Ruminating and how to change how you think?

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” ― Terry Pratchett, Diggers

We all self-reflect on situations and life’s events. Constantly. Every moment of every day. I do it. You do it. We all do it. It is one of the most powerful, and yet potentially destructive features of our makeup.

We ruminate.

When people ruminate, they over-think about situations or life events, including; work challenges; relationships issues; problems with friendships; money worries; and even health issues. Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking, and binge-eating.

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics.

Sorry, that is an ageist analogy. I used that with my children, they looked at me blankly. I just asked my teenage daughter and her comment was that sounds like when you watch something on playback on the internet and you have to keep restarting the playback session.

What causes rumination episodes?

It is not clear exactly why we ruminate, although there are strong reasons to believe that it may be an unsuitable mental coping strategy adopted to try and cope with strong emotions; such as the fear of loss, impending significant change or a major life / relationship challenge.

What is the impact of rumination?

Rumination paralyzes your problem-solving skills. You become so preoccupied with the problem that you’re unable to push past the cycle of negative thoughts. You cycle round and round not able to break out of the self-talk. You start to feel helpless and if left unchecked potentially into depression.  It takes time to cycle out of a rumination event. For some, it can be hours, for others, it can be days. For some, unfortunately, they are unable to cycle out of the rumination event and cycle down into a depressive episode. We all have experienced a rumination episodes. For me, my most recent one took about twenty-four hours to cycle out of the event. A number of the techniques below helped me.

How do you begin to change your mind and reduce rumination episodes?
There are a number of ways to help reduce the impact of a rumination episode and even shorten the duration.

Positive problem-solve the situation: People who ruminate not only replay the negative and helpless situation in their head, they also focus on abstract questions, such as, “Why does this happen to me?”; “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why do I keep making the same mistake?” or the ultimate one “Why am I a failure?”.

Positive thought activities: Engage in activities that foster positive thoughts. These could be anything from a favorite physical activity such as swimming, walking, running or cycling; to a hobby; or even to meditation, which is the technique that I use to help deal with the episode. The main thing is to get your mind distracted away from the rumination for a time so that the thoughts begin to subside and hopefully die out.

Instead, when you can think positively and clearly you can try to change the “self talk tape”. Identify at least one positive, constructive and concrete thing you could do to overcome the problem you are ruminating about.

For instance, if you’re worried about a situation at work, commit to sitting down with a close colleague to discuss the situation and how to deal with it.

If you have a relationship challenge, commit to sitting and talking through the positive aspects of the relationship; the things that you both appreciate in each other.

There are many different ways to help change your self-talk. If you have techniques that work for you, it would be wonderful if you could share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi

4 thoughts on “Ruminating and how to change how you think?

  1. Martin thanks for sharing. I think the question though is who or what is it that ruminates? You say “we” (and I assume you mean the first person pronoun as well?) but I’m unclear how that happens. If you come from that position, then you’re assuming there’s a separate ‘me’ that can control your thinking. I’d invite you to consider why thinking is any different to your heart beating or your breath flowing. You or me don’t control them. Why should thinking be any different? Love Ju.


    1. Julian we don’t control our thinking you are right…but by observing and watching our thoughts we expand awareness that allows us not to be tossed around by our minds. Mindfulness Meditation teaches to relate to our thoughts not to control them. Trying to control our fears ,for instance, reinforce them whereas feeling a little at a time with accepting awareness reduce them.
      I perceive my “I” limited by my mind……(who I think I am)……whereas I sense spaciousness and a sense of freedom when I let go of the attachment to my ideas. I feel connected to others to a level whereas differences are not a problem.


      1. Teresa who is it or what is it that is ‘observing’ our (yours and mine I assume) thinking? Is this a separate self? This to my mind reinforces the notion and or idea that there is a separate self that can do or not do. Blessings Julian


  2. I believe you have noticed the HIGHER SELF, the place of our Consciousness that has an infinite potential. When we practice awareness (that separate sense of Self) we humbly and kindly look at our EGO (the thinking mind) and start SEEING and this is what allows expansion, growth, happiness. It takes time and a lot of patience. I am coming to realise that, we, humanity are all ONE energy made of different consciousness…that influence each other. We are all important ……the ones who we perceive as a Threat are there to train our confidence in the Meaning of Life which is LOVE. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) was a rich Indian Prince who left his Palace and wandered for 30 years in search of an answer to the human condition. No one could help him. One day, pretty tired of his search, he sat under a Pipal Tree and decided to stay there until “Enlightenment” or death . First thing he heard was ” There is no meaning” …the Sutra recites was the voice of MARA, a demon, we may read it as our little self….Siddharta stayed, listened until the demon voice went quieter and he felt the joy of being alive and awake to the dignity of life. Nothing special happened, I suppose he realised LIFE is both joy and suffering and he stopped searching for a special state of being or place…..what he did, he came back to his Palace, his wealth, his wife and children and starting “teaching” at his best what he learned. Blessings to you Julian and thanks for posting


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