102 Comments

To think less about something, try thinking about something else as a worthy replacement. That may sound like a too simple solution. It's about changing your mind the same way you change a diaper. Take off the old, put on the new.

Expand full comment
author

So good. We have to give the mind something to do.

Expand full comment

I will think less about substack's subscription numbers and notes. (I will read a book).

Expand full comment

YES! I’m new to Substack and when my husband says something simple like “how many subscribers do you have?” I go down a mental bunny hole.

Expand full comment

Ren, this is something I have to remind myself of every day - don't look at the stats, just keep showing up. It's hard but I'm there with you. Glad you are here!

Expand full comment
author

Yes!!!!

Expand full comment

I'd also like to think less about those two! Sarah mentioned bookmarking your "posts" page in the browser, so that you can get right to drafting your posts, instead of its default, which is Notes. It's distracting enough with all the notifications, then you have to go to the dashboard and see those numbers -- such a cruel journey for me to begin making a post! It's so much better since I bookmarked the "posts" page. I rarely look at the numbers and feel so much better, thanks to Sarah! I hope it helps you too!

Expand full comment

I bookmarked my posts page awhile back and it has been a game changer for me. So good for my mental health!

Expand full comment
author

I love it every day, multiple times a day.

Expand full comment

Absolutely. Numbers are just numbers. Quality has more value than quantity. And less screen is probably better for everyone. Books! A way to exercise the eyeballs and have the tactile pleasure of turning pages!

Expand full comment

I’ve just been thinking about all the books I could have read, had I not been thinking of ways to increase my subscriber count.

Expand full comment
author

Right???

Expand full comment
May 25Liked by Sarah Fay

I will be trying to think less (really, to worry less) about other people's feelings about me related to things I can't control. (For example, if I invite someone on a hike, and the 5% chance of thunderstorms ends up becoming 100% an hour in, I can apologize for the inconvenience, but then I need to let it go. I didn't do it on purpose, can't do anything to change it other than offer a raincoat perhaps if I have one, and it wasn't really even a "mistake" per se. It was a reasonable assumption or interpretation that ended up not being correct. If they're upset that I invited them that day, me feeling insecure and worrying about it isn't going to help. At all.)

Sarah, I, too, have been up at all hours with spinning worries that won't stop. In a happy coincidence, I recently stumbled across a tip on my news feed that actually has helped at night when I can't stop thinking to go to sleep: think if-and picture the meaning of-every word you can that starts with a certain letter. When you run out of words long enough that your mind begins to wander to rumination, go to a different letter and do the same. You can either start at some point in the alphabet, or you can pick a word and do every letter: W, then O, then R, then D, for example. It has actually helped me not only stop worrying, but get back to sleep faster. I find that most tips for stuff like this don't work very well for most people, but I hope there is someone else out there for whom this hits the mark.

Expand full comment
author

I love this, but I want to make sure I understand. Tell me again.

Expand full comment

The thunderstorm scenario is so relatable! I, too, worry a lot about other people's feelings that are out of my control. The letter sleep trick is a new one! I will try :) Thanks for sharing!

Expand full comment

I spent years berating myself for choosing such a hot, humid day to get married.

Expand full comment
author

That’s hilarious, Mary.

Expand full comment

I will think of my less about a loved one’s addiction issues. It wears me to a nub.

Expand full comment

I’m walking with something similar these days, Anne Marie. Wishing you moments of spaciousness and serenity amidst it all. Hang in there.

Expand full comment

And remember to keep being gentle with yourself as you love them the best you can even if from a short distance

Expand full comment

Oh, Alanon is so good for letting that all out. My brothers disease has finally come close to killing him. He now needs a kidney and a liver. It is so heartbreaking to be powerless over it.

Expand full comment

Trying to think less about family members’ harmful choices and heartbreaking consequences. Also how little time we have left together. I love them. And I can’t save them.

Expand full comment
author

I’m with you.

Expand full comment

Yes.

Expand full comment

I feel you, having this experience currently while visiting family in the UK

Expand full comment

Thank you. Oof. Family visits can be so hard.

