Ruminating thoughts are when our minds repeatedly focus on the same thing over and over. In other words, our thoughts become obsessive over some specific situation, event, person, etc. The thoughts seem to take over in a way that makes it hard to figure out how to stop them.
What Causes Ruminating Thoughts?
Generally, rumination occurs when something brings about certain emotions such as
Our thoughts become consumed with regret or embarrassment over the past, and fear and anticipation for something in the future. The problem is that ruminating thoughts are not productive and just lead to further distress and experience of the above emotions. It also impacts our focus and ability to do the things that we need to.
How to Stop Ruminating Thoughts:
• Challenge the emotion or thought. Ask yourself how likely it is that your fear will occur and ask, even if it is likely, how bad will that really be? Most of the time the expectation of what will happen is worse than the actual outcome. Furthermore, even when our biggest worry comes true, it often is not as bad as we lead ourselves to believe. The same logic can be applied to ruminating thoughts about the past. The embarrassment, shame, or guilt related to that past event is generally not in line with the facts of the situation.
• Be ok with what you can’t control. Clearly identify the things within and outside your control. Remember you can’t change the past or control the future. Much of our ruminating thoughts are around past, future, and the things we cannot control. Learning to accept that rather than harp on it is an important part of moving forward from rumination and negative emotions.
• Practice Mindfulness and deep breathing. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Ruminating takes away our ability to be present focused; therefore, you can counter that by consciously bringing your focus to the here and now. Any deep breathing exercise (such as counting each inhale or exhale) falls under this category.
• Distract your yourself. Find an activity to let your mind take a break from the overwhelming obsessive thoughts. Interrupting the thoughts makes them more controllable. It is then easier to move away from them and focus on the present and your tasks at hand.
• Journal your feelings. Sometimes it just takes getting the thoughts outside your head to be able to calm down and stop the rumination. Journaling is a great way to let the thoughts flow freely while also releasing them from your mind. This can help the thoughts feel less intense and overwhelming. It also helps bring prospective that allows you better ability to utilize the abovementioned steps.
• Talk to a friend. This follows similar logic as journaling. Talking it out provides release and perspective that is beneficial in stopping the ruminating thoughts. There is also an added benefit of having an outside party sympathize, while also giving an objective perspective that is almost impossible to gain on your own.
How to stop ruminating thoughts is a question many people wonder about. These thoughts are powerful and intense, making it difficult to know how to step outside of them. Next time you find yourself struggling with rumination, remember you don’t have to let these thoughts control you. Remember the above listed steps and keep working at it until it becomes easier. Ruminating thoughts are not easy to manage and it will take time and effort to really take hold of them, but it is doable!
Interested in more details of how to use some of the above tips? Here some other related blogs that break these steps down in more detail.