Rumination differs from regular thinking in that it's negative and repetitive--your mind becomes like a tenacious dog not wanting to let go of a bone--and it tends to solve nothing; you focus on problems and fixate on the negative feelings, but don't find solutions, emotional or practical, to get out of the loop, so you're 'stuck' marinating in the negative experience of it all.
Rumination can be especially hard on you because your body reacts the same to your thoughts about negative events as it would to the event itself--it's like you're constantly reliving the stress of these experiences, and repeatedly reacting to it. You put yourself into a state of chronic stress.
It's hard to stop ruminating once you've started, though, for a few reasons:
- It becomes automatic. We often start ruminating and only realize we're doing it a few minutes later, after we've been ruminating for a while.
- It seems helpful at first. Rumination begins as an honest attempt to work through a problem, and find a solution. We just get 'stuck' into a negative cycle of circular thinking along the way.
- It feels good, in some ways. We like the feeling of being right, and rumination often involves telling ourselves we are, and it's the other person or situation that's wrong or unfair. It feels good in the short term, but leads to a stress response that later doesn't feel so great. But then we're stuck.
Additional Rumination Resources:
Do you find yourself stuck in rumination mode? What do you tend to ruminate about? What helps you stop? Write your thoughts and tips in the comments section.