Ruminations: Self help guide for repetitive thoughts

Have you ever experienced a particular thought, or multiple thoughts that don’t seem to stop repeating over and over inside your mind? If these thoughts are continuous, and often sad or upsetting, you may be experiencing ruminations. These thoughts can have knock on affects on other mental illnesses, such as worsening or prolonging depression, or inducing anxiety.

Firstly, try to consider why you may be having these thoughts. Could it be due to a past trauma? Do you feel you may eventually gain insight into a problem if you keep repeating the thought? Or perhaps you are suffering with stress which is out of your control. Whatever the reason, there are techniques you can use to try and limit the intensity and frequency of these ruminations. For maximum effectiveness, try to end the thoughts as soon as possible, the longer you let the rumination continue, the worse it will become. Before letting it spiral out of control, give some of these techniques a try:

Number one, learn your triggers. Even though it may sometimes feel like these negative thoughts are coming from nowhere, there are mental notes you can make to address the type of situation you are in. At the time of a rumination, identify what time of day it is, where you located, if you are alone or in company (with who?), and the activity you are doing. This is the beginning of discovering ways to avoid and manage future triggers for more ruminations.

Number two, question the thoughts. As mentioned before, sometimes we ruminate because something painful has happened or we feel we’ve messed up somehow. Try to put the negative though into perspective. Is this thought really accurate? Can we trust that the thought is true and necessary to be focussing on? Try your best to make sense of the thought, and then when you realise you can’t, let the thought go.

Number three, use a distraction. If you really can’t seem to invalidate the thoughts integrity, and it just wont go away, finding a distraction can be used to break the chain of thought. Try calling a friend or someone you trust, do some chores, paint a picture, read a book or go for a walk. Just try to give yourself some power back, when you are distracted doing something that makes you happy, the thought should eventually leave.

If none of these methods seem to help, do not worry. There are many more things you can try, such as meditation or lifestyle changes. If ruminations persist, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or mental health professional who can further assist you in reaching your goal.

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