Rumination is a name clinicians use for dwelling on or thinking too much about upsetting issues or difficulties (usually in the past).

Everyone ruminates about problems to some degree and it can be helpful if it stops when a solution is found. Rumination becomes unhelpful, however, when someone focuses repeatedly on what has gone wrong rather than on problem-solving.

  • Why are things always going wrong?
  • Why are people against me?
  • Why did he do that to me?
  • What’s wrong with me?
  • I should have done it differently.

When this kind of negative thinking becomes a habit it can just go round and round in a circle. This can lead to someone feeling very low and distressed and ‘trapped’ in their own thoughts.

8 strategies to help stop rumination

1. Let go of things you can’t change or control
Will your ruminating actually make anything better? If not, try to let it go. Ruminating about things in the past will only distress you and stop you from living in the present. If there are any things you can change use some practical problemsolving and set yourself some small goals.

2. Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is a very effective technique in helping to combat rumination. It works
by re-focusing thoughts back to the present moment. Practise mindfulness when
doing everyday tasks – ask yourself what you can hear, feel, smell, see and taste. Or,
you could look for a course.

3. Take time to relax everyday
Practising relaxation and breathing techniques can help you feel calmer, help to
combat the symptoms of depression and improve sleep. Try different ways to relax
such as yoga, aromatherapy or meditation.

4. Take some moderate exercise
Take a walk or go for a run or a swim – it will help to calm your mind and re-focus
your thoughts back to the here and now.

5. Learn from mistakes
Failing and making mistakes, sometimes, is part of life. Instead of ruminating for too
long try to learn a valuable lesson from any mistakes you make so that you can
improve any future experiences. For example, if a job interview doesn’t go well – get
some feedback so that you make some positive changes and improve your chances
of success next time.

6. Use a problem-solving technique
Set aside a time each day to tackle your worrying (15 minutes in the evening is ideal).
If you find yourself worrying during the day – stop yourself – and delay your worrying
until later. Use a problem-solving technique to tackle any practical problems – while
deciding to let go of things you can’t change.

7. Get a good night’s sleep
Rumination can often cause sleep problems – improving your sleep patterns can help
you feel stronger and cope better.

8. Create a list of things you can do instead
Create some lists of positive things – activities you enjoy and things you like to think
about:

  • Walking in nature, craft activities, cooking a favourite dish, going to a café,
    listening to some upbeat music, watching a funny movie, talking to a friend.
  • Positive thoughts, good experiences, compliments, things you are grateful for, achievements.

When you find yourself ruminating use the lists to find an alternative activity or something more positive to think about that will boost your mood.