Rumination is the habit of dwelling on negative thoughts about the past or worries about the future. Originating from “ruminate,” the word describes what cows do when they regurgitate their food and chew it again. Rumination is essentially regurgitating some old memory and going over it again and again. Not only is rumination an irritating habit, it can have serious effects on your mental health. Ruminators develop major depression at a rate four times higher than non-ruminators and rumination actually impairs your problem-solving ability and your social connection. Therefore, getting your tendency to ruminate under control is essential, especially if you are recovering from addiction. Unfortunately, rumination is inherently hard to stop. Here are some tips for overcoming it.
Recognize When You’re Ruminating
Awareness is the first step in solving any problem. However, this is often more difficult than it sounds as you can become so invested in rumination that you don’t even notice you’re doing it. Learning to recognize rumination builds metacognitive awareness and it’s the first step in interrupting the cycle. Pay attention to the tension in your body and the thought patterns that simultaneously take place. Recognize what it feels like physically and mentally when you are engaging in rumination.
Accept That It Won’t Help
Part of what makes rumination so hard to stop is that we feel like we’re working on solving a problem. Something reminds you of an argument you had three months ago and before you know it, you’re rehearsing all the things you should have said. At some level, you believe you will have another bite at that particular apple and when that happens, you have to be prepared. The problem is that this kind of thinking is total nonsense. You’re probably not going to have that same argument again and if you do, it certainly won’t go according to plan. Letting go of rumination feels like letting go of control over the future but you never had control, to begin with. By ruminating, you’re only impairing your own ability to solve problems presently, as you are wasting all your time stuck in your head.
Rumination is always a process of going over something that happened in the past or trying to prepare for something you’re worried about in the future. One way to get yourself out of that headspace is to bring your attention to the present. The simplest way to do this is to take a few slow, deep breaths and notice the sensations. Another way is to ground yourself using your senses. You might, for example, listen to how many distinct sounds you can hear in this moment.
Preoccupation with a problem, either from the past or the future, can be interrupted by the decision to take some sort of action. Your chosen action can be as large or as small as you feel necessary. The important thing is to stop thinking and start doing. If you’re ruminating over some argument you had with a friend, you can send a text apologizing. If you’re worried about getting laid off from your job, update your resume or have a look at job listings. Taking action both relieves your anxiety and moves you toward an actual solution.
Overcoming rumination takes time and practice. Like most life changes, progress may not be linear. The important thing is to be consistent and keep at it. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, our program is action-oriented. In addition to therapy and other mental health elements, we help men get active and learn teamwork. To learn more about our unique addiction treatment program, call us today at 855-202-2138.