Home  >  My Life  >  Reflections

How to Stop Ruminating: 18 Ways to Leave Your Past and Be Present

Honestly, it’s so easy to be stuck in a loop about past events. But you need to learn how to stop ruminating for your own personal development. 

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. But understanding how to stop ruminating can pull you out of that loop and help you move forward.

Even as we’re all guilty, it’s not a healthy or good habit. When you ruminate, you keep yourself stuck in the past or a particular event you can’t move on from.

Ruminating about something refrains you from enjoying the present moment and being happy altogether. So it’s essential to learn how to do this, one way or another.

[Read: How to let go of the past and be excited by the future]

What is ruminating?

Ideally, ruminating is when you’re thinking about something deeply, and trying to process every single aspect of it. In a perfect world, that’s a great way to analyze something and come to a conclusion.

But reality is very different from an ideal word.

And in the real word, when you ruminate, it’s when you constantly and continuously think about the same thing over and over again. Usually, ruminative thoughts are dark or sad, and we spend hours and days thinking about something that hurt us.

It could be a breakup, a cheating partner, losing a loved one, a friend using you, or just about anything else. But as long as you keep playing the same details over and over again in your mind, hoping you’ll learn something new, you’ll never be able to break out of rumination.

Honestly, ruminating, especially over something you have no control over *like someone else’s behavior or thoughts* is not only detrimental to your sanity, but to your health, well-being, and future as well!

[Read: How to stop overthinking – The secrets to go from overthinker to relaxer]

Why should you learn how to stop ruminating?

If you don’t learn how to stop ruminating, this will prevent you from living a happy and extraordinary life. It keeps you stuck in the past, which is no way to live your life. You’re basically stuck in this endless loop of a mistake you made or something from your past.

Maybe it was that one time you embarrassed yourself badly in front of your crush, or it was getting rejected by someone you like. Ruminating means you keep playing that event repeatedly in your head like a broken record. There’s nothing you can do to stop or control it, no matter how hard you try.

So you need to learn to stop doing this so you can have inner peace. Again, even if we all have this tendency, there’s nothing healthy about it.

So stop ruminating because no matter how much you dwell on your mistake, you can never change the past or do something about it. So it’s way better to just let it go and focus on the present moment and the future instead. [Read: Relationship anxiety – 20 mistakes you need to stop making]

How to stop ruminating

Ever been dumped? Yeah, we’re sure you replayed that a thousand times in your head, and it’s normal because it was a traumatic event. But ruminating isn’t something you want to be stuck in. Ruminating puts a halt to your life and keeps you living in the past. [Read: How to stop thinking about your ex – 21 ways to leave that habit behind for good]

Use these steps and try to find a way out of the loop. It may take some effort and concentration, but once you step out of the hamster wheel, you’ll realize there’s so much more to life than just playing the same scene over and over again inside your head.

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.

Just like anything you want to overcome, self-awareness is the key. If you find the root of your ruminating tendencies, you can learn to leave the past behind.

It’s easier said than done, we know, but being aware of why you’re constantly thinking about something can help you manage to ruminate better. [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. *even if you enjoy the misery of rumination!*

We all ruminate to a point, and it can be an excellent 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, Ph.D., a professor and psychologist at Yale University, ruminating leads to depression, feelings of hopelessness, and frustration.

When you’re stuck in the past too much, it prevents you from moving forward and becoming better. It can make you sabotage your life if you do it too often, so learning how to stop ruminating is that crucial.

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. You must work on positive thinking and reprogram your mind, so stop this harmful habit of yours. Instead of staying home alone after work, join a class or go for a walk.

Incorporate positive practices into your life. You’ll notice your behavior changing for the better, and those negative thoughts slowly fade with time. Positive thinking doesn’t come easy, so you need to intentionally change your mindset and thinking altogether. [Read: 24 positive ways to live in the present and focus on 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?

If you see the situation as a problem you’re trying to solve, then this can feel easier for you. It will help you learn how to stop ruminating when you stop focusing on the feelings and focus on what you can do to solve the problem instead. In other words, you just need a change of approach.

5. Look at yourself in reflection

Self-reflection is absolutely essential when it comes to overcoming rumination. What generally happens is how we tend to focus on the actions of others, ignoring our own. Though looking at others’ actions is essential, you won’t be able to see where it all went wrong if you exclude your own.

So it’s essential to look at your own reflection to see what went wrong. We tend to avoid looking at our own flaws, so assess your actions and behavior. Even if it feels uncomfortable, this is a necessary step if you want to learn how to stop ruminating.

