Sometimes we can get entangled by old memories and their associated negative emotions. Of course self-reflection can be helpful, but rumination is pointless, endless and destructive. Dwelling on your old misfortunes and problems merely increases your distress. Perhaps you’re replaying old conversations you had with your ex, beating up on yourself up over something that you or they said. This type of memory just creates unnecessary chaos and unhappiness and hinders your ability to move on.
When you are, it can affect you in many ways. Research has found that ruminating over negative events makes you more likely to experience anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating or substance abuse. The longer and more often you think of those past problems, the harder it is to salvage your psychological well-being. Although it is a difficult cycle to break there are things you can do to feel better and behave in a more productive manner. Check out these five tips to stop ruminating, as shared by psychotherapist Stuart MacFarlane.
- Identify When It’s Happening
When you begin to replay that painful memory over again, learn to take note of when you’re doing it. The faster you notice yourself ruminating, the faster you can choose to do something more productive.
- Find Solutions
Dwelling on your problems is not helpful unless you are seeking to find a real solution. Ask yourself if you can actually do something to change the situation? If there is, facing the problem head-on might give you the clarity to empower you to move on. Take the time to learn from your mistakes, and to do what you can to solve the problem. And if there is nothing that you can do about it, of what use is ruminating?
- Schedule ‘Thinking’ Time
You mind needs a chance to process everything that goes on in daily life. Some people find it really helpful to build some alone time into their daily life. Adding some ‘creative thinking’ time into your daily routine can allow you to reorganize your thoughts so you can be more productive. Set aside a few minutes each day. You will notice the difference.
- Set Up Distractions
Some people find it helpful to set up distractions when they begin to notice negative ruminating. They exercise or call up a friend to chat about something completely different. Channeling energy into something more productive and useful has to be better than stewing over old negative memories.
- Be Mindful
Mindfulness is being aware in the present moment. Mindfulness techniques have been found to be very helpful in the process of letting go of old painful memories. Living in the present is constantly rejuvenating. Consider talking with a psychotherapist about doing a course in Mindfulness.