Are you a ruminator?

Have you ever had a situation happen, like a conflict or a stressful event, that you just couldn’t stop thinking about? Even days or weeks after this event happened, do you find yourself still thinking about what you could’ve done or should’ve done differently? If this description applies to you, then chances are you’re a ruminator. Don’t fret. A majority of people ruminate on their issues. The question to ask is, “when does ruminating become a problem?”

Graphic by Katie Gibson.
Are you a ruminator? Graphic by Katie Gibson.

Rumination is similar to worry in that it’s associated with anxiety and with feeling bad. Rumination, however, is concerned with events in the past, whereas worry is concerned with events that may happen in the future. Rumination is a negative style of self-reflection.

When does ruminating become a problem? The pathology behind it has been linked to clinical depression. When you start to ruminate over the past to the point where you lose interest in activities you loved, you feel very sad, you’re no longer able to effectively problem solve and you’re attention is always focused on something that happened in the past, this is when ruminating becomes a problem. People who ruminate tend to reflect on past situations in a negative light and this cycle constantly has them negatively interpreting issues in their current situation.

Ruminating can put people in a negative cycle of thinking, but it doesn’t have to stay like that. If you’re a ruminator, you can learn to stop by doing a few simple tasks. The first step you can take is to start engaging in activities that foster positive thoughts instead of dwelling on negative thoughts. Try to engage in an activity that makes you happy and make it part of your daily routine.

Another wonderful tactic that ruminators can use is engaging in positive self-reflection. When a situation happens that’s distressing, instead of thinking about it in a negative light, try to look for the positives and focus on what can be changed about the situation. Because constant rumination can hinder problem solving, it might be helpful to brainstorm with a friend about how a situation can be changed.

A lot of people ruminate, but when it starts interfering with your life in a way that it hinders your ability to cope, that’s when it becomes a problem. You can start taking steps right now to get out of that negative cycle. If you want to learn more about ruminating, you can read this article from Psych Central.