Every organ in our body has a specic function which warrants its existence. The mind is no different with its main purpose being to think, process and understand. It will think about things that are relevant and important to us and will equally consider trivial, mindless things. Its full-time job is to think, but that doesn’t mean that all the thoughts we have are valuable to us and warrant attention. We need to use self-awareness to distinguish between the thoughts that are helpful and motivating for us to move in a positive direction, versus those that swirl around aimlessly in our mind resulting in an endless sense of worry, and repetitive loop anxiety.
Rumination and Reflection
The two self-awareness types described are called reflection and rumination, and they discern the quality and quantity of our thoughts. Reflection and rumination both originate from the same internal source of self-focus; however, they are different in terms of their intention. Rumination is a self-focused perception of the threats to your life; loss, regret, unfair social comparison, or unpacking injustice. It is laden with an undertone of psychological distress, anxiety and endless worry. In contrast, reflection is a curious, open-minded and non-judgmental observation of self (Trapnell and Campbell, 1999). In both cases, our mind is doing its work of contemplating, but the outcome is completely different.
We all know that from self-preservation and societal influence our minds are programmed to look for the negative in all aspects of our life, this means our minds will naturally spend more energy and attention on rumination than on non-judgemental reflection. But is ruminating beneficial to us?
If you are ruminating to understand a past disappointment, frustration or angry moment, it serves you for a certain time but generally, once we start to ruminate we can’t stop which results in us overthinking and isolating ourselves. What follows is a vicious, negative downward spiral. Overthinking doesn’t solve any problems. In actual fact, quite the contrary happens – it worsens the situation, makes you miserable, hampers your decision-making ability, impairs your concentration, and drains your energy. It certainly won’t bring out the best in you.
Making the Shift from Rumination
When you are in the vortex of rumination, you feel pushed and pulled in all directions and you will need to become self-aware that only you have the autonomy to halt the process and step away from it. As a starting point, give yourself permission to stop overthinking things, shift to a more reflective mindset, and work out how you can think about these ruminating thoughts in a positive light.
I am going to share various techniques to stop ruminating. Try one and see if it resonates with you; if it doesn’t, move on and experiment with another one until you find your personal t.
We all ruminate in our lives but having techniques will assist you to move out of the overthinking space faster to a place of reflection and balance.