Do you constantly repeat what you do or do you obsess over negative situations? known as mental rumination, It may look like a broken record. Your mind rehearses game by game what led to that horrible breakup or missed deadline at work. Even when everything is going well, we tend to focus on the one negative thing that happened during the day, like the time our boss criticized us in front of our colleagues.
Reflecting on past experiences can be helpful in solving problems and overcoming dilemmas, but melancholic rumination take this to the next level. It offers few new insights and often serves to intensify our negative feelings. We focus narrowly on things that are not going well instead of seeing the big picture. These ruminative thoughts can keep us up late at night analyzing the situation.
8 ways to overcome mental rumination
Research has shown that mental rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequencesincluding depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, and binge eating.
What can be done to stop ruminating? Here are some tips that may help.
Identify the thought or fear
What is your biggest fear? Maybe you are afraid of getting fired or looking foolish in front of others. Journaling can be a great way to clear up underlying fear.
Think worst case. This may seem like a terrible suggestion, but we can often handle the worst case scenario, which takes away the power of the original thought. Ask yourself two questions:
- What is the worst that can happen?
- Can I handle that?
Most likely the answer is yes. Human beings are very resilient. Remember, sometimes our greatest difficulties can become our greatest growth experiences. For example, someone may be devastated after losing their job. He realizes he survives that, and it turns out it ended up being a blessing in disguise. He enabled him to find a position that fit his interests and lifestyle, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful career.
Let go of what you can’t control
Ask yourself “what, if anything, can I change?” If you can’t change the situation, let it go. For the things you can change, set up a list of small goals and make the appropriate changes.
See mistakes as learning opportunities. The fastest way to success is to fail over and over again. For example, someone was 30 minutes late for an interview. He didn’t get the job and became very self-critical about his tardiness. Once you stop and ask “what’s the lesson I learned?” You will quickly be able to calm down and apply this lesson to future experiences when you find yourself ruminating with your thoughts.
There is no need to keep berating yourself. Also, frequently remind yourself how far you’ve come. Every time you make a mistake, you learn something new.
Schedule a worry break
Schedule 20-30 minutes a day to worry and make the most of it. This allows for a time and place to think about all of your biggest insecurities while containing them in a specific time period. At other times of the day, remember that you will have time to contemplate later.
We spend so much time dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future events, that we spend very little time in the here and now. A good example of this is whenever we find ourselves on “autopilot” while driving a car.
Mindfulness practice is a great way to reduce our “thinking” self and increase our “sensing” self in the here and now. For example, ask yourself what you hear, feel, smell, see, and taste. This can help you ground yourself in the present moment.
Mindfulness is an important skill to enjoy the important moments in life and distract mental rumination. Enjoying coffee with a friend can be affected if we start thinking about all the things we have to do that day. When you notice your mind wandering, gently guide it back to the present.
Go for a walk. A change of scenery can alter our thoughts and give us a new perspective.
Try therapy if mental rumination does not let you be
If ruminating thoughts interfere with living life you want to live, consider the possibility of approaching a psychotherapist. Counseling is a great way to learn how to use these techniques with the help and guidance of a professional.