Rumination
Image source - BBN Community

What Is Ruminating And How To Stop It?

 

Have you ever felt like your mind was “stuck” and that you kept thinking about the same negative things over and over?

Even when everything is going well, we tend to hyper focus on the one negative thing that happened during the day.

The process of continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which tend to be sad or dark, is called “rumination.”

A habit of rumination can be dangerous to your mental health as it can prolong or intensify depression as well as impair your ability to think and process emotions. It may also cause you to feel isolated and can, in reality, push people away.

Reflecting on past experiences can be helpful in problem-solving and overcoming dilemmas, but brooding rumination takes this to the next level. It offers few new insights and often serves to intensify our negative feelings. We become narrowly focused on the things that are not going well instead of seeing the larger picture.

 

Why do people Ruminate?

 

When something terrible has happened, it is tempting to ruminate. Over-thinking is a way of trying to attain a sense of mastery or a feeling of control when you feel trammelled, helpless or victimized. There is a tiny hope that you can get somewhere if you just get to the bottom of it.

Deficits in attentional control have been proposed as another explanation for why people ruminate. Attention control is thought of as the ability to direct attention toward or away from stimuli depending on current task demands or goals.

Other reasons why certain people tend to ruminate are – if they are facing ongoing stress that seems out of control. Even people who had a history of emotional or physical trauma were found to ruminate more than other people.

 

It is found that ruminating is also common in people who possess certain personality characteristics, which include perfectionism, neuroticism, and an excessive focus on one’s relationships with others.

 

Reasons to give up rumination

 

Rumination
Image source – The Minds Journal

One of the most striking reason to give up rumination is that is associated with depression. Research has shown that people who ruminate are more likely to develop depression compared to those who don’t.

It is even associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You might be more likely to reach out to friends and other people but ruminating people often drive others away from them. People may generally end up getting frustrated with you.

The most common reasons are that ruminating will only lead you to feel more sad, anxious and angry. You will think more pessimistically about your problems and yourself.

At this point, one might even feel completely demotivated to do anything as they will fail to concentrate on anything at all.

Ruminating will lead one to even more stress and problems.

The difference between ruminative thinking and normal worrying is that ruminating makes you feel less able to solve the problem, thereby adding to depression. While normal worrying should prompt you toward problem solving.  Even when people who ruminate come up with solutions, their uncertainty and low confidence stop them from taking any action that will help them to move forward.

 

How to combat Rumination?

 

It can be hard to get out of the rumination cycle once you are stuck in it. It’s important to stop them as quickly as possible to prevent them from becoming more intense.

 

To stop the effects of ruminative thinking, try these strategies:

 

  1. Distract When you realize you’re starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. Engage yourself in pleasant activities. You can distract yourself with books, movies, magazines, museums, a busy street or bustling park. Force yourself to take these aspects of life or culture in even if you don’t feel like it. Once you are involved in something, your mind gets a chance to take another path.
  2. Try to exercise or take a walk. Moving your body will help you to move the content in your head and you will feel free and calm.
  3. Make a plan of action. Begin by taking small steps toward solving the problem you think about repeatedly. This will stop the rumination in its tracks.
  4. Write down what you fear – the worst thing that can happen, and then write down three more positive outcomes. Try to figure out what is most realistic and try to be measured.
  5. Meditate. It can reduce rumination because it involves clearing your mind to arrive at an emotionally calm state.
  6. Talk to a friend. Ruminating thoughts can make you feel isolated. Talking about your thoughts with a friend who can offer an outside perspective may help break the cycle.
  7. Be grateful. Count your blessings and have more things than just material to be proud of. Happy people tend to erase ruminating from their everyday life.
  8. Listen or watch programs that tells compelling stories about people who have undergone unusual struggles and triumphs.
  9. Go for kick-boxing/boxing. Some people tend to punch things out better than just meditate.
  10. If your ruminating thoughts are taking over your life, you may want to consider therapy. A therapist can help you identify why you’re ruminating and how to address the problems at their core.