Rumination, That Thought That Just Keeps On Giving...

Rumination is described as repeated thoughts about something that occurred or of a problem that we are trying to solve. Typically though, rumination is also about replaying a negative event arising from feelings of guilt and regret.

Ruminating over good things can be helpful as it allows us to find a solution. Conversely, ruminating as a result of guilt and/or regret is bad for us and will often lead to anxiety and/or depression.

The number one way of avoiding rumination, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, is to talk with someone about it. Why, because the longer we keep 'thinking' about something without some form of control the higher the chance that it will end in negative rumination as our brain goes into our memory to find the solution from past experience.

As we know, around 80% of our memory is of negative things which, evolutionary, was designed to keep us safe from danger.

Doing nothing is not an option when it comes to rumination. Doing nothing will only increase rumination. Research is overwhelming in the finding that socialisation, talking with others, is critical if we want to stop rumination and to move on with our life.

Socialisation is hardwired into our brains. If you want to see how socialisation operates, the next time that you are talking with a friend and in deep conversation, turn your head and look away as they are speaking. What happens, the other person stops talking or talks louder to regain your attention.

It makes no difference, apparently, who we talk to. A friend, a mentor, a spiritual adviser, a family member, or even a pet. All are helpful. I would suggest a good friend or family member because they may be able to give you both emotional support and solid advice whereas I doubt that your pet could give you any advice whatsoever. (No offence to pet lovers).

Talking may not make the problem go away but what it will do is lessen the emotional pain as it is never a good thing to hold onto negative thoughts. Holding on to negative thoughts only exaggerates them.

What if you don’t want to, or can’t talk to anyone about what you are ruminating over? There is another option described by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The Myths of Happiness. In very new research, it is suggested that we should go through the event in our mind as though we are seeing it through someone else’s eyes.

Sonja terms it ‘the fly on the wall’ view. According to her findings, seeing an event from a distance allows us to replay the event without rehashing the emotional connection. Replaying an event in this way has the same effect as speaking with someone.

Essentially then, a problem shared is indeed a problem halved, whether it is with another person or with ourselves viewing it from a distance.

Let’s talk!