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Have you ever been unable to stop thinking about something bad that happened, or something bad that might happen? That is what ruminating is. It can drive you crazy, and keep you up at night. It can also drive your friends and family crazy, if you share it with them.
Rumination can be described as obsessive, repetitive, thoughts which are self focused and negative. People who ruminate are more likely to be or become depressed and anxious, have complications with the grief process and to have difficulty recovering from life challenges.
The more you ruminate the worse you feel, and the worse you feel the more you ruminate. It's a vicious, habitual and diffiuclt cycle to break. Studies have shown that if you have experienced a trauma, rumination makes it feel like it is happening now! If you are a parent who ruminates, your child is more likely to ruminate, and if you are mother who ruminates you are less likely to connect with your child through eye contact, to offer your child comfort, and to be sensitive to their needs. Those are some pretty compelling reasons to get rid of rumination as a coping skill.
So why do we ruminate? Psychologists cant seem to agree. Some think rumination is distraction from facing diffiuclt events, some think rumination is absorption in difficult events. It has been theorized, for example that in grief, ruminating serves to prevent the person who is grieving from fully accepting their loss. In turn it serves to keep them stuck and unable to move on. Whatever the reason, it's usually our mind attempting to help us but going about it in the wrong way.
The most important thing is to understand is that our brains are flexible and our habits are changeable. Whether we are prone to rumination on guilt, depression, worry or anger we can break these cycles, and move on to more freedom and happiness.
So how? How do we move on? The most recent studies suggest that mindful based therapy targeting acceptance of our emotions, and and distance from our thoughts, is the most effective tool. Problem solving is also a very effective method to help yourself through episodes of rumination.
Below are some suggestions that may help when you are stuck in this obsessive thought cycle.
1. Ask yourself what can be done to help with the situation, if anything and then do it. If nothing work on letting your thoughts go like leaves floating down a stream. Do this without judgement, or struggle, noticing the tendency to want to ruminate, but understanding that it is not a helpful choice.
2. Practice noting. Stating in a non judging way what is happening in your mind and body when you begin to ruminate, and gently pull your mind back to the task at hand. Do this like you would to a dog on a leash who was pulling you somewhere you didn't want him to go.
3. Acknowledge your emotions without pushing them away. They are impermanent, and will pass.
4. Keep a journal where you can note what the triggers are for your rumination so you are aware of why your mind began to do so. Be prepared in the futures about what the triggers are so you are not taken by surprise.
5. Think of your mind as a train station. When you have gotten on the wrong train, what happens? If you begin to ruminate you have gotten on the wrong train. Take a deep breath, and pick another train to get on. Label your rumination trains " The victim train" "The guilty train" "The angry Train". Steer clear of those. Pay attention to trains that provide you with calmer states of mind.
I hope these ideas have been helpful for you in dealing with this thought pattern.
Eisma, MSc. M.C. (Utrecht University) (2011): Is rumination after bereavement linked with loss avoidance? Evidence from eye-tracking. DANS. https://doi.org/10.17026/dans-xnj-3tzc
Gibb, B. E., Grassia, M., Stone, L. B., Uhrlass, D. J., & Mcgeary, J. E. (2012). Brooding rumination and risk for depressive disorders in children of depressed mothers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(2), 317-26. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9554-y
ilt, L. M., & Pollak, S. D. (2012). Getting out of rumination: Comparison of three brief interventions in a sample of youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(7), 1157-65. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-012-9638-3"
Kumar, S. M. (2010). The Mindful Path through Worry and Rumination : Letting Go of Anxious and Depressive Thoughts. Oakland, US: New Harbinger Publications. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
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