The human brain is the best ever simulator. It simulates everything. If you have to get a glass of water for yourself, first you will simulate getting up from your chair, getting a glass, walking to the fridge, taking out the bottle, pouring water in the glass and drinking it and then do all of these actions. We simulate going for a class before we do, we simulate a conversation before we have it, we even simulate feeling rejected even before we go and approach someone.
This brilliant piece of technology, which allows us to come up with solutions for complex problems has a flip side. It can take a past failure and put it into a future scenario simulating a failure there too.
This human tendency to obsess, trying to work things out in one’s mind, is common. When these thoughts turn more negative and brooding, that’s known as rumination.
Rumination is rather common – according to a poll conducted by Elizabeth Scott, a research scholar, roughly 95% of responding readers find themselves in rumination mode either sometimes or often – and it is harmful to physical and emotional well-being.
Your mind rehearses the step-by-step of what led to that feeling where you got hurt, were humiliated and made to feel awful about yourself.
According to Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor at Yale University, research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including hypertension, depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and binge-eating.
So what can be done to stop ruminating?
- Identify the thought or fear. What is your biggest fear? Maybe you are just afraid of looking foolish in front of others. Journaling can be a great way to clarify the underlying fear. Once you understand why you do it, it is easier to control it.
- Reframe. Most thoughts are ‘cerebral noise‘ or ‘mind junk‘ rather than important data that must be examined carefully.
- Unresolved Issues. When your unconscious mind thinks that something is unresolved, it brings it to the fore whenever it feels that you have time to resolve it. This is called the Default Mode Network of the brain. Sometimes the only thing that you need to do to stop revisiting of the incident again and again is acceptance. That’s all. This happened… This is what I have learnt… Case Closed.
- Let go of what you can’t control. Strive to relinquish the need for control and certainty. The quest for both may seem irresistible and compelling at the moment, but, over time, it is entirely futile and merely perpetuates worry. Ask yourself ‘what can I change, if anything?‘ If you cannot change it, there is no point wasting effort and time on it, right? Just let it go.
- Schedule a worry break. Schedule 20 to 30 minutes a day to worry and make the most of it. This allows for a time and place to think about all your biggest insecurities while containing it to a specific period of time. When those thoughts come up at other times of the day, remind yourself that you will have time to contemplate later.
- NLP & Mindfulness. Learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Mindfulness techniques that encourage being a passive observer of worried thoughts rather than having to be an active participant in the worrying process. For example, picture your worried thought written on a banner pulled by an airplane and watch it fly around your mind without reacting to it; or, picture your worries as bubbles that burst as they rise into your consciousness; or, picture your worries as sticks in a stream floating with the flow.
- Since the mind and body are part of a system, if you activate one, the other is affected. Go for a walk. A change of scenery can disrupt our thoughts and give you a new perspective.
- Talk to a Counsellor. If ruminative thoughts are interfering with living the life you want to live, consider reaching out. Counseling is a great way to learn how to use these techniques with the help and guidance of a professional.
Like any new skill, working on issues takes practice. Remember you don’t have to do it all at once. This is not a linear process and frankly, a certain amount of fear and anxiety is normal. However, if ruminative thoughts are interfering with living the life you want to live, consider reaching out for help – find yourself an NLP Practitioner, Counsellor or Coach. Therapy is a great way to learn how to get rid of rumination with the help and guidance of a professional.
‘Just imagine how happy you’d be if you lost everything you have right now… and then got it all back.’ – Bertrand Russell