We all ruminate from time to time, but what if you find yourself ruminating instead of doing something else, avoiding things, focusing on problems or trying to solve the unsolvable?
Many mental health issues are linked to rumination, but rumination can also lead to other mental health issues, so let's explore what rumination actually is and 5 steps that can help you put an end to obsessive thinking and rumination.
What is Rumination?
Rumination is defined as a deep or considered thought about something, the action or process of thinking deeply about something. And we can all be deep in thought sometimes can't we? It distracts us, our minds go elsewhere as we focus on the thought, past experiences or situations. We get stuck in our heads for a few moments, and sometimes, it can be a good thing as remember pleasant experiences, even singing the song in our head we heard on the radio this morning. So rumination is a natural response to a problematic situation. Your brain wants to solve your problems, that's what it does so well!
When does Rumination become a problem?
Rumination is linked to depression and anxiety, because when we're dwelling on a problem, it may seem like it's helping you a sense of taking action towards a situation that is unresolved or even distressing, so you may feel like it's resolving things in the short-term. But actually in the short-term it makes it harder for you to move on from situations.
Rumination becomes obsessive overthinking which encourages more dwelling on the negative aspects your past or future, leaving you stuck in a spiral of negative thinking. You develop that depressive habit which really engages the emotional part of your brain and causes more anxiety and a heightened state of fight or flight. It can affect your thoughts, feeling and reactions to everyday situations.
How to stop Rumination and Worry video
Watch the Anxiety and Rumination video and see how to stop your obsessive thinking.
Which Mental Health Conditions are linked to Rumination?
Rumination can have a big impact on your life, and many mental health conditions can cause rumination, but rumination may also be a sign or symptom of mental health conditions such as:
- Depression: ruminating on very negative or self-defeating thoughts. For example, they may obsess over a belief that they are unworthy, not good enough, or doomed to fail.
- Anxiety: ruminating on specific fears, such as the idea that something bad will happen to their family. Or they might ruminate more generally, continually scanning their mind for things that might go wrong.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD may feel overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts about things that could go wrong. To relieve these thoughts, they may engage in rituals, such as checking doors locks, cleaning, or counting.
Why do we Ruminate?
Rumination is due to our brain's negative bias. It's what helped us survive in primitive times as a species. The good news is that we can rewire our brains and actually change the way we think and develop new healthy habits that help us move forward in a positive, focused and rational way.
How do you stop Rumination?
There are numerous strategies that can help with rumination. You may need to try several strategies before you find the best one for you, but here are 5 steps and strategies that I recommend in my clinical practice that can help shift you out of your mind and away from obsessive thinking:
- Step 1: Make a commitment to yourself - be ready for change. Recognise that rumination is a lie and really commit to making a change, one that you're going to be determined to succeed in.
- Step 2: Notice your thoughts - recognise when you are ruminating. Get good at taking control of your ruminations. With practice you can actually stop your thoughts - tell yourself 'No, I'm not going to think about this now.' Say 'Stop. I'm not engaging right now!' Continually interrupt the pattern. Label it 'this is rumination' and attribute it to a pattern that does not serve you. This is especially helpful at those times when thoughts pop up, because we can't always control when those thoughts will pop up! But we can control how those thoughts develop, so by taking control of our thoughts, labelling it as unhelpful will stop it in its tracks. Keep practicing it and it will develop a new habit that serves you well!
- Step 3: If there is a problem that needs to be solved, schedule some time to do this in a solution focused way, to find the next step towards solving that issue. Put some time into your calendar during the day, (and this means you also help have a calmer mind at bedtime - because you've had some productive thinking during the day).Keep it nicely solution focused by writing your problems down on paper and make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. Once you have some solutions, ask yourself what's the next small step you would take towards solving one of them? It's not about solving everything at the same time, it's the first action or step that will help greatly.
- Step 4: Stop and go and do something different. Get yourself involved in the world and experiences around you, because as it has a positive impact on the chemicals in your mind and body, reducing stress hormones and boosting endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. Boosting your mood and helping you to shift your focus to the more positive and optimistic part of your brain. It might be going for that walk in a place you enjoy visiting, doing something that makes sure that you won't allow yourself to ruminate at the same time. Using mindfulness as you walk is a great way to do this, learning to use your brain to notice positive feelings and sensations. Think of your five senses, notice a visual sight that you really like, find a smell and enjoy it, feel one sensation, the wind or the sun on your face, a taste even - is it treating yourself to that ice cream and noticing the different sensations of taste as you enjoy it? Focus on sensory experiences as you walk and enjoy them.
- Step 5: Seeking out professional support. It's a really helpful way to make some positive changes to help you cope with stress, and anxiety which can lead to ruminating and depressive thoughts.
In my online hypnotherapy practice, I use a solution focused which combines positive talking therapy with hypnosis. It means that we have the advantage of being able to create positive changes subconsciously - because as you relax and listen, it helps you consider new solutions and possibilities from our discussions as you enter a natural trance state. It's a bit like day dreaming, but it allows us to bypass your logical, critical and analytical, conscious mind and speak directly to your unconscious mind in a language it understands, using associations and metaphors.
How does hypnotherapy work for Rumination?
If you're caught in the cycle of negative thinking and rumination, hypnotherapy can help you see things from a different perspective and resolve the thoughts and reactions that create rumination and worry. Hypnosis helps bring about therapeutic change at a subconscious level to your behavioural responses to everyday life. We'll work together focusing on positive solutions for moving forward so you feel happier, calmer, confident and back in control.
During hypnotherapy sessions, we avoid analysing problems, instead I help you learn to think in a solution focused way which helps reduce worry and anxious patterns of thought so you can begin to take control and stop ruminating.
The process begins with an initial consultation where we'll explore your concerns and understand the changes and best hopes for the future, so we can create a tailored approach approach for your needs.
Start by getting in touch to book a free initial chat so that we can explore your situation and decide if hypnotherapy will be right for you and what your personalised treatment plan might look like. Take your first step towards positive change now!