Rumination is like a Hamster on the Wheel – A Never-Ending Loop that Takes you Nowhere

Lots of times, we get stuck with a plethora of unending and overwhelming thoughts.  They are usually negative, lined with bad memories, triggered by our mood, focused on past regrets or “what if’s”, and hold a distorted or pessimistic perspective of ourselves or others.  Some find negative emotions and thoughts as simply being a healthy and natural process of working through issues.  Others find their ruminations burdensome, and if left unchecked, breed more gloom and gather more speed, blasting away any withering positive inner voice, hiding some place in the wilderness.

As the mindset adapts to pessimistic thoughts and negativity, the software program in your head becomes routine and increasingly one-sided.  You may find yourself to be the person you never wanted to be, or you become the one your mother warned you about; you are unhappy, negative, depressed, and your mind no longer captures positive thoughts, or a more objective perspective in dealing with its difficulties.  There is no insight gained.  There is no problem-solving.  It is simply a matter of mind control from within.  Your inner voice needs some repair!!

Most negative ruminations are truly an unending journey and a waste of time.  So, how can you stop the spinning of the hamster treadmill?

  1. The first step is to recognize or gain insight into your ruminating.  Be an observer of yourself and watch when you ruminate?  How often?  When?  Where?  What about? Are there any solutions conjured up while you ruminate, or does it lead to a dead end, and likely picked up later? How does it impact your mood?  Does it bring about depression, or worry, or anger; and if so, how helpful are those emotions?  How much don’t you get accomplished by your ruminating?  What are the triggers?  What other things does it impact – your sleeping? – your relationships? – your self-esteem? – your happiness? 
  2. Take back your life!  Once you realize you are ruminating, remove that thought NOW!!  Definitely not easy, but it helps for the moment; – use distraction – focus on the opposite emotion and strive towards it, go to another topic or activity, talk to someone about something else or create or expand your hobbies and interests
  3. When you are ready, commit to changing the software program one step at a time; think differently, challenge old negative thoughts, locate those positives that have been hiding in the wilderness way too long,  stop worrying and focus on what you can control, work on forgiving yourself or others, learn from vs. obsess on regrets, live today and enjoy the moment.  No one said it was easy to change software programming, but truly it has got to be better than having a fatalistic, non-stop, never-ending wheel of burdening thoughts.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW