Rumination describes a tendency to compulsively focus on the symptoms and causes of your unhappiness and distress. It is the need to constantly ponder on the things that are causing you distress without taking any positive action to identify and make changes. It is that point at which you are wallowing in unhappiness with the mistaken belief that by focusing on your distress and your past failures you will find a way out to resolution and happiness.
Work by Nolen-Hoeksema and colleagues shows that rumination exacerbates and prolongs distress and depression, and interferes with effective problem solving; sapping our motivation and initiative.
Recognise these descriptions? All of us at some point in our lives will ruminate; will become fixated on a problem. But for some of us it will become a default thinking style that we fall back on during times of distress. A thinking style that will feed and exacerbate our low mood.
Neuroscience tells us us that we can modify our emotional style, we can change the way that we think. We can alter our brain function in specific circuits to develop a more consistent positive outlook.
Below are two proven methods to help you break the ruminating habit and begin to change your thinking style:
You can distract yourself from ruminating by performing an active task such as learning a new skill (active tasks include DIY, knitting, playing a piano, learning a new language, cooking something complex etc). The activity needs to be absorbing, distracting and uplifting. Something you can become totally engrossed in.
Mindfulness describes a process from which we learn to move out of automatic pilot, and into the present moment. It teaches us to notice our thoughts and feelings without judging them or becoming embroiled in them. We learn to see them for what they are, transitory, fleeting events that do not necessarily reflect reality or truth. Learn to view your thoughts as clouds that enter your mental landscape, watch as they drift across then disperse into thin air and get replaced by another cloud serenely and majestically drifting across your vision. Transitory and ephemeral.
We can all get caught up in our thoughts, but prolonged rumination can exacerbate low moods leading to depression and anxiety. Learn to spot when you are ruminating and break that thought process.2 People recommend this post