s actually the worst thing you can do if you want to stop being obsessed.

The truth is you need stimulation — both physical and mental — and the only way you can get that is by going outside.

So go do things! It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re out and about, getting things done and forcing your mind on literally anything that isn’t him or her.

Maybe reignite your interest in old hobbies, find new hobbies to pick up, join a new community, or do something as simple as taking a walk or go to the gym.

Remind yourself that you exist in the physical world, not just lost in your storm of thoughts, regardless of that person’s interest in you.

QUIZ: “Does my ex want me back?” If you still love your ex, then you’re probably asking yourself this question. I’ve put together a fun science-based quiz to help you figure it out. Take my quiz here.

5. Reunite with yourself

When we become obsessive over another person, we often lose track of ourselves.

We abandon the things that make us, “us” because all we want is to dedicate our lives to another person.

But when that other person is forced out of our lives, we then forget why we even want to live in the first place.

So it’s crucial that you reunite with yourself.

There was a time I also felt disconnected from myself after a terrible breakup.

I couldn’t get my ex out of my head until I came across this rejuvenating free breathwork video, also created by Brazillian shaman, Rudá Iandê. 

Combining breathwork with his shamanic knowledge, these exercises are aimed at restoring emotional balance and dissolving anxiety, but most importantly, at reconnecting with yourself.

Each time I do the exercises, I’m reminded of how much potential and love for life I have hidden inside, something I had forgotten whilst mending my broken heart. 

That’s why I’d recommend watching his video – until you repair the relationship you have with yourself, you’ll struggle to move on and embrace life and new love.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

6. Write down why it didn’t work out

During and after a break-up, you go through an entire hurricane of emotions.

Anger, happiness, regret, joy, confusion, sadness — every feeling you can think of, you’ll feel it.

And that’s normal; you just lost a huge foundational element in your life, and now you’re expected to carry on without him or her, even in your thoughts.

This is why it’s so easy to forget what went wrong. All you might be remembering are the good times, the great parts of the relationship that made everything worth it.

You don’t think about the fights, the incompatible bits of both partners that made the relationship impossible, and all the many reasons why the relationship didn’t (and could never) work out.

So write those reasons down. Focus on them, and give your mind the opportunity to truly remember and internalize them.

The only thing worse than a heavy break-up is reliving it all over again, simply because you didn’t learn from your mistakes the first time.

7. Imagine a better future

You have to stop thinking about this person because they’re bad for you, plain and simple.

They bring out the ugliest sides of you, and you might also bring out the ugliest sides of them.

Is that really the kind of relationship you want, the kind of dynamic you want to grow old with?

You deserve better, and an easy way to get yourself to stop obsessing over them is by truly understanding how bad it was, and how good a better relationship can be.

So imagine what your ideal partner might be like.

Imagine someone who:

  • Gives you strength when you’re feeling down
  • Makes you calm when you’re feeling out of control
  • Hears you out, no matter how silly your thoughts might be
  • Shares your exact sense of humor
  • Values all your intricacies and quirks
  • Love you for who you are, truly
  • Always meets you halfway and respects you at every turn

Envision what it would be like to be with this person, and tell yourself: this doesn’t have to be a dream.

This can be someone who truly exists in your life, as long as you seek them out.

8. Stop stalking them online

So you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do: you’ve completely cut them out of your life, you haven’t seen them (in-person) in ages, and you’re ignoring all their attempts to reach out.

But one mistake you’re probably still making? You still stalk them online.

It’s easier than ever before to stay “in the loop” regarding a person’s life, even if you don’t talk to them at all.

Maybe you still follow them on all their socials, and you even directly visit their profile several times a week.

You know their latest posts and what they’ve been up to, mainly because you want to see how they’re fairing with the breakup, and whether or not they’ve moved on yet or not.

It’s time to let go. How can you get them out of your head if you’re not making the proper effort to move on?

9. Throw away the reminders

It can be the hardest part of the break up, but it’s also absolutely necessary: throwing away all the physical reminders of their existence.

The bear they won you at the fair? The cinema tickets from your first movie together? The toothbrush he left at your apartment?

