The term ruminate means to run a thought over and over in your mind. This is the literal definition. Literally, this refers to cows ingesting their food in order to chew it repeatedly.
Rumination isn’t a diagnosis in and of itself. We see it in anxiety and depression. Rumination can cause people to become stuck in their thoughts, and even feel trapped in the negative aspects of their condition. Negative depressive thoughts may include: Why do I always get the short side of the stick? Why can’t everyone be happy?
Anxious ruminations are concerned with past events. For example, you might analyze past situations or worry about the impression that you made. Although you may not have thought much about it at the time, when you think back on the interaction and reflect on the interactions, the meaning of what she said changes. It’s often a negative one.
Both scenarios show repetitive, unhelpful and negative thinking. This is different than deconstructing past situations so you can process them and solve problems. Analyzing the past can be constructive, and you don’t have to dwell on the negative aspects.
Why is this happening?
This is thought to be due to the overactivation or default mode network in your brain. This was something I discussed in a video on mindfulness and depression. It is basically the brain’s default mode network that controls stimulus-independent thought. Another way to put it, the part of your brain that controls how you think about things when you aren’t actively focused on them. It is similar to background thought. Studies show that people feel more miserable if they spend too much time thinking. Functional MRI scans of brain activity reveal that ruminating is more common in brain networks.
What can you do?
There are two things. The first is to be more mindful. Mindfulness refers to the ability to be fully present in your situation without judgement. You can now focus your attention on what you are doing right now and how it affects all five senses. This is dependent thought. You have turned off your default mode network, where you spend a lot of time ruminating. The mindfulness video will provide more information on mindfulness. You can also download the body scan audio file that goes with this video.
You can also create an if/then plan. First, create a list of signs you are ruminating about. This is how you feel at the moment. You may lose track of your feelings and get lost in your thoughts. You may feel your heart racing, rocking, fidgeting or feeling like you’re having a hard time breathing. You can identify when you are in this state by taking note of the signs.
Next, you need to plan what to do if you start ruminating. Turn to something that will distract from your ruminating.
These activities can be very relaxing, such as listening to guided meditations or making crafts or adding entries to your gratitude journal.
Next, you will need to create your if/then statements using these two pieces. This information should be written down in order to make it official. It’s not a good idea to keep everything in your head. You’re trying to get it out of your head.
It is important to think of as many possible if/then scenarios. It is important to address all your rumination triggers. You may need to choose two or three activities for each sign so that you have a variety.
Mindfulness and Depression video
Berman MG. Peltier S. Nee DE. Kross E. Deldin PJ. Jonides J. Depression and rumination. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2011;6(5): 548-555.
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Disclaimer: The information contained on this channel is intended for education purposes only and does not constitute specific/personal medical advice. The videos and the answers to questions/comments do not create a doctor-patient relationship. These videos may be helpful for you if you are a patient of your own doctor.