During everyday chaos, you’ve probably been caught in a mental loop, where thoughts persist like a broken record. Imagine being at your desk, trying to concentrate, but your mind repeatedly insists on returning to the same worry. This phenomenon is known as ruminative thoughts and has a profound impact on our mental health.
WHAT ARE RUMINATING THOUGHTS?
Ruminating thoughts are like mental imprints that circulate repeatedly in our heads. They are characterized by focusing on problems, concerns, or stressful situations, creating a vicious circle that makes it difficult to concentrate on other activities. These persistent thought patterns can become an emotional hindrance, negatively affecting our mental health.
Ruminative thoughts are repetitive and persistent thought patterns, instead of contributing to the development and expression of skills and talents, these thoughts can act as obstacles, generating distractions, creative blocks, and reducing confidence.
WHAT ACTIVATES RUMINATIVE THOUGHTS?
Several factors can trigger the storm of ruminative thoughts. Stress is a major catalyst, intensifying this process and trapping us in a spiral of worry. In addition, traumatic events or simple uncertainty can trigger mental rumination.
Going round and round about the same question without finding a solution is an uncomfortable and exhausting phenomenon. Such thoughts have no function but may be a signal of an unidentified and unresolved emotional problem. The trigger is usually found just before the loop is triggered.
According to Pilar Berzosa, clinical psychologist and professor at UNIR, “In the emotional world everything happens very fast. What happens before it starts? It is important to identify that part of the personality to nuance it and show that there are other ways of approaching problems.”
WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM?
The effects of ruminative thoughts go beyond simple reflections and their impact is evident in our mental health. From emotional exhaustion to anxiety and depression, this persistent cycle of thoughts can affect the quality of our daily lives.
These thoughts not only trigger unpleasant emotions such as restlessness and distress but also generate physical fatigue. Beyond representing an emotional expense, they absorb glucose reserves, the essential fuel for the brain. Those who experience ruminative thoughts end up exhausted, not only emotionally but physically. In addition, they amplify tunnel vision, distorting the perception of reality. This causes us to lose perspective and reduces creativity to a minimum.
IDEAS TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF RUMINATING THOUGHTS
1. Find pleasure in your hobbies
Getting right into a hobby is one of the healthiest things you can do to break the vicious cycle of ruminating thoughts. Not only does it keep them away, but it also keeps you active and your mind busy. Whether it’s crafts, reading, music, or learning something new, the options are endless.
If you’ve never devoted time or encouragement to your hobbies, do so when those negative thoughts want to take over. And if you already have one, use it to keep you busy and not just lying on the couch brooding over those mental ruminations.
2. Connect with nature
The “forest bathing” thing doesn’t mean you have to go hiking in the mountains (although if you can, that’s great), it encompasses anything that connects you with nature. The effects of greenery, the sound of the wind in the leaves, feeling the breeze, listening to the birds, watching the clouds… Spending a few minutes on these things has a surprisingly positive effect on the mood. So, if there is a park, a public garden, or some green space nearby, take a walk. Get out of the house, get some air, and let those thoughts disappear.
3. Activate your body with high-intensity exercise
One of the best ways to disconnect and stop thinking about something in your head is to exercise. But be careful, it has to be high-intensity. Sports such as cycling, climbing, surfing, or team sports, which demand your full attention, can be your salvation to break the cycle of negative thoughts.
4. Immerse yourself in the game
Playing, especially if it requires you to concentrate hard, also helps stop those ruminative thoughts. Try puzzles, video games, chess, construction games, or board games. You will notice how disconnecting is easy and fun at the same time.
5. Psychological strategies
Overcoming that cycle of ruminating thoughts is a learning process that can take more or less time depending on when they started, how much you get involved, and other things. Some techniques that experts apply:
Thought stops: use a word such as “stop” or a clap to stop those upsetting thoughts and change them to more positive ones.
Think about it, but for a limited time: Dedicate a specific time (with a beginning and an end) of the day to try to solve the worry that has you spinning, so you avoid it occupying your whole day.
Enjoy: doing activities that are incompatible with these thoughts, such as going out with friends, jogging, or playing a game, also helps.
Write what you think: Empty your thoughts on paper, without filters. It helps to analyze objectively and look for positive aspects.
Speak: getting those thoughts out of your head, either by speaking or recording them, helps to become aware of possible distortions.
Breathe, walk, and listen to music: improving breathing, doing aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, and adding music to the equation are effective tactics to curb ruminative thoughts.
Remember, cutting the loop of those thoughts takes time and practice, but it can lead to a calmer, more resilient mind. You can do it!