Are you stuck on an embarrassing comment you made the other day? Or maybe you’re having an imaginary conversation in your head with someone who has been upsetting you. Or, maybe you fumbled at work and you can’t stop thinking about it.
Rumination is when we spend time obsessing over negative thoughts, replaying them in our head to no conclusion. Rumination is often about events that have happened, or events that could happen, but it is rarely about the present moment. While it is natural to ponder on an issue, rumination is more than thinking or problem solving, it is brooding.
Learning to stop rumination involves noticing when we are ruminating and making an effort to short-circuit the spiraling. Try these three mindful tricks, each designed to stop rumination in its tracks and reset your train of thought. These exercises require just enough concentration so you can be distracted from whatever anxiety is plaguing you.
Search for Sound
When you catch yourself going down a rabbit hole of worries, stop and be still. Wherever you are (at the office, at home, on the street, in your car), be still and try your hardest to listen for the farthest sound you can hear. Is it a fan? A car honking? The birds outside? Keep listening for the sound until your thoughts have calmed.
Take a Walk
The soles of your feet have multiple nerve endings: paying attention to them helps ground you in your body. If you are sitting and ruminating, pause and get up. Go outside or find space to walk about 20 paces. As you walk, pay attention to the feeling you encounter in each foot, one after the other, step by step. Notice where the weight shifts and the sensations you feel.
Focus on Breathing
Take a moment and sit still for a minute. Put one hand on your belly button and take a deep breath in through your nostrils and out through your mouth, slowly and completely. Feel your chest expand and contract. Repeat for a total of five breaths. To time yourself, use this handy (and mesmerizing) gif.
Overcoming rumination takes time and practice, and learning to catch ourselves is the very first step. Try these out to the next time you are just sitting and simmering in your head. Of course, if you find rumination and obsessive thoughts are plaguing you daily, always be sure to check in with a therapist or licensed counselor.