How to Stop Ruminating

Have you ever heard of the term ruminating? It is something that a cow does when it chews is foods over and over again. Even though we depressives are not cows, we tend to do the same thing with our thoughts and chew on them. And these thoughts tend to be negative.

For example, have you ever caught yourself going over same thought over and over again. Perhaps it was the breakup of your marriage, or another major loss. Perhaps it was a bad decision you made about your career or an investment that went south. Ruminating over and over again reinforces the same sad feelings and digs you deeper and deeper into a ditch that it is hard to get out of.

If you find yourself excessively I have good news. There is a simple two=step process that you can use to break the habit that I am going to share with you. It comes from a book “The Depression Cure” written by Stephen Illardi.

Step 1 is learn to notice when you are ruminating. Increasing your awareness of rumination begins by checking in with yourself every hour or to monitor your thoughts and see what you have been paying attention to. You can do this by setting a timer on your smart phone or one in the house to ring once an hour, and then make a note of what you are thinking about on a 1-10 scale. For example, if you spent 50 minutes in lying in bed, you would rate your rumination an 8 out of 10, while having tea with a friend would score as a 3 out of 10.

This leads us to step two, which is based on a simple but powerful fact—that people tend ruminate and feel the worst when they have nothing else to occupy their attention.

The antidote to this is to redirect your attention and turn away from the inner world of thought and memories to the outer world of other people and activities. Simply put this means less thinking and more doing. And the best activities are those that involve other people, For there is something about the presence of another person that makes us less likely to turn inward.

Now we can see why the depressed person’s tendency to isolate and withdraw–is so counterproductive. Because not having people to connect to amplifies the rumination process, and in turn makes the depression worse.

Activities with other people could involve walking with a friend, seeing a movie, going on a bile ride, etc.  Other ways of turning your attention outward include listening to music or books on tape, watching videos, or playing with children.

Distraction such as these can be very helpful.  As long as you don’t overdue them. 

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