You keep finding yourself falling into a pattern of worrying about someone, or a situation in your life and just can’t stop obsessing about it.
You lie in bed at night with thoughts about the day whirring around your mind preventing you from getting to sleep.
If this happens once in a while, it’s normal, but if it is happening constantly, then you are engaging too much in a thought-trap called RUMINATION.
Rumination is a habit of thinking that can prevent us from being motivated and productive. When we over-think negative things in life it stops us being happy.
the good news is… we can break this habit, get motivated, be more productive and feel happier simply by developing new habits of thinking. However, this isn’t a quick fix. The solution to over thinking and ruminating takes a lot of practise and time.
If you think you might be a ruminator or know someone you care about who might be ruminating too much, here is my 8-step guide for curing over-thinking!
Step 1. Accept You Have the Problem
Take this quick symptom checker:
a. Do you struggle to shut your brain down at night in order to sleep?
b. Do you replay over and over again, a situation from the day?
c. Do you over-worry that a situation might become a problem in the future?
d. Do you invent future problems or imagine bad things happening to yourself or loved ones in the future?
e. Do you obsess over things during the day and have to keep talking about them to stop your mind going over and over the issues?
It might help to ask others around you (those who will really be honest with you).
If you do any of these, or if others say you do, then “yes,” you are in the habit of over-thinking. You are a RUMINATOR.
Step 2. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over This
Our brain stores all of our memories. And our thoughts are connected to those memories. You do this because your brain is “wired” to do this. So when a negative situation happens your brain will automatically connect to old memories of similar events in your life and add them to your already overly-busy brain.
When you hear yourself Saying things like “I never get anything right,”you are beating yourself up over your past, and you need to break this pattern.
Step 3. Stop and Breathe
As soon as you notice a negative thought in your head, STOP. Start taking deep breaths and count them. As you breath in count 1 and then 2 on the out breath. Keep breathing and counting until your brain calms down. Taking deep breaths calms the body down and feeds your brain oxygen which it needs to think healthily.
Step 4. Stop Talking So Much
Talking about your issues, the thing that happened yesterday or an hour ago only causes you to obsess and over-analyse even more.
One of the ways to fix this, whether you are over-talking during the day or whether you can’t sleep at night, is to write stuff down. This has the psychological effect of “getting it out” and letting your brain “move on.” During a very emotionally challenging time in my life when I caught myself ruminating a lot, I created a diary where I wrote down all my thoughts and feelings each day. It really helped getting them out of my head. And then later when I looked back at those thoughts and feelings I’d written down I was able to see a better more clearer way of thinking and feeling about those difficult situations and break the cycle of rumination.
Step 5. Live in the Present Moment
You can’t change the past, even what happened 10 minutes ago, and you cannot control what may happen 2 hours from now. You can only control your thoughts and your behaviors in this moment.
So, what or who in this moment can you find to be grateful for? “Gratitude” is a really important behavior to practice. Constantly remind yourself, when the bad thoughts come, to put your focus on the good you do have and to be grateful for it. And if you think you have nothing to be grateful for, tell that to a starving child in the third world or a homeless person on the street.
Step 6. Learn to Go with the Flow
Life will happen, and your attempt to control everything around you and to obsess about it wont change anything. You have to learn to say, “Okay, this is the situation I am in. I can accept it and move forward. If it requires some action on my part, fine. I’ll look at my options and choose a path.” But spending time being angry, resentful, and going over and over again what caused the situation, will not change it or resolve it.
Step 7. Remember You are What You Think
The more your thought energy is placed on negative things, the more negative your life will become. Even medical doctors “get” this now. When a bad memory or worry about the future presents itself, STOP, breathe, get busy, and put your thought onto something good and positive in your life!
Step 8. Join a Practise Group
Walking mindfully in nature with a supportive, like-minded group of people is a scientifically-proven way to break the habit of over-thinking and rumination. It’s almost impossible to over-think when you are immersed in nature and connected to the present moment. I call this “natural mindfulness”