Tricks to Stop Ruminating Thoughts
Are you thinking about a certain problem or a bad situation that has happened? Has that thought lingered in your mind for hours or days on end?
What is ruminating?
There are two meanings of rumination. One refers to how ruminants like cows, bring up food from their stomach to chew it repeatedly. The other definition is the act of thinking about something repeatedly for a long period of time.
We particularly like to dwell on our struggles, or frustrations, things that have emotionally hurt us.
Most of the time rumination starts as you reflect on your problems, failures, or frustrations. You try to understand why and how the situation came to be, hoping to find a solution. But the problem with ruminating is that you do not get to resolve the issues. you get stuck on repeatedly thinking about what happened.
Why do we ruminate?
Many people like you do not realize you are ruminating. Your first goal was to reflect on a challenging situation and resolve it. However, as you think about what happened the negative feelings that you had when you were in that situation re-emerges and you stay stuck in those feelings of negativity.
Research has shown that people who has experienced trauma, physical and sexual abuse at a young age were more likely to ruminate. When something difficult to accept, something frustrating, threatening, or insulting happens to us, we cannot let go.
You cannot disengage from feeling the hurt, the rejection, and the humiliation and this causes you the ability to think clearly and resolve the issue. Dr Tracey Marks in one of her talks mentioned ruminating takes you deeper into a hole and reinforces circuits in your brain that are negative and makes it harder for you to get out of.
You may not like them because they make you feel bad, but you are not working that hard to avoid them. Others welcome these thoughts because they feel the need to think about the situations affecting them. Ruminating can come from fear of not being good enough, a loss, the desire to be whole or to mask vulnerability.
How does ruminating affect us?
Ruminating has negative effects on our physical and mental well-being. In a BBC News article rumination, has been said to be a silent mental health condition and that one in four people living in the UK will have some form of mental health condition in any one year.
It can make you feel worse and can lead to depression and anxiety. The biggest study done by University of Liverpool psychologists and BBC UK lab revealed that people who ruminate had higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Ruminating also increases stress and as this happens the cortisol levels in our body likewise increase. Higher amounts of cortisol can wreak havoc in our body. It can increase blood pressure and heart rate and later lead to heart disease. Another study showed that it takes the body longer to recover when we ruminate.
When you repeatedly think about your difficulties like loss of job, failed marriage, humiliation, or rejection, you stay in the negative mood, and you become less productive. Ruminating hinders you from acting or resolving a difficulty or a problem because it drains your mental resources.
How do we stop ruminating?
There are many ways to stop ruminating and here are some of the tricks that have worked for so many people I have connected with.
The very first trick to stop ruminating is to be mindful of what you are thinking. Be aware how what you are thinking affects you and how you feel. Once you realize you are going the downward path immediately stop yourself and divert your attention to more positive aspects of the situation.
One good way to reflect on challenging situations is to write your thoughts down along with the reasons why things happened and most importantly the possible resolutions you can make to resolve the issues at hand. Physically seeing your thoughts will help you avoid dwelling on the negatives as you objectively focus on your task.
Meditation is another practice to help be aware of your thoughts. Meditation relaxes and calms you. It helps you clear your mind and focus on your goals. If you are focused on your goals your emotions will have lesser power on you allowing you to stay on the path to be a better you.
Change your mindset. Be positive.
The next trick to stop ruminating is to change your mindset, look at the situation from different points of views. Think of these challenges not as problems to put you down but rather as ways to make you stronger, to make you grow.
Life is meaningless without growth. People are wired to move and to grow.
When you change your perspectives, you distract yourself away from the negativity and put your focus on the positives, the things that take you away from it.
The next time you face a difficulty look for the positives. Tell yourself, “This is happening for me and not to me. There is always something good from it that I may not see yet. It is here to make me stronger and help me be the person I want to become.
Remember that overcoming challenges gives you a sense of fulfillment.
Practice being grateful
Being grateful is a good measure to stop ruminating. It helps you stay positive and let go of the negative feelings like anger, frustration, and resentment within you. Gratitude can make you happy and improve your health.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a good thing as it allows you to focus on things you are thankful for. You reinforce positivity by looking at what good the day or the situation has brought you and as you do this you slowly change your mindset and retrain your brain until it becomes a habit. All it takes is a little effort.
Writing on a journal is a small habit that you can start today and reap the benefits later as you stop the habit of ruminating.
Devise an action plan for your goals.
Know who you want to become. Determining and identifying with the person you want to become will give you focus and the motivation to move towards that goal. You devise a plan to reach that goal.
If you identify and have a relationship with the person you want to become you will have empathy for that person. Having that empathy will help keep you on your path. Everything you plan and do will be towards becoming that person.
Have a concrete plan to accomplish your goal. You can write them down and place them where you can always see them. In this way you are always reminded of what you need to do and the person you are aiming for.
Every action you do today is an investment towards your future.
Someone to lean on
Having people to lean on or to talk to and be yourself helps you vent out all the negative feelings you have in a positive way. They can give you advise and help you see things you cannot understand nor see for yourself because you are blinded by your emotions and own ideals.
Just as you lean on others for support and strength, you must likewise be willing to support others, to be their listener and guide, to help them see the right path. We all have challenges; we all ruminate, having the right person to lead us and being a guide to others makes challenges easier to deal with and to overcome.
Helping others also gives you a sense of satisfaction because you know you have done something good.
Choose to love
Choosing to love instead of harboring hatred and anger is better when you want to stop ruminating. Show others that you care. Smile at them, give them a hug.
Smiling is infectious. If you smile, the other person will likewise smile and this lightens not only your day but their day as well.
Loving others is a great commandment that we should all follow. Showing love breaks the barriers of hatred. It gives hope to the hopeless. It makes everyone live with happiness and caring.
Love makes the world a better place to live in so spread the love and curb negativity.
The last trick for now is exercise. Exercise increases the dopamine levels or the happy hormones in our body. If we are happy, we stay more positive with our outlook on life. Exercise also allows us to think better.
Exercising lets us focus on improving our health. Going for walks lets us appreciate the beautiful things around us.
The next time you do not feel like exercising, tell yourself, “The person you want to become is waiting for you with open arms, all you need to do is to take the path.” Do not let him slip farther away to an unreachable distance.
If you want to know more how to change the habits that are limiting you, stopping rumination. You can listen to my podcast or watch the YouTube episode.
Always remember that a great life does not happen by chance. It happens by design. Doing these little tricks are all small steps in your design of a better future.
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