10 Tips To Stop Ruminating
Ruminating means dwelling on a negative thought, feeling, or event. Some people ruminate so often or so intensely that it interferes with daily life. Luckily, you can take steps to stop ruminating, such as practicing mindfulness, grounding yourself, working on your self-esteem, addressing your core fears, and attending therapy.
Have you ever felt unable to stop dwelling on a negative thought, feeling, or event?
This type of overthinking is called rumination. Almost everyone ruminates from time to time. However, frequent, intense rumination can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. If you feel overwhelmed by repetitive thoughts, follow these 10 tips.
1. Practice Mindfulness
When caught in an endless loop of negative thinking, you might feel completely detached from the present moment. You can return to it by practicing mindfulness.
To do so, sit or lie down, and choose something to focus on, such as your breath. When a thought, feeling, or sensation arises, acknowledge it without judgment. Then, gently return your focus to your breath.
This practice puts distance between yourself and your thoughts. As a result, it can help you accept that the intrusive thoughts you ruminate on aren’t necessarily based in reality.
2. Ground Yourself
Like mindfulness, grounding is a technique that helps you focus on the present moment. It involves using your five senses to reconnect with the safety of your body.
One of the most popular grounding techniques is called the 5-4-3-2-1 method. To practice it, simply look around, and notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Other effective grounding techniques include stretching, smelling scented soap or candles, and putting your hands in water.
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3. Take A Walk
Studies show that both exercising and spending time in nature can decrease rumination in people with and without diagnosed mental illness. Both activities boost your sense of well-being and help you get out of your head. Try combining them by going for a walk. Even a short stroll can help clear your mind, allowing you to put your negative thoughts in perspective.
4. Distract Yourself
In some cases, you can distract yourself from a repetitive thought process. Some of the most effective distractions include:
- spending time with friends or family
- reading books
- watching movies
- playing games
- drawing, painting, or writing
These activities can take your mind off your anxieties and make your life more fulfilling.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
Rumination often stems from perfectionism. For example, if you aim to never make a single mistake at work, even the smallest error could send your mind spiraling. Similarly, someone with social anxiety might obsess about a perceived social blunder that other people didn’t even notice.
You can reduce this type of rumination by setting realistic expectations for yourself. Remember that everybody makes mistakes. If you start to fixate on a failure, treat yourself with the same compassion you’d offer a close friend.
6. Work On Your Self-Esteem
Research suggests that people with low self-esteem may be more likely to ruminate. Indeed, some of the most common repetitive thoughts involve feelings of shame, guilt, or worthlessness.
It takes time to strengthen your sense of self-worth. To get started, try:
- making time for relaxing, enjoyable activities
- appreciating your accomplishments
- forgiving yourself for past mistakes
- spending time with supportive loved ones
7. Address Your Core Fears
Many ruminative thoughts come from core fears that have lived in your brain for a long time. When you address these core fears, you may notice that you ruminate less.
For instance, you might frequently ruminate about whether people like you. These thoughts often reflect an intense, deep-rooted fear, such as the fear of being unlovable or the fear of dying alone.
You can learn to explore and manage your core fears by reading mental health books, attending support groups, or working with a therapist.
8. Make An Action Plan
Some people constantly ruminate on what might go wrong in the future. This form of rumination typically involves self-blame, hopelessness, and extreme anxiety. These feelings can quickly cloud your judgment, making it difficult to problem-solve.
The next time you start obsessing about a potential problem, write it down. Then, create a step-by-step action plan, keeping each step small, simple, and manageable. This type of planning can keep you calm and grounded in reality.
9. Reevaluate Your Social Media Use
You might find your rumination gets worse in response to certain triggers. Many people encounter triggers when scrolling social media. For instance, if you constantly read about negative events, you might struggle to stop thinking about them after you put your phone down.
You may also find yourself repetitively comparing yourself to the people you follow online.
If any social media pages leave you flooded with stressors or negative emotions, consider unfollowing them. You may also want to cut down on your overall time spent scrolling.
10. Consider Therapy
If the above tips don’t ease your rumination, consider contacting a mental health professional.
The right therapist can teach you coping strategies that meet your personal needs. One of the most effective types of therapy for rumination is called rumination-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Your therapist can also help you manage any mental health conditions that might be causing or worsening your rumination, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you or someone you love struggles with poor mental health, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one thrive.
- Frontiers in Psychology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5859016/
- Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312901/
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0146167212437250
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1510459112