Expressive WritingSome people write an angry letter that they later burn. Others write about their feelings and brainstorm solutions. A few even write books or short stories that express their feelings and combat rumination. Regardless of the form it takes, many people have found journaling and expressive writing helpful in letting go of stress and negative emotions. Research confirms that expressive writing can be helpful for the stressed: One study showed that expressive writing was effective in reducing symptoms of depression among those with a tendency toward brooding and rumination.
MeditationIt seems that everyone from Oprah to Sting is touting the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for stress relief, and for good reason. A key ingredient of meditation is a focus on the present. When you actively focus on the present moment and gently prevent your mind from fixating on past events or future fears, it’s much easier to let go of negative emotions surrounding these things. Research confirms that meditation-based stress management practices reduce stress and rumination, and also enhance one’s tendency toward forgiveness, which brings its own rewards.
Change Your ThoughtsThe basis of cognitive therapy is that the way you think about an event can shape the emotional response that you have in a given situation. For example, if you perceive a situation to be a ‘threat,’ you will have a different emotional (and therefore physical) response than if you viewed the same situation as a ‘challenge.’ This assertion has been supported by research as well. Looking at a situation from a new lens, rather than just dwelling on the negative, can help with anger management and lowering one’s stress response. Once you understand how your thoughts color your experiences, you can use this information to reduce stress with a process known as cognitive restructuring.
- Cognitive Therapy for Stress
- Cognitive Distortions--Stress-Prone Thinking
- Cognitive Restructuring--Change Your Thoughts!
Change Your BehaviorYou can also change your feelings by changing your behavior -- taking the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach. You can do this in a few different ways. Perhaps the simplest is to make conscious choices to add some new stress management activities to your life: Get regular exercise, practice meditation a few times a week, or have a hobby that helps you relieve stress. Another effective strategy is to change your behavior when you find yourself dwelling on the negative: Actively get involved in doing something that will take your mind off of what’s stressing you. If you’d like to take a more structured approach, behavior therapy has been found to be more than 80% effective in treating ruminative tendencies, and is considered the ‘mainstay’ of treatment; it works relatively quickly, and you may find it to be very effective. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is another effective form of treatment, which combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. This type of intervention alone, or combined with SSRI medication, has been found helpful for depressed patients who tend to ruminate.
Find Additional Stress Reduction Resources
What areas of your life seem to lead to rumination, and what seems to help you with letting go? Share your experiences and tips, and see what other readers have to say. Scroll down and add to the Reader Responses.
Sources: Attri N, Ravipati M, Agrawal P, Healy C, Feller A. Rumination syndrome: an emerging case scenario. Southern Medical Journal April, 2008.
Ray RD, Wilhelm FH, Gross JJ. All in the mind's eye? Anger rumination and reappraisal. Journal of personality and social psychology. January, 2008.
Sloan DM, Marx BP, Epstein EM, Dobbs JL. Expressive writing buffers against maladaptive rumination. Emotion. April, 2008.
Wilkinson PO, Goodyer IM. The effects of cognitive-behavioural therapy on mood-related ruminative response style in depressed adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health. January, 2008.