Expand full comment

I will think less about rushing my manuscript to be ready to pitch and more about noticing the things in nature that ground me and keep me sane.

Expand full comment
author

Agreed! The rushing—yesterday I was working and had this moment of clarity and peace. I couldn’t think of why. Then I realized I simply wasn’t rushing.

Expand full comment

I love that, Sarah! Thanks for sharing. It sure makes me feel like we are in solidarity with one another.

Expand full comment

Yes, just catching myself and stopping to breathe is a game changer.

Expand full comment
author

Wow. Just read this: According to the National Science Foundation, 95% of the average person's thoughts are repetitive, and 80% of those thoughts are negative.

Expand full comment

That is scary. I really struggled for years with negativity due to PTSD, depression, and anxiety from some trauma I experienced. This past year has seen significant strides made in the way I approach my own thoughts and outlook but it is sad to realize so many people are living under that cloud of darkness.

Expand full comment

One day at a time Matthew, been there 🤎

Expand full comment

Matthew, I have been there as well. I’m so glad to hear that you’re making progress. My big breakthrough was starting my Substack. It is a great company here, and gives me the opportunity and confidence to share my story, knowing that it resonates with so many people, for many reasons. I’m so glad you are among my readers, and that I am among yours. One thing I tell everyone is that we all have a pilot light within. We may not see it, but it’s there. And it can never be extinguished. I believe this. I would not be here without it. Keep writing!

Expand full comment
author
May 25·edited May 25Author

What’s interesting is evolutionary psychology’s take on it: Our brains are on the lookout for danger to keep us alive. Its job is to be negative. I try to thank it for doing its job and then taking it we’re not on the veldt with lions, just at a computer answering email.

Expand full comment

I read this stat a couple years ago and yet it always stops me in my tracks. I’m applying for a new job soon and I’m going to start cultivating “what if I fly” thoughts instead of “what if I fall”

Expand full comment
author

I love “what if I fly”! I was just saying to Matthew: What’s interesting is evolutionary psychology’s take on it: Our brains are on the lookout for danger to keep us alive. Its job is to be negative. I try to thank it for doing its job and then taking it we’re not on the veldt with lions, just at a computer answering email.

Good luck the job! They’ll be lucky to have you.

Expand full comment

Thank you Sarah 🙏 Yes! My brain is only acting on its default negative setting 🧠 it’s up to me to reroute it 🗺️

Expand full comment
author

I was just in one when I read your comment and you pulled me out of it. Thank you!

Expand full comment

You’re very welcome! And a thank you right back, using “what if I fly” as a thought is making me feel lighter and better 🕊️

Expand full comment

Rumination nation!

Expand full comment

Sarah, thank for this thread. I shared these statistics with my neighbors at our coffee gathering this morning, and the discussion that followed was terrific. Everyone could relate.

Expand full comment
author

Here’s part 2 I shared with Matthew: What’s interesting is evolutionary psychology’s take on it: Our brains are on the lookout for danger to keep us alive. Its job is to be negative. I try to thank it for doing its job and then taking it we’re not on the veldt with lions, just at a computer answering email.

Expand full comment

If Marie Kondo can thank her sweaters for keeping her warm, I suppose I can thank my brain for keeping me alive.

Expand full comment
author

I love that.

Expand full comment

I really struggle with repetitive and negative thoughts

Expand full comment

One of my big goals for this year has been to give less mental energy to things outside of my control - particularly the emotions and thoughts of others. When we are so consumed by things we can't control, those things become chains preventing us from moving forward. I am working hard to put kindness out in the world while recognizing each person's value. I can control me - my thoughts and actions so that is where I am trying to focus my energies.

Expand full comment

I can relate to this so much! I am working on a similar focus right now.

Expand full comment

Yes. So well said.

Expand full comment
author

Amen. Truer words…

Expand full comment

Love this, and I'm with you. Mel Robbins has a short video about what she calls the "let them theory." I've found it to be very helpful to have an easy reminder to go back to.