Everything needs to go. Either you give those things back to him or you just discard them into the trash.

It doesn’t matter how you do it; all that matters is that you delete those pieces of nostalgic memorabilia from your life.

The sooner you clean up your surroundings of their residue, the sooner you’ll feel like you can breathe again.

10. Find happiness in new ways

Your life feels like it’s been turned upside down.

The table of your stability has been flipped over, and now the various pieces of your reality are scattered across the floor, and you don’t even know where to start when it comes to picking everything back up.

And while feeling all this, it seems like the person you used to love now doesn’t seem to care about you at all, making everything a hundred times worse.

The best way to start figuring things out again is by rediscovering happiness. And happiness may no longer come in the ways you used to understand.

Happiness may now hit you at completely new and unexpected angles, and that’s not a bad thing at all — it’s just up to you to discover what those new ways may be.

QUIZ: “Does my ex want me back?” We all ask this question at least once after a break up. I’ve put together a fun science-based quiz to help you figure it out. Take my quiz here.

11. Resist reaching out

You’ll be faced with the greatest struggle you’ve ever had to deal with: the incessant and overwhelming urge to reach out to them.

No matter how much you might be doing everything “right”, you’ll have sudden bursts of love and affection towards the other person that will make you want to stretch to the heavens and shout out their names, in the hopes that they might feel your energy and reciprocate your feelings.

But you have to control yourself. Remind yourself: this feeling will pass, and you’ll remember all the reasons why you shouldn’t reach out. Don’t base your choices on short-lived impulses.

12. Figure out what they mean to you (and ask yourself what you mean to them)

Sometimes it’s not really the relationship we miss but what they symbolized or offered that we truly long for.

Ex-partners can represent a great number of things: companionship, security, the feeling of belongingness and finally being accepted.

If you’re having a hard time moving on from your ex, consider what they truly offered your life and what sort of void you might be trying to fill with another person’s presence.

When you realize what they truly meant to you, you’ll soon figure out how your ex affected your life.

You’ll figure out that you may have some personal issues you need to deal with in order to find meaning and peace on your own.

13. Make the most of your support system

Breaking it off with an ex can feel unbelievably lonely.

You’re cutting away an important part of your life and you’re not quite sure where to get the kind of support you were getting from your partner.

Who’s going to do errands with you? Who’s going to ask about your day? Who will you tell your stories to?

Oftentimes single people fall into the narrative that they have no one else in their lives, which isn’t really true.

Before meeting your ex, you had friends and family who served as your main support system.

Now more than ever, you need to reconnect with those people and remember the value of other people’s presence in your life.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends and use the support system you already have instead of convincing yourself that you have no one else but your ex.

14. Tell yourself: You’re worth it

One of the reasons why it’s hard to detach from someone is because we end up telling ourselves that no one can ever love us the same way they did.

People who were broken up with often believe that they are so damaged no one could ever love them, which is why the idea of losing an ex doesn’t just feel like a breakup; it feels like failing your one shot at love and connection.

This is simply not true. When you realize that you have innate value and that you’re worth loving, you’ll soon see that your ex wasn’t special.

This breakup isn’t going to define your happiness for the rest of your life. It’s just one of the many heartbreaks you might encounter as you get closer to the person who will love you unconditionally.

15. Understand the difference between obsession and intuition

You’ve maintained your distance, you’ve attempted to move on, maybe you’ve even started seeing other people.

But no matter how much you try, your mind always circles back to your ex.

You could be hanging out with a new person and all you could think about are the stupid inside jokes you had with your ex.

Now before you think this is a sign from the universe compelling you to try again, consider how this might just be your brain’s way of obsessing over every single detail.

Don’t get caught up in the positive feelings and try to remember the relationship for what it truly was.

This is not your subconscious telling you you’re meant for each other; consider this as a sign that there are residual issues from the previous relationship that you might still need to work on.

16. Stay healthy and clean

You’re alone with all time on your hands. Your first instinct might be to pop open a bottle of wine or dive into substance abuse.

After all, a breakup is easier when you have chemicals working against sobriety right? Wrong.

