Have you ever caught yourself repeatedly going over an incident, thinking about all of the things you should have said or done? Well, there is a name for that little reverie. It is called rumination. Rumination is thinking about something (usually negative) repeatedly. I first learned about rumination a few years ago when I attended a psychology seminar on the subject. Researchers believe that this compulsive, obsessive thought pattern may lead to more serious psychological issues.
Why Is Ruminating So Toxic?
Ruminating is toxic to the mind and the body because it triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, which leads to an increase in the body’s stress chemical levels. Therefore, your body is getting chemical signals that there is a dangerous situation, even when you aren’t in any clear danger. This may lead to other issues, such as anxiety and depression. View this YouTube video for an excellent explanation of this chain of events.
Another reason why rumination is toxic is that it prevents you from moving forward with your life. It drains your energy by keeping you stuck in the past. There have been times in my life when I ruminated about a situation until I lost track of time. Hours passed and I was still stuck thinking about the same thing, only to realize that I forgot to do something more important.
Initially, I thought that ruminating was a way to solve a complex problem. I figured that going over something several times in my head would make it easier to find a solution; however, ruminating isn’t about seeking answers. Ruminating is about focusing on the negative aspects of a situation and complaining. You know how it goes when you ruminate, the mental dialogue changes from reenacting what occurred to passing judgments about either yourself or the other party. This train of thought leads to negativity.
Another negative aspect of ruminating is that it is very subjective. It represents your thoughts and feelings as opposed to being objective and considering a different perspective. For example, maybe the other party didn’t purposely annoy you. The best defense against ruminating is breaking the habit.
5 Easy Tricks To Stop Ruminating:
1. Distract yourself from the situation. Listen to music, watch television, or exercise in order to clear your head.
2. Write the problem down. Create a journal that will allow you to document events and get back to them later. For me, writing is cathartic. I can work through difficult situations through the process of researching and writing about them, instead of dwelling on them or subjecting family and friends to incessant conversations about them.
3. Meditate. Learn to quiet your mind and be still. Youtube.com has several great relaxation and mediation videos to help you get started.
4. Solve the problem. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? However, solving a problem requires moving on once the problem is solved.
5. Place a problem in a category. For example, problems at work should stay at work. They should not invade your home space.
When you ruminate, you are shifting your attention away from problem solving to focusing on the problem. Instead, make the goal eliminating the problem. With these five simple techniques, you should be able to focus on the problem and avoid ruminating. To read more about rumination, visit Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop and Rumination and How It Affects Your Life.