Expand full comment
author

I’ll have to watch it.

Expand full comment

I love learning and taking classes but sometimes I’ve got too much going on. This summer I will think less about what I need to learn before I can share something. Instead I will share what I know.

Expand full comment
author

That’s wonderful.

Expand full comment

I am positive and upbeat most of the time... what most don’t realize though is that I actively work at it.

Mantras. Prayer. Journaling (this is a BIG one!). Deliberate self-talk.

Otherwise the 🐰 🕳️ can be daunting, especially as I get older.

Thanks for a great thread - so important to talk about these things.

Expand full comment
author

I’m with you. I work hard at keeping me and my mind on the same side.

Expand full comment

I’m a big journal writer as well! Nice to know that others work at seeing the positive side of life. Thanks for sharing.

Expand full comment
author

I think writing down positive views makes a huge difference.

Expand full comment

I will think less about how much I hate shopping for groceries and more about how important it is not to run out of cat food. That’s my new way of reframing that particular task: I’m here to buy Fancy Feast, but maybe I should get some bread to put my peanut butter on.

Expand full comment
author

I love this. Your cat is (no surprise) keeping you fed and alive.

Expand full comment

She’s good at her job.

Expand full comment

Think less about how I write and more about why I write.

Expand full comment
author

That’s genius.

Expand full comment
May 25Liked by Sarah Fay

Funny to read this just a couple of hours after I decided to think less of how something makes me feel and what I am supposed to learn from it, and stick more with the facts. Give back some of the responsibility to the outside world instead of taking it all for myself. Less tinkering on the inside, please, be more on the outside (which is so against my own Substack, which is about self-reflection...)

Expand full comment

Oh, I love this. Sometimes, we can so caught up in analysing our emotions and the possible underlying root causes, that it does more harm than good. It's good to be aware of an emotion, feel it and then - let it go. I think this is still an act of self-reflection. I think that if we first of all take the emotion as it is, and it is something that comes out of our very own responsibility, it will be pretty obvious. If we have to dig deep, we probably should simply let it go.

Expand full comment
author

Irony always gets us in the end! I love this (and maybe you’ll write on it): self-reflection without making the entire world our responsibility. I love that.

Expand full comment

Mm this hits. I'm a wee bit sick of myself, to be honest. Fatigued by endlessly analyzing with the goal of "optimizing". learn learn learn! grow grow grow! heal heal heal! My feelings, upon close study, have proven to be intensely dramatic and tricky little bastards, self absorbed in spirit, and generally not acting with benevolence to the rest of my being. I will offer them due respect, a tip of my hat and a cautious berth, we may thus peacefully co exist.

Expand full comment
author

This: “ intensely dramatic and tricky little bastards.” Yup.

Expand full comment

I recently learned that when you hum your brain can't keep on thinking in parallel!

Well, some big decisions are coming up in my life, but there is no need (and also a lack of further details) to make them now. So, during the coming week, I will try to keep my mind as focused as possible on whatever it can actually serve on in the very moment.

Expand full comment

I’ve recently discovered the genius behind the mantra. I’ve memorized a 100 syllable Vajrasattva mantra. It is genius to occupy the brain with when it just won’t stop wandering.

Expand full comment
author

Brilliant—both humming and reminding ourselves that the decision doesn’t have to be made right now, especially if it isn’t even time to make it.

Expand full comment

The toxic mean girls at my temporary job

Expand full comment
author

Yes!

Expand full comment

I am practicing thinking less about what I’m not good at and doubling down on what I do well. I’m finally a writer I respect. Financial genius? Not so much. I have been counting days on self hatred since Jan. 1. Just as I did when I stopped drinking 22 years ago. It is a great discipline to catch the slightest flicker before it flames up.

Expand full comment

That’s an amazing achievement!

Inspired by the idea of thinking less about what I’m not good at and creating space for what I’m great at as well as what I’d love to upskill on

Expand full comment
author

That’s an absolutely amazing achievement.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Sarah!

Expand full comment

Today I will think less about Haagen Dazs.

