Well if you are like me I came across the word ruminate way back when at school. The word describes how cows chew the cud over and over and over……
So, when we get stuck in loops of negative thinking, maybe about past mistakes, lost relationships or anything that leaves us feeling negative, this is what psychology researches call rumination.
This rumination is said to lead to things like anxiety, depression and poorer mental health overall. It may disturb your sleep as the mind goes over and over things. It literally keeps us stuck, paralyses us and prevents us from solving the problem, or from moving on. It may even start to isolate us from family and friends just because we may worry further about bringing the same problem over and over. That ‘thing’ we just cannot get around.
So why do we ruminate?
There is evidence that it may simply be a strategy adopted to try and cope with the emotions of worry or regret. However, it focuses on the why/what? We might ask – what did I do wrong? what if I had/hadn’t done this/that? why did that happen to me? rather than the more practical thoughts such as how? Therefore, keeping us in this constant loop.
Now for the science bit!
So just think of a road map. On that map you going from A to B and you plan the route. The first time you go there everything is new and a little bit uncertain. Now think how you would feel if you went the same way for years and years. You wouldn’t need that map anymore, you could almost do it without thinking couldn’t you? Well, this is exactly the same for your brain. When we think those thoughts that cause us discomfort we are actually training our brain to think of them easier and more frequent. The neural pathways get strengthened.
So what can I do about it?
Yes! there are things you can do about it. You could:
- Engage in activities that promote positive thoughts. This could be physical activity, a hobby or meditation.
- Schedule a worry break. Maybe take half an hour to give yourself the time and space to think about it. At other times tell yourself you can worry later.
- Healthy self-disclosure with a professional can reduce stress and rumination as it leads to greater insights and understanding about the source of the problems.
So if thoughts are getting you down, stopping you from moving forward or taking up too much time in your life counselling may be for you.
If you feel it is, please get in touch and we can start looking forward instead of looking behind!