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How to Stop Ruminating: Leave Your Past and Live Your Future

how to stop ruminating

It’s easy to get yourself ruminating about something. It just replays over and over in your head. But, what’s hard is how to stop ruminating.

Think of ruminating like playing a broken record. It just keeps playing that one part of the song, again and again, making you literally go insane. You overthink every detail, every facial expression. But we’re all guilty of this. Understanding how to stop ruminating helps you move forward.

How to stop ruminating

Ever been dumped? Yeah, I’m sure you replayed that a thousand times in your head, and it’s normal because it was a traumatic event.

I was in love with a guy who I expressed my feelings to and I was rejected, flat out. It’s been over half a year, and I still think about it. Now, do I think about it constantly? No. But when it happened, for the next couple months, it’s all I thought about. I ate, breathed and slept the rejection—I was dreaming it.

What happened is that it started to affect my work, my relationships, and my ability to meet new guys. I was stuck in this endless loop. Ruminating isn’t something you want to be stuck in. Ruminating puts a halt to your life. It keeps you living in the past. Don’t let the past eat you up inside.

#1 Why are you ruminating? What are you ruminating about? Is the issue solvable? If yes, what can you do? If it’s not solvable, what are you going to do to help you move past this? You need to become self-aware in your actions and thoughts, this way, you won’t get stuck in the negative cycle of ruminating. [Read: Feeling stuck in life? How to change directions and live your dream]

#2 Ruminating isn’t harmless. You may be thinking, oh, well, it doesn’t really affect me. Bullshit. It affects you. We all ruminate to a point, it can be a great tool for problem-solving. However, if you find yourself unable to move past these thoughts, this is when ruminating becomes harmful.

According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD, a professor and psychologist at Yale University, ruminating leads to depression, feelings of hopelessness, and frustration.

#3 Work on positive thinking. Ruminating is usually more often than not associated with negative thinking. What you need to do is change your goals, beliefs, and attitudes.

Instead of staying home alone after work, join a class or go for a walk. Incorporate positive habits into your life. You’ll notice your behavior changing for the better and those negative thoughts slowly fade with time. [Read: 20 positive ways to live in the now]

#4 Try to problem solve. Instead of focusing on questions like, “why me?” or “what’s wrong with me?” look at how you can overcome the issue you ruminate about. You don’t need to create a pity party for yourself, instead be proactive. So, no, “why me” questions. Ask yourself, what can I do to make this situation better?

#5 Look at yourself in reflection. Self-reflection is absolutely essential when it comes to ruminating. What happens is how people tend to focus on the actions of others, ignoring their own. Though looking at other’s actions is essential, if you exclude your own, you won’t be able to see where it all went wrong. [Read: 10 self-reflective questions to stay true to yourself]

#6 Be aware when ruminating. If you want to actually stop ruminating, you need to notice when it happens, what triggered it, and how long it lasted. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it. Without self-awareness, you’ll never stop ruminating. Once you notice triggers, make a conscious effort to change your daily routine.

#7 If possible, remove triggers. Maybe you spend most of your time ruminating when you lay in bed in the morning. So, to prevent ruminating, instead of lying in bed, get up and start your day.

Ruminating usually happens when you’re inactive. So, change your routine if you notice environmental factors that promote rumination. But, in order for you to do this, you must be self-aware of when you ruminate.

#8 Let yourself ruminate. Now, ruminating for long periods of time isn’t healthy; however, you shouldn’t prevent yourself from ruminating. You have to release these thoughts or else they pile up in your head, and you end up with an emotional breakdown. So, please, do ruminate.

But, and this is a big but, schedule a time to ruminate. Allow yourself 20 to 30 minutes a day to ruminate. Once the time’s up, you keep going with your day.

#9 Write everything down. Writing really does help clear your mind. You don’t need to write some sort of Plato essay. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you do it. Eventually, you find yourself opening up and writing in more depth and detail. Try to at least write one paragraph a day. [Read: How to find your zone of perfect calmness]

#10 Learn from your mistakes. You probably made a mistake in the situation that you’re ruminating about. Listen, we all make mistakes. But the only way to progress is to learn from them. If you don’t admit your fault and accept what you did, how will you be able to prevent the same mistake from happening again?

#11 Talk to a professional. We all ruminate, but the difference is whether ruminating controls our lives or not. If it’s not interfering with your daily activities, then perhaps using some of these other strategies will work for you.

However, if ruminating is affecting your daily life, you should seek therapy. You’ll be able to unleash everything in a safe space and then receive tools to help you move through this phase.

#12 Sweat it out. This is one of the best ways to get your mind off of things. You need to sweat. Go for a walk, change the scenery. This helps you gain a new perspective on the situation. Plus, working out stimulates endorphin and serotonin production in the body, so you finish your workout feeling more positive. [Read: 12 benefits of exercise on your mind, body, and libido]

#13 Talk to friends and family. Your family and friends are going to be the ones that support you through this period. What you need to remember is that this is a phase you’re experiencing.

If you’re having these emotions and thoughts, why not talk it out with your friends and family. They may have seen the situation and will be able to give you an outsider’s perspective on what happened.   

[Read: Feeling defeated? How to overcome the things that keep you stuck]

Now that you know how to stop ruminating, it’s time you took a solid try at it. You don’t want to be that person stuck in the past. You still have your entire future ahead of you.

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Natasha Ivanovic
Natasha Ivanovic
A serial dater, Natasha Ivanovic knows a thing or two about men and the dating scene. Much of her writing is inspired by her encounters with men - and for good ...
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