How to Stop Rumination
What is rumination?
Rumination refers to the tendency to continuously and repeatedly think about past experiences. Rumination about past experiences often focuses on negative experiences and the role you had in these experiences. Rumination emerges from a desire to understand and learn from your past experiences, but it results in endless thinking about past mistakes with few solutions.
Why is it important to stop rumination?
Rumination is a key feature of depression as it prevents us from moving forward with our lives. Instead, we focus excessively on thinking about past events in an effort to fix problems that can no longer be fixed. Learning to ‘let go’ and stop rumination processes early on can help us focus on and make more of the present moment, thus curbing depression and anxiety.
How to stop ruminative cycles
When bad things happen, sometimes we get stuck thinking about how awful it was or what we could have done differently if we had another chance. We ruminate on our past experiences blind to the fact that repetitively thinking about our hardships does nothing to solve them. We get caught in a though cycle instead of taking the actions that help us move forward.
To put an end to these negative thought cycles, we need to short-circuit them. One way to to this is by "taking a break". Basically, we decide what we'll do instead once we start ruminating. Here’s how this might work.
Maybe you find yourself dwelling on something negative, getting yourself all worked up until your blood pressure is through the roof. When this happens, instead of trying to think your way out of ruminating — which is basically impossible — drop everything and do something else. You could go for a five-minute run, take a few deep breaths, or physically move yourself to another setting. This helps your brain switch gears and start thinking about something else, thus stopping rumination.
Activities to develop this skill:
Because stopping rumination is a skill, you need to practice to get better at it. Use some of the activities below, as they may help stop your rumination.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.