How to stop ruminating thoughts
Is your mind constantly buzzing with the same burdening thoughts?
You try to shake them off - but you can’t.
It just goes on and on and on. All the wrong choices. All the past mistakes; all the right things you should’ve said - but didn’t.
It’s okay to go back a few steps and learn from your mistakes.
But if you’re toying around with all the coulda, shoulda, woulda for years, then you’re not doing yourself a favor - actually, you may be the victim of your own ruminating thoughts.
Rumination is an act of obsessive thinking. It’s not exactly the same as worrying or overthinking and it’s not quite like having OCD thoughts - most of the time, you’re ruminating about the past.
In other words, you’re obsessing about a past event or a past situation that can’t be changed, no matter how hard you think about it. let me tell you, we’ve all done it! It’s so easy to fall into the rumination trap and I know it feels almost impossible to get out of it.
However, nothing good comes out of obsessing about the past.
Give yourself a break - and start enjoying the now a bit more.
Join me here as we talk more about how to stop ruminating thoughts and what you can do to get back your own peace of mind.
What is rumination really?
Rumination isn’t the same as worrying.
Worrying focuses more on the what ifs - where rumination is fixated on what has already been.
Rumination stems from the brain’s desire to keep you busy - and it plays on your desire to change the impossible. Your brain likes to keep busy and likes to solve problems, even if those problems are well - in the past.
Those prone to negative thinking are easy targets for ruminating thoughts - and that’s what makes rumination so difficult to deal with.
How to stop ruminating thoughts
Refusing to give in to your ruminating thoughts is difficult - I’ll give you that! - but it’s not impossible.
Here are some tips to help you learn how to stop ruminating thoughts
1. Let the past stay in the past
This is the biggest cliche ever but seriously - let the past stay in the past.
Obsessing gets you going in a tunnel vision mode where you we can’t focus on anything else but the traumatizing event.
Make a rational deal with yourself - rumination is not a way to heal past trauma. There are other, healthier options to explore that will actually help you feel good.
Stop blaming yourself for your past mistakes. Approach your past self with empathy.
Most people don’t make the wrong decisions on purpose. You did what you thought best at the time. If you knew what you know today, would you have made that mistake?
2. Encourage positive thoughts
Rumination happens when most of our thoughts are negative.
Negative thoughts are so overwhelming, they make you feel lonely and isolated, even if that’s not necessarily true.
Since negativity tricks you into believing you’re lonely, you won’t share feelings with others. You feel stuck. You can’t see your way out of your problems.
Don’t let your own thoughts manipulate you - you control them.
Change the way you think. Practice positive affirmations - use them in everyday life. Welcome positive thoughts into your life. The glass is always half-full, as long as you choose to see it like that.
3. Take a different angle
Don’t believe everything the brain is saying. Ruminating isn’t the most effective problem-solving strategy.
The thing is, when we’re stuck in the rumination circle We only look at the problem from one side, and that’s getting us nowhere.
Trust me when I say, there are other, healthier ways of dealing with problems.
The easiest one? Talk to someone - see what they think. Or try seeing it from the third-person perspective - what would you say if a friend had your problem?
You’d often come to realize that the problem wasn’t in the problem itself but in the way you thought of it.
4. The STOP method
The STOP method is great when we sense things are getting out of hand.
The rules are pretty simple: each time you catch yourself ruminating, tell yourself to stop, loud and clear. That’s it - and that’s enough to give you some sense of control over your mind.
Alternatively, if telling yourself to stop isn’t doing the trick, consider this: put a rubber band around your wrist. Each time you ruminate, gently snap the rubber and say stop. Be careful not to hurt yourself though!
This acts both as a distraction and as a physical cue for your brain to snap out of it.
5. Decide on rumination time
I know what it feels like when your mind gets into this can’t stop, won’t stop attitude.
So don’t try to resist it. Let it have what it wants - but on your own terms.
Instead of allowing ruminating thoughts to take over your whole day, decide on a time you’ll be allowed to ruminate.
Appoint yourself an hour per day for thinking. Pick a time when you’re in a good mood - though don’t choose the time right before going to bed.
Next time you get the urge to ruminate, tell yourself to save it for that hour of the day.
Once your “thinking hour” comes around, you’ll realize that a) your problems aren’t really as bad as you thought and b) you don’t even need or want to think about them now!
6. Expand your life
The brain likes to keep busy. And if you don’t give the brain something to do, it sort of creates problems of its own to solve.
Find a distraction - find a new hobby or learn a new skill. Expand your life. Introduce some novelty to it.
Your brain will be busy and you get to look forward to something - it’s a win-win combination that comes with a lot of happy thoughts.
This isn’t to say you should ignore your woes. Think of it like taking a brain rest. You can’t solve a problem by obsessively thinking about it 24/7 anyway.
7. Come up with a new narrative for your life
Sometimes, so it happens that the way we think of our own life is our biggest obstacle to happiness - and not our current situation as it is.
But you wouldn’t be the person you are today if it weren’t for your past, right?
Change the way you tell your story. Find the meaning behind your past. See if you can empower someone else going through the same thing. whatever you do, always be thankful for your experiences, both good and bad, and let them go. Jot down your own narrative - and this time, jot down what YOU want.
What do you do to stop ruminating thoughts? How do you deal with past emotional baggage? Leave me a comment and let me know - I’d love to see what you do to heal!