You’re so focused on the flaws of others that you fail to see you might have played a part in the situation or mistake. [Read: 10 self-reflective questions to stay true to yourself]

6. Be aware when ruminating

If you actually want to 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. So it’s crucial to be aware of your triggers and how you feel to overcome them. [Read: How to move on from a break up without compromising your dignity]

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. If there’s a central theme in learning how to stop ruminating, it’s practicing self-awareness. Observe your triggers, and only then can you overcome this habit. [Read: Signs of anxiety – How to read the signs ASAP & handle them better]

8. Let yourself ruminate

Now, ruminating for long periods 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. If you never ruminate, this can even lead to repressed emotions – and we all know how dangerous they are.

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. Don’t dwell on it any longer than the timeframe you’ve set for yourself. [Read: 15 steps to let go of repressed anger before it eats you from within]

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 write at least one paragraph a day.

You need to write everything down if you want to learn how to stop ruminating. By writing, you’re releasing your thoughts and emotions and you won’t find the need to dwell on it as much. You don’t need to have a journal, but it might be preferable if you normally ruminate. [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?

If you don’t take accountability for your errors, there’s an even bigger tendency to ruminate. So admit your mistakes and take it from there. [Read: How to stop making the same mistakes in a relationship and learn]

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, perhaps using some of these other strategies will work for you. However, if ruminating is affecting your everyday 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. There’s nothing wrong with therapy, unlike what society leads you to believe. In fact, therapy can be beneficial, especially when learning how to stop ruminating. [Read: Why we need to breakdown the stigma of mental illness]

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.

Exercise is a great way to get out of your head and stop ruminating, making it a therapeutic activity! So this is your sign to get physically active and exercise if you’re serious about learning how to stop ruminating. [Read: 30 inspiring tips to get moving and start working out again]

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. Even if you’re tempted to shut your loved ones out when you’re ruminating, don’t do this.

They’re the support you need to stop dwelling on the past and focus more on the present moment. [Read: Feeling defeated? How to overcome the things that keep you stuck]

14. Distract yourself

If you want to learn how to stop ruminating, distractions are the best way to stop focusing on past events. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just use any distractions like going on a drinking binge. Instead, it’s essential you still actively choose healthy distractions that will just refrain you from ruminating.

Whether it’s going to the gym, being productive in your work deadlines, or just doing something interesting with your time, healthy distractions can restrain your tendency to ruminate.

15. Take action

The best way to stop the thoughts of the past is to take action based on those thoughts. Even if you can’t change the past, you can always become better and grow based on what has happened.

For instance, if the thoughts you keep ruminating about involve moments of failure and rejection, you can always learn from those experiences to reduce history repeating itself. It won’t solve what already happened, but it can lift some of the burdens within your thoughts. [Read: Be your own hero – What it means and how to take control of life]

16. Question your thoughts

Your thoughts aren’t always valid. If you tend to think negatively, your thoughts often come from a place of insecurity and doubt.

It’s crucial to have the mental strength and resilience to question your thoughts if you want to learn how to stop ruminating. If you dwell on your most negative thoughts, you’ll always be stuck in rumination. [Read: 15 thought-provoking questions to leave you curious and wondering]

17. Work on your self-esteem

Your self-esteem is a critical part if you want to learn how to stop ruminating. The thing is, being stuck in the past has a lot to do with your self-esteem and confidence.

If you have low self-esteem, it’s easy to keep ruminating and repeating the same event repeatedly.

You’re basically torturing yourself over something you can’t change. But if you work on being secure with your self-worth, you’ll find it easier not to let the past haunt you. [Read: 18 ways to have high self-esteem and start winning at life]

18. Forgive yourself

We often ruminate because there’s something in our past we wish we could change, or we’re holding grudges. If you want to stop this destructive habit, you need to forgive everyone involved. This means forgiving the person involved and yourself.

Forgive yourself for not knowing any better, and forgive them for hurting you the way they did. You don’t forgive because they deserve it, but you do it to entirely let go of the past.

[Read: How to forgive yourself & free yourself of the weight of guilt]

So, how to stop ruminating?

You can stop ruminating if you realize and accept that you can never ever change the past, no matter how badly you want to.

So if it’s a mistake you did, a hurt someone caused, or something in the past, dwelling on it won’t change anything. All it’s doing is keeping you so stuck in the past that it prevents you from overcoming it, or truly living your life.

Now that you know how to stop ruminating, it’s time you took a solid try at it. You need to let the past go because you can’t change or control what’s already happened no matter what. But the rest of your life depends on how you deal with rumination right now.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...