What is Rumination?
Do you find that you go over and over negative thoughts in your head, to the point where you can’t think about anything else and does it even disrupt your sleep? Do you always blame yourself for things that have happened? Are you your own worst critic? Then you are probably struggling with rumination.
The findings of a ground-breaking study, published recently, suggest that brooding too much on negative events is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety and determines the level of stress people experience. The research suggests a person’s psychological response is a more important factor than what has actually happened to them.
The study found that people who didn’t ruminate or blame themselves for their difficulties had much lower levels of depression and anxiety, even if they’d experienced many negative events in their lives. Rumination was also found to be more damaging than self blame.
The good news is that you can do something about this. Self-awareness and practice are the two keywords here.
Learn to notice when you are focussing exclusively on negative thoughts
If it has become a pattern over several years, you might not realise how much time you spend each day, obsessed with negative thoughts. Raising your self-awareness is the first step towards changing your thought patterns.
Practice thought-stopping techniques
One simple technique is to wear an elastic band on your wrist and every time you catch yourself focussing on negative thoughts, flick the elastic band against your wrist. This action acts as a reminder that you need to stop and think about something else.
Focus on another activity to distract you
Try to take your mind off the negative thoughts and find an activity which needs concentration or which you enjoy. If you’re at work, talk to a colleague or take a five minute break. If you’re at home, go for a walk; put on some music you like; ring a friend.
It’s not realistic to expect instant results. You need to re-educate your brain and so give yourself maybe 20 minutes a day, when you allow yourself to worry/ruminate about problems and then consciously switch them off. Over time, you can replace this with Mindfulness or Meditation.
Learn Mindfulness or Meditation
These are techniques which take time to perfect so don’t expect miracles straight away. There will be courses available near you. To give you a taster, here is a link http://www.freemindfulness.org which you might find helpful.
Past, Present, Future
If you are thinking about something that has happened in the past, remind yourself that you can’t change the past, but you can change your response to it.
If you are thinking about something which is happening now, take action to change the things you have control over and try to accept the things you can’t change
If you are worrying about something which might happen in the future, try to concentrate on the here and now and focus on the positive things in your life. Maybe write a list to remind yourself of the people and things you really appreciate and are grateful for.