Rumination in psychology is the obsessive attention on past painful situations or events and its alleged sources and outcome. It could be some of your childhood experiences or more recent happenings at work or in relationships. Rumination has two aspects -reflection and brooding. Reflection is actually a positive action. You think about the adverse event and find a solution or you process the strong emotions that the situation evoked in you to help you cope.
Brooding is the negative dimension of ruminating and it is more common than reflection, with most adults going through such a phase at one time or another in their lives. It is sad because when you brood over a negative event and keep playing it over and over in your mind, the consequences are detrimental to both your physical, mental and social health. Psychologists classify rumination as a mental health disorder and warn that it has negative effects. Ruminators have been found to exaggerate their negative experiences. Their memories are more intense leaning towards the negative and the frequency of the situation occurring increases than it actually happened. So for the chronic ruminator, it’s time to take stock of yourself and stop, or seek professional advice if this fixation becomes compulsive.
5 Top Reasons To Stop The Bad Habit Of Ruminating
1. Rumination leads to depression.
When you obsess about a certain incident and its outcome, you dwell on your feelings about it and how it has hindered your growth. In the process, you develop a negative attitude and a feeling of hopelessness. It becomes a vicious cycle of ruminating and feeling depressed and brooding about your lot in life.
2. Rumination hampers your problem-solving skills.
Brooding predisposes you to become fixated on pessimistic thinking. Instead of seeking for ways to rise above a difficult situation, you are overwhelmed and see your problems as beyond solution. This line of thinking increases your likelihood of going into a downward spiral of negativism.
3. Rumination brings about destructive behavior.
When you constantly play over in your mind sad circumstances you have been through, such as a relationship that didn’t work out or an altercation at the office, you unconsciously look for an escape from your unpleasant thoughts. Binge-eating, alcohol and other forms of substance abuse are escapist behavior you may potentially turn to.
4. Rumination induces stress that can raise the risk for high blood pressure.
Going over the same negative life events and feeling that life has been unfair to you is psychologically stressful. But did you know that stress has a physical component as well? Stress produces anxiety that causes your body to release the stress hormone cortisol. But in ruminating, your mind and body is in a steady state of stress and anxiety, stimulating a regular production and release of cortisol. This hormone signals the heart to pump faster and the body to produce more blood glucose. A constant state of elevated sugar and increased heart rate can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.
5. Rumination turns people away from you.
People who ruminate will initially find compassion and support from family members and friends. But the repetitive whining and the never-ending need for a sympathetic ear to listen to their perceived injustices can turn off people, even those closest to you. For those around you, your griping and endless negative talk and mood can exhaust them and drain their energy. A study by psychologists Nolen-Hoeksema and David of grieving adults has found that chronic ruminators ask for more social support but get less and noted more social friction than the non-ruminators.
How to Get Out of the Rumination Trap
Easier said than done but rumination can be counter-acted with positive distractions. These are activities that divert your mind from the tendency to brood and turn your thoughts into positive ones. Positive distractions include going out and socializing with other people, or taking up a hobby or sport. On the other hand, activities that involve having to go inwards to examine yourself can also help you get out of ruminating. The following techniques may work for you:
- Shift from a negative to a positive thought process.
Recognize that your thoughts are responsible for your emotional reaction. Consciously redirect thoughts to positive ones and stop persecuting yourself with negative ideas.
- Apply mindfulness intervention
Mindfulness has two essential components: being fully aware of the present and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as “right” or “wrong.” By being mindful, you minimize your habit of recalling the past, especially the negative events.
Take up meditation. Meditation is a very effective mindfulness technique. It teaches you to focus on the now and letting go of the ego.
- Engage in regular physical activity
You could take up a sport or just schedule a walking or running session a few times each week. Exercise has long been proven to be a powerful stress reliever. Physical activity releases the endorphins in your body. They are the feel-good hormones that improve your mood and make you feel happier. By exercising, you focus on your moves and actions and these help you avoid ruminating on the past.