Mental rumination is a psychological phenomenon that appears as a symptom in many of the more common psychopathologies, although it can also occur as a form of discomfort in people without the disorder.
In fact, most people suffer from this disorder at some point in their life, to a greater or lesser degree, and there are those who have to deal with it relatively regularly. Fortunately, there are several things we can do to curb this unpleasant experience and to deal with it in a way that doesn’t wear out our sanity.
In this article you will find different solutions to the question: How to deal with mental rumination? But first, let’s start by defining this concept.
What is mental rumination?
As we have already argued, mental rumination is a psychological disorder linked to a feeling of discomfort but which does not in itself constitute a psychopathology. In fact, it is commonly present in psychological disorders as prevalent as depression or generalized anxiety.
But let’s be more specific: what is the embarrassing or even emotionally painful element of mental rumination? This phenomenon is manifested by the tendency to suffer from intrusive thoughts with the ability to disrupt them in some way, And that we can’t “kick” out of our head even though we feel we need to stop thinking about them.
The frustration engendered by mental rumination causes a vicious cycle: the discomfort causes us to keep trying desperately to distance ourselves from those ideas or images that appear in our consciousness, making it easier for them to come back to us again and again.
However, mental rumination should not be confused with rumination disorder: the latter is an eating disorder and consists of almost literal rumination of food ingested, so it has nothing to do with the topic. that we discuss in this article.
Characteristics of this phenomenon
The characteristic aspects of mental rumination are as follows.
1. Intrusive thoughts have a painful emotional charge
If an idea that comes to our mind over and over again does not turn out to be unpleasant, frustrating, sad, or anxious in some way, we cannot speak of mental rumination.
2. It is often associated with guilt
Intrusive thoughts often have to do with memories that make us feel guilty sort of. For example, someone who keeps thinking about what happened on a day when he disappointed his best friend a lot.
3. It usually causes trouble sleeping
The moments when we try to fall asleep are a magnet for the type of mental content upon which mental rumination is based. If anyone experiences this phenomenon, it is very likely that much of the time that your attention is fixed on these intrusive thoughts will be spent in bed..
How to deal with this problem?
Follow these tips to prevent mental rumination from affecting you significantly.
1. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a very useful set of exercises to deal with emotions that we generally think of as “negative”, and it’s also easy to learn. Indeed, many teams of psychologists focus a large part of our activity on the use of this therapeutic resource, both in sessions with patients and in the courses and workshops that we organize.
In short, mindfulness brings us to a state of consciousness where we focus on the here and now, without letting obsessions or worries drag us down and cause us to lose control.
2. Do moderate exercise
Exercise is a great way to relax because it draws our attention to very specific bodily sensations and very short term goals. In fact, a lot of research shows that aerobic exercise is a great anxiety reliever.
3. Use the thinking stop technique
This is a technique widely used in psychology to treat anxiety-related issues, although it must be repeated (i.e. practiced) several times to benefit from its effects.
When you feel that mental rumination begins to express itself, go to a quiet place and spend a few minutes deliberately thinking about these mental contents; there comes a time, you have to have planned in advance and set a deadline, say a keyword associated with ceasing the movement of your thought flow: For example, “End” or “Enough”, and let that concept freeze your mental activity. With that done, you can now continue with what you were doing.
4. Don’t try to block unpleasant thoughts completely.
It is one thing to try to stop the torrent of thoughts to curb the inertia of mental rumination, and it is quite another to seek to specifically suppress painful mental content; the latter is impossible, and if you try it you will not only be frustrated but also fuel mental rumination.
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- American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Cavall, V. (2010). Behavior modification manual. Guayaquil: University of Guayaquil.
- Magee, JC and Teachman, BA (2012). Affliction and recurrence of intrusive thoughts in younger and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 27 (1): p. 199 – 210.