Rumination is a mental habit which leads to fixation on flaws and problems, thus extending a negative mood.
With continued attention to our problems, we become obsessed with our pain and can retreat from life. We stop eating (or eating more), sex drive disappears, sleep is disrupted, we are tired all the time, life is dull, and we do less and less.
Rumination starts off as a dim light that we stop putting energy into, allowing it to get darker and darker until we can’t see anymore.
It begins with a stressor — let’s say a divorce, a spouse cheating, or even being single for longer than one would like.
Regret shows up with “You should have been a better spouse”; “You should have taken better care of yourself”; “You are doing everything wrong.” You start believing Regret, and start ruminating, making it personal with, “I should have, and there is something wrong with me.” Then Anxiety arrives with Worry, and Fear adding, “How am I going to make it on my own? How will it affect the kids?”
With all this mental madness, we stop “plugging in” to the light sources we need to stay alive. The mental madness dominates our attention, and we can’t focus on anything else. We are physically drained by the internal warring, and the war keeps us up all night.
Rumination is winning and has depressed any positive aspect of our life. Hopelessness is here. We can’t see anymore. It’s too dark. We are depressed.
Here are 5 mindful ways to combat rumination.
- Acceptance. What if you didn’t look at the stressor as a napalm bomb, but as an unexpected curveball? — “where did that come from?” instead of, “I’m going to die!” What if you came to accept that life isn’t always predictable? And what if life was actually doing you a favor? Disruption and destruction also come with possibility.
- Truth. How would your life change if you stopped blaming others and paused to consider it might be true? What if you could have been a better spouse? What if you could have taken better care of yourself? And what if you are doing things that aren’t serving your best interest?
- Curiosity. What if you decided to get curious about the disruption? What if you learned from your mistakes, or learned something new? What if you started putting energy into new things like learning to be a loving spouse for your next relationship? What if you started exercising and started feeling confident? What if you got over your fears and started dating?
- Gratitude. What if you took the attention away from the discomfort of the change, and gave some attention to what was good and positive in your life? As Jon Kabat-Zinn says in the Stress Reduction Program, “If you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong.”
- Inner discipline. What if in one year, you look back and realize that curveball was a gift? What if the pain and destruction drew you to be the person you’ve always wanted to be? What if you had more inner discipline to cultivate acceptance, truth, curiosity, and gratitude, and you are now handling life’s curveballs with a little more grace?