This is part of some reflections I am putting together for myself, In order to comprehend where my moods come from, and more importantly, how I can train myself to choose a positive mood to be in, and function.
So, here is what I have found about rumination. I do it a lot... and it is a crippling habit that compound the problem of depression. But there's ways out of it....
What is rumination:
Here is what I have found:
It means obsessing about problems, about a loss, about any kind of a setback or ambiguity without moving past thought into the realm of action.
Rumination is comprised of two separate variables -- reflection and brooding. The reflection part of rumination can actually be somewhat helpful -- reflecting on a problem can lead you to a solution. Also, reflecting on certain events can help you process strong emotions associated with the issue. However, rumination in general, and brooding in particular, are associated with less proactive behavior and more of a negative mood.
[...] rumination can impair thinking and problem-solving, and drive away critical social support.
In work published in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Nolen-Hoeksema and Christopher Davis, PhD, found that although ruminators report reaching for others' aid more than nonruminators, they receive less of it. In fact, many of them report more social friction--"things like people telling them to buck up and get on with their lives," said Nolen-Hoeksema.
People might respond to a ruminator compassionately at first, but their compassion can wear thin if the rumination persists.
"After a while they get frustrated, and even hostile, and start pulling away, which of course as a ruminator gives you a whole lot more to ruminate about: 'Why are they abandoning me, why are they being so critical of me?'" said Nolen-Hoeksema.
[...] ruminators share some common characteristics. They often:
• Believe they're gaining insight through it.
• Have a history of trauma.
• Perceive that they face chronic, uncontrollable stressors.
• Exhibit personality characteristics such as perfectionism, neuroticism and excessive relational focus--"a tendency to so overvalue your relationships with others that you will sacrifice yourself to maintain them, no matter what the costs," Nolen-Hoeksema explained.
[...] rumination cycle breakers include:
• distraction, and time limiting rumination: you vent for say 5 minutes, and then you ask yourself to stop, and distract yourself with positive affirmations [repeated over and over again] or another activity, reminding yourself to stop each time your mind wonders to the rumination station.
• Taking small actions to begin solving problems.
• Reappraising negative perceptions of events and high expectations of others.
• Letting go of unhealthy or unattainable goals and developing multiple sources of self-esteem.
Anyway, all in all, as I understand it, there is a fine line, veeeeery fine, between 'reflecting on problems, and brooding. Why do we do it? Well, because, people around us have done it, our friends do it, etc. It's because we are trying to make sense of a problem, but in fact, we are just not paying enough attention to what we are actually saying about the problem. We are looking for causes, and blame, whether directed at others, or at things, or at ourselves, most of the time. But, the reality is, soon we fall into the rumination trap, and just get stuck at "why is this happening? this is so baaaaaad".
How to get out of it. Well, we can see that we can in fact, in the sort term, use the trick of distraction. We can also, stop hanging out with ruminators in our life, or at least ristrict the amount of time we spend with them. Etc.
But in the long run, I think it is partially about knowing what triggers this behavior. When we feel an emotion in the present, in reality, this emotion runs its course in about a 5 minute period, after that, we can use different techniques to calm ourselves down, and focus on problem solving. This takes training!
But to continue on the why rumination: it is what this event triggers inside our brain that usually makes us dwell on the problem. Past events, where we were unable to find a solution are really tricky, and sticky! They constantly come back to haunt us. But the thing is, if you know what these events were, you can, again with some training, relaxation techniques, come to realize how they retrigger you, in the present, and make a little problem, into a huge one.
So, I have started to make a list of all that's ever cause me to FEAR or be SAD in my life, to be aware of those past events that may come to haunt me again, when a present problem is here. So that I can check the list and see how my reflection is now turning to rumination about events that aren't even here anymore.
This is a start. But I am pretty sure that using all the tools at hand, and knowing that the brain is just another muscle, a very complex one, but that it can be trained to do new things. I can stop this crippling behavior.
If you notice your mind going down this track: ei 'why is this happening to me. I feel so sad. I can never find solution. This is hopeless. Things will never get better...' You are RUMINATING. And it's OK!!!!
Now you can
- change negative statements with positive ones, by learning a set of affirmations BY HEART.
- Distract yourself, if it's not the time for ruminating.
- or, if you do have time right now. STOP ruminating with
>your affirmations, and add other tools:
>Deep breathing with a count. In for five seconds, out for five seconds. This for ten breaths.
>a relaxation CD [like the body scan...]
- when you are calmer. then ask yourself how this episode relates to older triggers. Tell yourself that you are in fact thinking of the old stuff. See it. The resemblance in the situations. Now you know where it comes from
- then, if you feel you can do it. [you may need help from a therapist]. Ask yourself why are you sad/angry/fearful right now? In the present. This is tough. And then, what do you need to sooth yourself? A self-hug? A little cry? 5 minutes
- then, [again this isn't easy, but it can be don with help, or by yourself if you feel strong enough] if you are feeling strong and the ruminations are still at bay, ask yourself: how you can make your situation better right now, in the present, and in the near future. By yourself. With yourself. What actions can you take? Small actions. Make a plan. Remember that you can. There are solutions.
Example: I feel sad because I just saw C, and he was with another girl. I feel like I am not good enough and I will never find another man. Like I wasn't good enough, so I told myself many times before. But this isn't true. There are other guys out there. And I have found other guys... Now, I am going to go for a run. And later I will go to this little party. I will meet other people there. Besides, I know I feel good by myself. I don't need a guy. If I meet one, I will make sure I am just as part of the selection process as he is. I am evaluating him too! And I can say NO. [...]
Anyway, this is my little note to self about rumination. It's not complete, but it reminds me of what it is, why I do it, and how I can stop it.
Hope you've found this interesting.