Rumination simply put, is when you focus on the problems instead of the solutions and fall into a repeated cycle of thinking.
Mind over matter
Rumination can begin with one negative thought – lets say for example you may have lost your job recently due to not hitting targets at work. Your first thought could be, ‘perhaps I wasn’t good enough to work there’. This could lead to other negative thoughts each one stronger than the next.
When you begin to repeat these set of negative thoughts over and over again, you are experiencing rumination. Inside you feel like a broken record, unable to change the tune.
Another case of rumination – I once thought that because I was struggling to find work, that there was something wrong with me. This grew to me questioning my own abilities and qualifications (I had just finished university). It even grew as far as some depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. I kept repeating negative thoughts to myself again and again, it felt like I couldn’t break out of the cycle.
This is what rumination is. Instead of focusing on the next step which could have been getting my CV ready, applying for training courses to improve my knowledge or even considering working for myself. I instead focused on the problems rather than the solutions. I only thought negatively, which in turn made me feel bad, which then lead me to thinking more negative thoughts. It was a repeating cycle of negative thinking.
I have quite a vivid imagination, and have been in this situation hundreds of times throughout my life – creating small cycles of negative thinking, with some practice I am managing to break free a little easier each time.
I have found that in order to break free of the cycle you must do three things: identify, focus and speak out loud. The first thing you need to do is identify that you are ruminating. This is the hardest part, we can get so caught up in it that it’s very difficult to identify that actually happening. If you find that you have repeated yourself at least twice successively, you are most likely ruminating.
Once you have identified what you are doing, begin to focus on the words that you are saying and begin to say them loudly. Start paying attention to what you are actually telling yourself rather than just repeating yourself over and over.
Try to break down each claim and find evidence that supports each negative statement. If you find any evidence, think about what work you need to do in order to change it into a constructive criticism rather than slander. Using the example above regarding losing your job. Instead of repeating to yourself that you are ‘not good enough’ start thinking what skills you need to become ‘good enough’ and put an action plan in place to achieve your goal.
When things start to go wrong, or we doubt ourselves, we begin to think negatively. We then start to feel sad or even anxious about a particular event. I understand that it doesn’t always seem like a choice, like your hand is being played for you, but that’s not entirely true.
You can choose to break free from any negative cycle and starting putting that energy into turning your situation around. Never feel stuck, look ahead and always try and build momentum.
So the next time you find yourself ruminating, remember to:-
- Identify that you are ruminating
- Focus on what you are saying
- Speak loudly and break down each claim
- Find supporting evidence, turn the negative statements into constructive criticisms
- Create an action plan
Here is an affirmation for you:
I will no longer put myself into a repeated state of negative thinking. I am in control of both my thoughts and my feelings. Even when times get hard I will believe in myself that I can escape the situation, because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Rumination – the art of repeating negative thoughts
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