Expand full comment
author

Good luck :)

Expand full comment

I’m going to stop the “you suck” messaging as soon as it starts to play in my head. It’s a habit as the research seems to say. And not a truth. Thanks for sharing this, Sarah.

Expand full comment
author

Yes! I think you’re awesome.

Expand full comment

I plan to think less in terms of scarcity and more in terms of abundance.

Expand full comment

I’m going to think less of ‘if only X person would do X differently, then everything would be better’

Thanks Sarah, this is a great question to consider

Expand full comment
author

I have that same x-x pattern.

Expand full comment

I have struggled with my "About" page and now have slashed it down to almost nothing - at least that's what it feels like. It's refreshing to cut and see it improve, like pruning a tree. Credit goes to a Cohort meeting with Sarah. Any feedback appreciated as it and my reason for being on Substack at all continue to evolve! https://iowatransplant.substack.com/about

Expand full comment

I'm thinking less (acting less? Using less?) about my phone. I've deleted all the apps that keep me flicking back and forth like a deranged rabbit, and thinking more about my creativity, the headspace I want to claim, the fact that my attention is precious.

On the flip side, I thinking more about protecting / safeguarding / nurturing my attention and upping my reading time. Wherever possible, if my phone sits somewhere, so does a book- I'm training my brain if it's going to reach for something, let it be physical pages rather than a screen xx

Expand full comment

I will think less about running out of bread and getting stains on the couch cushions! When I find myself throat clenched, nails pressed into my palms, surreptitiously supervising my husband and step daughter's every move with beady eyes...I will remind myself that I am safe, that I am taken care of, that if I relax and let go of the need to control, I will be ooooooooookaaaaay. We will not run out of bread. The couch will not be ruined. This is not the person that I am deep down, this is not how I want to be, to be remembered. I will be taken care of. I will be taken care of. I don't need to guard the bread.

Expand full comment

I dreamed my teacher in women's circle said shut up just shut up. Listen. Watch. Just shut up.

So that's what I'll do. For a while. And look. And listen

Expand full comment

My brain struggles to be quiet at the best of times so I definitely have to fill it with things to start most often.... But the thing I am most consciously trying to stop at the moment is being judgey! Looking at people with compassion being the active part of that... Can be super hard with some peeps but boy does it make you feel virtuous when you pull it off hehe... Tongue biting happens a tad 😘

Expand full comment

One trick I use is to imagine the person I am judging is someone vulnerable I love the most. My little sister for example. Or if it’s already someone I love, I imagine it’s my last day with them. It usually shifts things. 💕💕💕

Expand full comment
author

Agreed.

Expand full comment

Thinking less about money stress. Thinking more about the activities that nourish my soul.

Expand full comment
author

I’m with you.

Expand full comment

There are definitely things I’m trying to avoid over thinking about just now - and the answer seems to be keeping busy. I know it’s not a permanent solution, but hopefully the problem is t permanent either 🤷🏼‍♀️ I do keep meaning to do more meditation too!

Expand full comment
author

I agree. Sometimes I think our minds overact and overreact when we aren’t keeping them occupied.

Expand full comment

I'm going to think less about work. YAYYY. Thanks, Sarah. ❤️

Expand full comment
author

Yay!

Expand full comment

I will think less about obsessing over having perfect nutrition in my pregnancy and just try to do the best I can each day.

Expand full comment
author

Yes! Creating another human is enough.

Expand full comment

I overthink, sometimes about my overthinking (that's fun), about my audience, and usually about how a single piece is solving everything for them. Not that they need me to SOLVE anything, but I'm a recovering fixer and ruminator. I'll think less this month about what I don't know about Substack, and build in time to actually learn more about finding the people who need what I write.

Expand full comment
author

That’s great. It’s hard. We want to think about our audience, but it can lead us down the wrong path. But not thinking about our audience does the same. I love what you’re saying. Reaching out, keeping the door open.

Expand full comment
May 29Liked by Sarah Fay

I'm going to try and think with less of a problem solving attitude during meditation...

Expand full comment