Psychology: the art of ruminating without brooding

Psychology: the art of ruminating without brooding


Do you ever ruminate? Do you think it's only you who give in to this habit that has such bad press? Good news… you're far from alone in rehashing some of your thoughts: ruminations are completely normal, and sometimes even beneficial!

Many people ruminate: not necessarily for the same reasons or in the same way. Various people, especially the most anxious, do this more. Some contexts also lend themselves to it more than others – confinements, does that remind you of something? 

The wheat and the chaff

But why do we tend to dwell on these same thoughts, to replay this same film over and over again in our heads? In some cases, this reflex appears not only normal, but beneficial. It sometimes allows you to better prepare, to learn constructive lessons not only in view of specific events, but also, well after them. 

For example, when faced with an upcoming event (an exam, a job interview, surgery, etc.), anticipation becomes a stress factor. If it is impossible to control its progress and anticipate all the problems upstream, the exercise of reflection that is rumination allows us to consider this situation from different angles, to develop several scenarios, in short , to arrive better prepared. 

However, sometimes, the event so anticipated or dreaded took place, and nothing happened as we imagined. Ruminating then becomes an opportunity to better understand what may have happened or what may have disappointed us, or even what may have contributed to a failure. There is nothing masochistic about the exercise itself; drawing lessons from a more or less failed experience can make us reflect, transform some of our behaviors, thus allowing us to learn from these situations. 

Where this becomes a problem is when ruminations take up all the space in our thoughts and poison our daily lives. This state is then no longer productive, creating mostly anxiety and negative feelings. These looping thoughts invade us and now only paralyze us: the worst always seems about to happen. All these scenarios then end up eating away at our energy, not to mention the perpetual self-flagellation sessions, because when we ruminate, everything can seem our fault. However, the reality is often miles away from these catastrophic thoughts…

Winning strategies

There are still strategies to try to reduce ruminations and their impacts. First, taking a step back to better become aware of and “observe” our repetitive thoughts is an excellent way to reduce the intensity and invasiveness of these thoughts. Many people ruminate and don't even realize it as they are immersed deeply in these negative and repetitive thoughts. Taking the right measure of this behavior, simply noting that we are ruminating and without judging these thoughts is already a first and most constructive step. In addition, putting our thoughts on paper can also help us to better distance ourselves from them and to free us more from them. 

Making gestures that push us to action can also be beneficial for calming ruminations and regaining a sense of control. Doing constructive, pleasant, and seemingly mundane things – carrying out a project that you had put aside, carrying out a repair that was dragging on, cooking to make your daily life and that of others easier – here are some ways to ward off these intrusive thoughts. . 

In addition, to get rid of negative ideas, to move, to have fun, to come out of your shell and your home is certainly indicated, because being alone and between your four walls can contribute to the ruminations. Practicing a sport that makes us expend energy, a hobby that values ​​us, a meditation session that drives away stress, spending time with people who make us feel good: so many ways to avoid being overwhelmed by constant ruminations. 

Should all ruminations be banned? Certainly not! Allowing us to better prepare for given events in addition to being a valuable source of learning, this habit however becomes counterproductive and harmful when it becomes constant and invasive. Finally, when it comes to rumination, moderation also tastes better!