It’s challenging, we get it. The temptation to get a temporary and totally synthetic serotonin boost will constantly be on your mind, but try to avoid that and opt for a week of clarity instead.

As ideal as it sounds to spend most of your single time too drunk or high to think about not having your ex in your life anymore, alcohol will only weigh you down and aggravate any feelings of depression or loneliness.

At the end of the day, you’re not really moving on; you’re just distracting yourself from reflecting on it.

Instead, give yourself a natural positivity boost through exercise. Even just 10 minutes of walking outside can do wonders for depressive symptoms.

Recommended reading18 ways to increase the serotonin in your brain (naturally)

17. Plan new goals

While you can’t ever go back in time to change the course of events that transpired between you and your ex, the good news is that the future always feels hopeful.

Teach yourself to stop looking back at your life by setting goals for yourself. It’s easier to move forward when you have something great to look forward to.

Plan that trip you’ve been postponing with friends. Enroll on that online platform you’ve been eyeing for a while.

Your life doesn’t stop just because a chapter of your life has closed. Use this momentum to drive yourself forward and try out new things for yourself.

Recommended reading: 31 no-nonsense tips to (finally) get your life together

18. Talk to someone new

It’s probably not the best idea to start flirting with someone else while things are still fresh, but it won’t do you any harm if you start talking to someone new.

You don’t have to dive into a new relationship immediately but the point is to keep an open mind.

Instead of shying away from strangers, be open to the possibility of meeting someone new.

The goal isn’t to get into a relationship; it’s just an easy way to open up your horizons and remind yourself that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Even if you’re starting with the premise of being just friends, getting to know someone new is a great way to move forward.

Instead of spending your days mulling over old conversations, channel your energy towards opening yourself up to a new person.

19. Don’t run from the pain

The only way is through. The truth is, you’ll never stop thinking about your ex if you don’t give yourself enough time to grieve.

All the time spent avoiding your emotions and pushing it down could be channeled into something more productive, like actually processing how you feel about the loss.

And that’s the challenge — striking a good balance between distracting yourself with other things to keep moving forward and allowing yourself the mental space to heal and think about life outside the relationship.

You don’t want to be stuck at the finish line years after the breakup, but you also don’t want to dwell on it too much.

Recommended reading: Radical Acceptance: A powerful technique to help you move on

20. Let go of the grudge

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. You could have broken up with your ex years ago only to realize problems in your relationship still sneak up on you.

This old saying tricks people into thinking that moving on is a passive process; that after separating from a major person in your life, everything will naturally back into place like nothing ever happened.

In reality, if you want to stop thinking about someone, you have to stop thinking about the relationship altogether.

Stop replaying fights, stop thinking about things you could have said or things you could have done differently.

Stop imagining different ways they could have improved to save the relationship. The relationship is over; there is no point running simulations in your head.

At the end to day, all this does is make all wounds fresh again.

If you really want to move on, make a conscious effort to forgive your ex and take it for what it is: good, bad, and ugly.

21. Experience true closure

Closure is different for everyone. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling it quits; for others a thorough conversation is exactly what they need to feel like they can breathe and move forward again.

Whatever it is, do what you have to do to regain some inner peace for yourself. And when you finally cross that threshold, keep moving forward and don’t look back.

Do what you have to do to let them go and get on with your life. If you need to talk through things or send a letter, do it.

But then get on with the next thing. Dedicate time to mourning the relationship and then commit to focusing on something else.

22. Reflect on what a relationship needs.

To get over someone, you need to reflect on why things didn’t work out between the two of you. What went right but also what went wrong.

Because it’s important that you learn your lessons so that your next relationship is a successful one.

And for women, I think the best way to ensure success in the future is to understand what really drives men in relationships.

Because men see the world differently to you and are motivated by different things when it comes to love.

Simply put, men have a biological drive to feel needed, to feel important, and to provide for the woman he cares about.

Relationship psychologist James Bauer calls it the hero instinct. He created an excellent free video about the concept.

You can watch the video here.

As James argues, male desires are not complicated, just misunderstood. Instincts are powerful drivers of human behavior and this is especially true for how men approach their relationships.

