Do you have the tendency to think about an unpleasant event again and again? Whether it was a critical remark regarding the clothes you were wearing, your work performance, past decisions, or any argument you had with a family member, friend, or colleague – you cannot help but replay it in your mind, continuously.
Your mind is on a drive, which is transforming the situation from bad to worse. You dwell on all the negative events until you feel bad about yourself.
When you ruminate and overthink, you let the negative thoughts, emotions, and memories overpower you. This usually happens when a situation has caused your emotions to elevate such as a negative life event that has made you stuck in a mental loop.
You internalize these situations and attribute the blame internally, which gives rise to negative self-talk and self-torture from past memories. According to a research, people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, binge eating, and anxiety are more likely to indulge in this negative behavior, and it is one of its consequences as well.
How does the Brain Work during Rumination?
When we talk about depression, anxiety, and rumination, we come to the conclusion that all three feed on each other. Overthinking about negative life circumstances prolongs depression, whereas depression leads to brooding over negative events. Major depression and anxiety are common mental illnesses that occur simultaneously. According to research, there are a number of basic causes that are leading to these disorders, one of which is rumination. The ongoing and repetitive sad thoughts you have regarding past events further their development. These thoughts do not solve the problem. Rather, they are only increasing the anxiety and deepening the depression.
The brain of an individual is what plays a major role in rumination. The memory of a person makes them remember things that have close association with each other in the neural networks. On the other hand, an already depressed and anxious brain is less flexible in producing solutions. Rumination, in such circumstances, can aggravate the situation. The individual is unable to think of the current state of affairs in a different perspective, or find the solutions to their problems. This leads to the reinforcement of anxiety and depression.
What is the way out of Rumination?
There are two ways stop rumination from controlling your mental health. These are:
- Escaping the negative neural network.
- Dealing with one issue at a time, while having a plan.
These can be achieved through cognitive retraining, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness. The mindfulness technique should focus on the positive self-evaluation, rather than negative judgment of your self. When you teach your brain to see things in a new and positive perspective, you will be able to actually do something productive about the problems that are causing you to ruminate.
The tendency to ruminate also depends on the genetics, learning and past history, and personality of the person. People who are high on conscientiousness and neuroticism in the Big 5 personality model are more likely to ruminate. Similarly, people with past experience with abuse, bullying, or trauma have high chances of indulging in negative overthinking behaviors.
It is normal to ponder on things that go wrong – whether it is the death of a loved one, or failure to achieve a milestone in life. However, when these thoughts are out of your control, you cannot stop them, no matter what you do, and it is hindering your daily functioning, that is when you need to consider getting help from a psychologist and opt for better problem-solving methods.