Ruminating is a decorative word for having the same negative thoughts over and over again. If the thoughts are about the past, they are often about mistakes you think you made, or about feelings of guilt or regret for past decisions. These repetitive thoughts have been found to be associated with depression, in that they can lead to depression or they can make a current depression worse. If the thoughts are about the future, such as “what if such and such happens,” they are associated with anxiety.
We all have repetitive thoughts that run through our minds at times, especially when we have a problem we are trying to solve, but rumination is different in that it does not help find answers or solve problems and it can become a habit.
Ruminating makes depression or anxiety worse. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ruminating because thinking the same negative thought over and over again can lead to an avalanche of many negative thoughts. It can be difficult to end this process, but the effort is well worth it.
How to break the rumination cycle
- Recognize the cues or triggers. Is it mostly in the quiet moments, when you are alone? Or something like music or a movie triggers it, avoid those triggers.
- Exercise and meditate and also use breathing techniques to help yourself refocus.
- The moment you recognize that something is running over and over again in your mind, do something to break the cycle immediately. There are many ways you can distract yourself:
- Find a distraction like a change of music or a movie
- Spend time with nature
- Find positive things that you can think of and list them.
Remember: your thoughts are very powerful, and as you begin to change them, you begin to change your life.
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