How do you trigger this instinct in him? How do you give him a sense of meaning and purpose?

You don’t need to pretend to be anyone you’re not or play the “damsel in distress”. You don’t have to dilute your strength or independence in any way, shape or form.

In an authentic way, you simply have to show your man what you need and allow him to step up to fulfill it.

In his video, James Bauer outlines several things you can do. He reveals phrases, texts and little requests that you can use right now to trigger his hero instinct.

Here’s a link to the video again.

I don’t often pay much attention to popular new concepts in psychology. Or recommend videos. But I think learning about the hero instinct is an excellent way to help you get over someone.

23. Get out of town.

If you need a physical break from things, take some time off work and hit the road with a good friend and a plan for some great fun.

If you need to don’t have a lot of cash on hand but need to get away, crash on a friend’s couch for a few days. A change of scenery can help a lot.

24. Have fun. You are allowed.

Don’t feel like you need to sit on the couch sulking for the rest of your life. If you feel like you want to have a good time, let ‘er happen!

25. Be ruthless.

Nobody is going to live your life for you, and when you realize that you can tap into your badass self and get on with the life you once had, you’ll be better for it.

Be ruthless in your approach to getting over your ex-partner or your new crush who won’t reciprocate. No matter how great they were at one time, you decided to end it for one reason or another.

So rather than focus on the good or the bad times and caught up in the drama of it all, just get on with what you want to do and focus on that.

But you need to be in charge of making yourself feel better. Nobody can make that happen for you.

26. Be fearless.

Remember that you were fine before you met your ex and you’ll be fine again in short order.

So many people make the mistake of putting all their eggs in that one basket only to find that the person wasn’t as they thought and it leaves people reeling.

Rather than put all your worth in a relationship with someone else, find value in your own life, on your own.

Do things that scare you and remind you how fun it is to be alive and meet new people. Nobody said you have to be torn apart and sad over a break-up, but if that’s the route you found yourself on, it’s time to get off and get on your way.

27. Be bold.

Go out and take a class, sign up for a new hobby, spend money you don’t have, meet someone new, take a trip, sell some stuff, take a road trip with a good friend, eat new food, wear fun clothes.

Do things that make you feel like you are reborn.

Being bold is an important part of getting over someone after a bad break-up because you need to rediscover what you like and be open to new possibilities that you might have been missing while you were too busy with your head down checking his or her Instagram every five minutes.

Don’t let life pass you by any longer.

28. Be a good friend.

If you can’t be good to yourself, be good to someone else.

Sometimes, getting over someone after a bad break-up wreaks havoc on your life, and it can be especially challenging to get back to your normal self when things come to an end.

If this is the case for you, try being kind to someone else to take the edge off and focus on someone else’s needs as a way to redirect your pain into someone else’s happiness.

Introducing my new book

To dive further into what I’ve discussed in this blog post, check out my book The Art of Breaking Up: How to Let Go of Someone You Loved.

In this book, I’ll show you exactly how to get over someone you loved as quickly and as successfully as possible.

First I’ll take you through the 5 different types of breakups – this gives you the chance to better understand why your relationship came to an end, and how the fallout is impacting you now.

Next, I’ll provide a path to help you figure out exactly why you’re feeling the way you are about your breakup. I’ll show you how to truly see those feelings for what they really are, so you can accept them, and ultimately move on from them.

In the last stage of the book, I show you how to embrace being single, rediscover the profound meaning and simple joys in life, and ultimately find love again.

Now, this book is NOT a magic pill.

It’s a valuable tool to help you become one of those unique people who can accept, process and move on.

By implementing these practical tips and insights, you’ll not just free yourself from the mental chains of a distressing breakup, but you’ll most likely become a stronger, healthier, and happier person than ever before.

Check out my new book here.

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Hack Spirit review team. In our reviews, Hack Spirit highlights products and services that you might find interesting. If you buy them, we receive a small commission from that sale. However, we only ever recommend products that we have personally investigated and truly feel could be valuable to you. Read our affiliate disclosure here. We welcome your feedback at [email protected].

Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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