If you’ve had a negative or unpleasant experience, you’ve probably dwelt on it for several hours or even days. No matter how hard you try, the thought just doesn’t seem to go away.
These are called ruminating thoughts.
The problem with these lingering thoughts is that they don’t make us feel any better. In reality, they can make us feel worse, and without an active solution to the problem, there is no point in going over it repeatedly.
The purpose of this article is to talk about ruminating thoughts. Understand what causes them, how to stop ruminating thoughts, and when to consult with a professional.
What Is Rumination?
Rumination is a processing disorder that happens when someone has worrisome thoughts or thoughts which are given excess analysis.
The problem with ruminative thoughts is that they can cause some concern for mental health. After all, who wants to be thinking the same negative thoughts repeatedly?
Ruminating thoughts can increase the risk of other mental health conditions such as depression, intensify depressive symptoms, overthinking or impair the ability to think clearly and find a solution to said problem. This, in the end, leads to more rumination, making the cycle start all over again.
Now, ruminating is not entirely bad. We all do it occasionally, especially in a rough situation. The most common reason people tend to have ruminative thoughts is to find a solution to the problem or gain insight into the situation.
According to the American Psychology Association, several causes can increase the risk of ruminative thoughts.
- Having certain personality traits such as perfectionism.
- Poor self-esteem.
- Suffering from traumatic events or experiences.
- Stressful events like job loss.
- Negative experiences during childhood or adolescence.
- Low emotional intelligence.
8 Tips For Dealing With Ruminating Thoughts
If you are experiencing ruminating thoughts, you probably think about how to stop them.
The following tips will help you take care of your mental health. Now, remember that it might take time and practice to get them under control. But eventually, you’ll be able to control those negative emotions.
Divert Your Attention
When you realize that you are starting to get ruminating thoughts, the best thing you can do is distract your mind from breaking the cycle.
Search for activities to help you clear your mind and find inner peace.
Here are some activities you can try:
- Watch a movie or a series.
- Do some art therapy.
- Read a book.
- Listen to a podcast.
- Walk around your neighborhood.
- Call a friend or family member.
- Play a game.
Meditation is a technique to focus the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity. It can help bring attention and focus to help promote mental clarity and stability.
In fact, a 2022 study found that meditation can help to reduce rumination, especially linked to depressive symptoms. However, the study was done in a small population, meaning more research in larger groups is needed.
Practicing meditation can be overwhelming at first. Over time, it gets easier and easier, allowing you to better understand your thoughts. And the best thing is that several guided meditations can help you get started.
Exercise can have an impact on mental health. A 2018 study found that after only one session or exercise, people reported reduced ruminating thoughts.
When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, often called happy hormones. As a result, it can lead to an improved mood.
To ensure you stay consistent with exercise, look for a workout you enjoy. There are several options for you to try: yoga, swimming, running, going to the gym, or trying dance lessons.
Putting your thoughts into writing can help you understand and organize what is happening in your head. The beauty of journaling is that there is no right or wrong way. Every person has their own take on journaling.
In addition, you can set a schedule for journaling. This will allow you to dedicate time during the day for your thoughts to flow. And knowing you have that space for them will make it easier to stop ruminating.
So, when journaling, set a time and set a timer to give yourself time to process everything.
Also, something that helps is to create the right mood for journaling. Make it a pleasant experience. Organize your space, put in some music, and let those thoughts flow.
Find A Support System
A strong support system can allow you to overcome any mental or emotional problems. Talking to a friend or family member can give you an outside perspective on your problems.
However, be careful who you choose to share your thoughts. Find a friend or family member that will give you an unbiased opinion and won’t make you go deeper into your ruminating thoughts.
Understand Your Triggers
When you understand what triggers your ruminating thoughts, preventing them or finding a solution is easier. It can be a social situation, social media pages, or some themes on the TV.
For example, if you figured that following several social media accounts about dieting produces ruminating thoughts, do a social media cleanse. Eliminate the social media pages that cause a trigger.
Once you understand what is going on or what causes those thoughts to happen, it’s easier to create actionable steps. Start with small steps to help you address the problem and find a solution.
Spend Time In Nature
According to research, spending more time in nature can help prevent ruminating thoughts. A 2014 study showed people who took a 90-minute walk in nature had fewer symptoms of ruminating.
If you don’t have time to do a long walk in nature, practicing grounding (placing your bare feet on grass) can also have a positive effect.
Try Positive Affirmations
Finally, if you seem to be in a loop of negative thoughts, practicing positive affirmations can help you escape that cycle. A positive affirmation can help counteract these emotions.
Put some sticky notes with positive affirmations throughout the house, or download positive affirmation images on your phone. The more positive energy you can surround yourself with, the easier it will be to start thinking more positively.
Rumination & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
According to The OCD and Anxiety Center, rumination seems to be a symptom in people with anxiety and depression disorders. Additionally, it seems to be one of the primary symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
In people with OCD, ruminating thoughts seem to create a short-term release that only encourages an obsessive disorder.
In this situation, it’s better to talk with a health professional to help you understand your situation and how you can manage ruminating symptoms.
Consult A Mental Health Professional
If you’ve tried several things to help stop your ruminating thoughts but don’t seem to be able to know how to stop ruminating OCD, it’s time to seek a mental health professional.
So, if the ruminating thoughts make it difficult to focus, function, or feel happy, it’s better to get some professional help to know the best way to handle your thoughts.
Ruminating thoughts can be overwhelming. If you are experiencing ruminating thoughts, understanding the triggers and your emotions can help you create the best action plan to break the cycle of negative thoughts.
If you’ve tried everything to help stop ruminating thoughts from appearing, but they don’t go away, it might be time to consult a health professional. They can guide you into understanding your thought process and learn what is the best coping mechanism for your ruminating thoughts and provide mental well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, ruminating is thought to be a thought disorder. It is when you have recurring negative thoughts that don’t seem to go away. They might happen because you are searching for a solution to a stressor in your life (like a breakup).
Yes, if you do the right coping mechanisms to help reduce ruminating thoughts, it can be cured. Practicing yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise can be great ways to help you deal with ruminating thoughts. If you still have them, no matter what you try, a mental health professional.
While most people think that ruminating gets worse with age, it seems that it tends to decrease with age. The majority of people who ruminate seem to be people under the age of 25. As you get older, you might worry less and have fewer ruminating thoughts.
The best way to stop ruminating thoughts is to occupy your mind with something. You can watch a movie or a series, read a book, do art therapy, go for a walk, or listen to a podcast. Anything you enjoy doing that can help you clear your mind.
+ 6 Sources
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- Hilt LM, Pollak SD. Getting Out of Rumination: Comparison of Three Brief Interventions in a Sample of Youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2012;40(7):1157-1165. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-012-9638-3
- Probing the depression-rumination cycle. Apa.org. Published 2021. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle
- Owens M, Bunce HLI. Nature-Based Meditation, Rumination and Mental Wellbeing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022;19(15):9118. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159118
- Brand S, Colledge F, Ludyga S, et al. Acute Bouts of Exercising Improved Mood, Rumination and Social Interaction in Inpatients With Mental Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology. 2018;9. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00249
- Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Hahn KS, Daily GC, Gross JJ. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2015;112(28):8567-8572. doi:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1510459112
- Rumination. The OCD & Anxiety Center. Published March 15, 2021. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://theocdandanxietycenter.com/rumination/
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