Rumination is a negative thought pattern where you keep thinking about bad things that happened in the past or bad things that might happen in the future. You might keep thinking about past mistakes, perhaps a time you did something embarrassing that you wish you could undo. You may replay arguments, thinking of things you should have said so you can get it right next time. You might spend a lot of time thinking about problems you might have in the future and how to deal with them. A common characteristic of rumination is that it’s repetitive and somewhat compulsive and it invariably makes you feel worse. Rumination is a common habit of people with depression and anxiety disorders. Rumination is really just a way of pacing yourself into a mental rut. Here are some suggestions for breaking the habit.

Notice when you’re ruminating.

The first thing is to notice when you’re ruminating. This sounds simple, but it’s easy to get so caught up in your rumination that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. When you do catch yourself ruminating, see if you can figure out what led to it. Often, rumination begins with a cue, some topic we’re sore about. When you learn to recognize those cues, you can interrupt rumination before it gains momentum.

Ask, “Is this helpling?”

Rumination typically perpetuates itself under the pretense of solving a problem. You think that if you can just analyze what went wrong in the past, you can avoid the same mistakes in the future. While it’s great to learn from your mistakes, rumination never accomplishes that. If you pay attention to the course of your ruminations, you’ll usually find you’re just retracing your own steps and never making any progress. If you catch yourself ruminating, ask if it’s really helping. Typically, rumination only makes you more anxious and depressed.

Ground yourself in the present.

Rumination is always about the past or the future but you can’t do anything in the past or future. You can only act in the present. And if you ground yourself in the present, you can’t also ruminate. The simplest way to ground yourself in the present is just to pay attention to your senses. Listen to the sounds around you or feel your weight in your chair. Take a few breaths and see how it feels. These simple acts can bring your mind back to what you’re doing. You can supercharge this with a meditation practice, which is all about keeping your mind in the present.

Write it out.

One reason your brain keeps going over whatever it is you’re worried about is that it doesn’t want to forget something it thinks is important and repetition is the best way to remember. However, as noted above, this isn’t especially helpful and is actually harmful. One way out of the trap is to write about whatever is on your mind. Just writing something down gives your brain permission to stop thinking about it. Even better, writing about it gives you a chance to analyze and expand on something that is obviously bothering you. Instead of making yourself depressed, you can actually explore the experience and learn from it.

At Alta Lama Transformational Services, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Lama uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.