Hi everyone! I’m sorry the blog has been silent lately; there’s been a lot going on in my life and it had to take a temporary backseat! Next week things get back on track, and in the meantime I wanted to just share some of the songs on my playlist that I go to when I need a pick-me-up. Enjoy!
Last week in How to Step Dwelling on Things – Part 1, I talked about what rumination is and the negative effects it has on our mental and emotional well-being. This week I want to talk about what to do about it. After all, we might know a behavior isn’t the best, but if we don’t know how to change it, we’re stuck!
In addition to the problem solving approach I already talked about, here are some ideas of things to try next time you find yourself obsessing about a situation.
Distract Yourself. Sometimes you just need to get your mind on something else. Try doing something enjoyable like reading a book, writing a thank you to someone, doing something active, going outside, or some other hobby you like doing. It can be helpful to make a list ahead of time so that you have already ideas when you need to distract yourself.
Schedule a worry break. Dr. Lauren Feiner recommends actually scheduling 20 to 30 minutes a day to ruminate to help contain it to a specific period of time. At other times of the day, remind yourself that you will have time later to worry and contemplate.
Let go. Once you’ve done your problem-solving on the situation and you’ve figured out what you can control and what you’re doing to do about it…acknowledge what you can’t control and work on letting go of that. No doubt, this is incredibly hard to do, but start by making a choice to let it go—and then keep making that choice every time your mind wanders back to it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably have to admit that you increase and extend your misery by hanging on to things you can’t control.
The good news is that rumination is a thought and behavior pattern that can be changed. It’s a habit, and like any other habit, it takes effort and time to change. But the improvement in your health, happiness and relationships will be worth it!
Do any of these work for you or sound interesting enough to try? What has helped you get over ruminating?
Do you ever get stuck for hours or even days on something that went wrong or upset you? Maybe it was a fight with someone, or making a mistake at school or work, or something not working out the way you hoped it would. Whatever it might be, your mind plays it over and over like a song on repeat.
It’s called rumination, and it means that we over-think or obsess about situations… and it’s incredibly destructive. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a psychologist and professor at Yale University found that “when people ruminate while they are in depressed mood, they remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While you’re replaying the event over and over, you’ve also replayed a ton of other unpleasant memories in your mind, not to mention gone down the list of everything currently wrong in your life. No wonder you feel worse than you did after the original event!
Everyone does it occasionally, but people who frequently ruminate are much more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, and those problems are hard to overcome without changing ruminative thought patterns. Sometimes, people try to deal with rumination with eating disorders, addictions, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms, but these just create their own problems.
Or sometimes, people keep ruminating because they believe they’re gaining insight from it. They believe if they analyze the situation thoroughly enough, they’ll figure out a way to fix it. While it’s true that thinking it through should lead to coming up with solutions or making improvements, most of the time our problem-solving abilities get shut down because we are too caught up in how upsetting the situation is. We end up feeling helpless, frustrated, or depressed.
Denying or avoiding our feelings is one unhealthy end of the spectrum, and rumination is on the other. The goal is what Nolen-Hoeksema calls adaptive self-reflection. This involves processing your emotions so that you don’t ignore or get stuck in them, and also focusing on the concrete parts of the situation and the improvements that can be made. Effective problem-solving asks answerable questions that lead to a useful decision or plan.
Do ask concrete, helpful questions such as:
What can I control in the situation?
How can I respond in a way that honors myself and others?
How can I grow from this?
What are the potential positives of this?
Don’t ask abstract, self-defeating questions such as: