Reading time: 4 minutes Feb 19th 2018

How to handle rumination

Recently, I was asked to talk about how to handle rumination. Rumination is the process whereby we think about something that makes us feel bad continuously. We go over and over it inside our head and continue to generate the negative feelings. But what is the difference between worry and rumination? How do we need to handle rumination to put a stop to it? What strategies can we use to change this pattern of thinking?

To start with, let’s look at understanding what rumination is and is not. The difference between worry and rumination can be seen as worrying being connected to the potential danger in the situation whereas rumination tends to involve us dwelling on the causes, consequences and the negative situation itself. Our worries involve thoughts of what bad things might happen in the future which we need to be aware of and possibly protect ourselves from. Rumination can include these as well but often we find ourselves stuck thinking about negative events in the past and we go over and over them in our mind.

To handle rumination there are a number of strategies that might come in handy:


Practice taking some time to simply be aware of the present and notice the rumination as separate to yourself. Observe yourself ruminating as if you were distant from it. Become aware of the environment around you and allow that to take your attention.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a number of useful tools that can help you with ruminating. You can start to question the rumination and explore the illogicality of your thinking. This can be of great value.


There are plenty of tools and strategies that you can find in NLP which can help you to stop ruminating. One example is to practice whiting out the ruminating images that you make as you make them. So as soon as you notice a negative ruminating image coming up, take the image and white it out. Keep doing this to train your mind to stop it.


Again, stemming from NLP, the original mantra suggested by Dr. Richard Bandler is whenever you find yourself thinking negatively to yourself to repeat ‘Shut the Fuck Up. Shut the Fuck Up.’ over and over again. This type of mantra and others that you can find here (in my Meta-Mantra YouTube video series) can really help you with this to stop the ruminating dead in its tracks.


I find it really useful to start talking out loud whenever I find myself ruminating. When I hear myself talk out loud I find myself doing my best to lead the out loud monologue to a satisfactory conclusion. Since one of the main problems with rumination is the lack of closure, getting to the conclusion is really helpful.


Another useful strategy is to start to break down the various parts of the situation that you are ruminating over and focus on one specific behaviour you can do about it. The mere fact that you are taking some kind of action makes it easier for you to feel better.


Understanding what triggers your rumination is critical. Once you know this then you can plan specific strategies of what you are going to do in the instance that these triggers set you off.

Lastly, the most important part of rumination is to understand what it is trying to help you to do and knowing to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Rumination is our brains attempt to solve problems that we cannot solve. Because of this, as soon you notice yourself doing it, ask yourself ‘what are the key lessons I can learn from this situation?’ Then, once you identify them, distract yourself and do something that keeps your brain occupied on something else.

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