Rumination is when you have negative thoughts that obsessively cycle through your mind. These thoughts can be memories of painful, embarrassing, or traumatic events. They can also be negative evaluations of yourself like an opinion that you are stupid, ugly, or worthless.
Rumination sometimes has no basis in truth. The memories you experience have been changed or warped over time. The beliefs are filtered through your low self-esteem and are harsh in an unnecessary way.
People who engage in rumination have higher incidents of depression.
Rumination can be a triggering event for depression or it can be something that makes already existing depression worse.
It is important to learn skills that can help you to break the cycle of rumination to lessen its ability to trigger or worsen depression.
One way to break out of rumination is to distract yourself with things that make you feel good. This is individual to each person. Play with your pet. Play a video game. Listen to upbeat music. Be sure not to listen to sad or contemplative music which might feed the rumination.
If you have a positive person who can provide a distraction that is also an excellent choice. Play with your child. Chitchat with a friend. Make love with your partner.
Other distractions can be helpful as long as you don’t let them get out of hand. Work is a good example. Many people can use work as a distraction because of the focus that is required. However, if you lean too much on work you could drift into workaholic territory. Don’t replace one problem with a different one.
Better Self Talk
If your rumination is of the emotionally abusive variety, it is important that you learn to counter those thoughts with better self-talk. It can be difficult, at first, to stand up for yourself, but with practice, you will get better.
When your thoughts swirl around ideas critical of you, counter them with examples of where they are wrong. If you are trapped in compulsive thoughts of being stupid, remind yourself of times you did clever things or excelled academically. If your mind is telling you that you are worthless, remind it of ways you contribute to the world or to your family’s well-being. Remind it of the people who love you and need you.
Plan and Action
When your rumination is focused on bad memories, it is time to come up with a plan to handle those memories. Some memories are of things you messed up but can fix. Other memories are of things that you can’t change, so you need to find a way to accept and move on from them.
Whichever is required for you to release those memories and break the cycle of rumination, make a plan, and break it into small component parts.
If you are ruminating on the loss of a loved one, figure out how you can find acceptance. Maybe you need to write them a letter with all the things you were not able to say. Maybe you need to find a way to honor them with a memorial. Maybe a plague in their favorite park or a donation to a charity that mattered to them.
Whatever you decide to do, make a plan for it. If you are writing a letter, consider making it something special. Maybe order special stationery or plan to write it with a pen that the loved one gifted you. Put it into your schedule. Since it is likely to be emotional, you might want to schedule several writing sessions so that you can get everything out. Decide what you will do with the letter. You can keep it, burn it, drop it in the sea. Whatever feels like it would be a “mic drop” moment for you.
Once you have a plan, begin taking action. If you are getting special stationery, go online or go to a stationery store, if they still have those near you, and buy it.
Each time you start to ruminate, return to your plan, and execute another part of it. That is why it is so important to break the plan into small parts.
When you finish the plan, you should be able to break the cycle of rumination. When your mind tries to go back to the same old unsettled negative memories, you should force yourself to remember the steps you took for closure. Close your eyes and visualize them in vivid detail. Remember how it felt to finally let those feelings go.
Interrupting your rumination to remind your mind that you have dealt with this issue should help stop the ruminating on that issue.
Taking small steps toward breaking your cycle of rumination can help you lower the chances you will experience another episode of depression. Or if you have chronic depression it can help you to avoid sinking deeper into the darkness.