Self Help

The Psychology behind Rumination

Random thinking

Rumination is the act of repeatedly thinking about certain ideas, thoughts, events or situations in mind. Just like a cow or other animals ruminates their food (here rumination refers to chewing the food again and again), humans ruminates over their thoughts and ideas so often which at times feels distressing. Rumination is followed by pondering and contemplating about something in mind and later takes the form of overthinking.

The acts of rambling or blabbering, which involve talking or writing in a disorganized and incoherent way without making much sense, can also be considered as rumination. In other words, ruminating refers to an act or process that makes a person think obsessively about specific events or choices in life to such an extent that it impacts or interferes with normal mental health conditionings. People seem to overthink a lot.

Also Read: Regret, Remorse and Image Building

Examples of rumination

Acts of rumination can be observed in several daily life experiences or events. For example, When a person goes through some negative events or concerning situations, it leads to reflecting on the past circumstances, playing them repeatedly in mind all over again, thinking about what alternative choices one could have made at that time in order to have experienced different outcomes.

Ruminative thoughts like ‘ I am a looser and I can’t do anything in life’, ‘why I am like this, reserved, shy and less confident unlike others’, ‘I should not have done that to her (regrets)’ are quite common.

1. Loss of loved ones:

When a person experiences loss of their loved ones, they start to ruminate by memorising the memories of the lost person and the precious time spent together with them. Rumination also leads to inability to process emotions, sleep problems, chronic stress and even depression.

2.Betrayal from a close friend or relative:

When a person gets Betrayed by someone to whom they used to trust the most, it leads to mulling over the circumstances, trying to understand what has happened and why it happened. People who gets betrayed start doubting their whole relationships with others and that what has been wronged.

3. Breakup with the lover or divorce with the partner:

Breaking up or getting abandoned by the partner often leads to ruminating thoughts related to self worth and physical appearances. Their self confidence seems to shatter and they often ruminate thoughts like “ I am not good enough”, “ no one loves me”, “ what if it’s all my fault”.

Also Read: The Psychology Behind Passion

4. Failing or scoring less in exams:

    Unable to achieve ones dreams, desires and goals that had been once set leads to feeling of failure and fills the person with guilt, self doubt and excessive worry for the future. In this case, people seems to ruminate about the loss of opportunities and what could have been done else wise. Here, rumination could make worrying feels like a habit or a way of living and a person would then usually worry for not worrying enough.

    Connection between Rumination and depression:

    Depressed persons often when ruminates, are seen to be majorly remembering all the negative instances and accidents from the past, including uneven thoughts and comments that hurt them once or negatively impacted them. They may even interpret the current situations negatively and feels quite hopeless about it. It’s like a never ending cycle of rumination, where a person feels sad while ruminating, and then continues ruminating even more that makes them feel even more sadder.

    Rumination is of two types, reflective Rumination and brooding. In reflective rumination, one thinks repetitively of the analytical and problem solving approach to be able to get solutions of required problems or achieve a goal and desire. It can be called as positive rumination as it provides a chance for the person to reflect on themselves instead of focussing on the past memories which can’t be altered now or ever.

    Also Read: The Power of Breathwork

    Brooding, on the other hand, is more negative and is less solution focussed. Brooding is a waste of time as well as energy and it leads to nowhere. It even destroys a person’s day by thinking about the negative past experiences or memories. Hence, brooding is actually a type of rumination that leads to depression or other disorders.

    Various psychological theories defining the act of rumination

    According to psychology, rumination refers to repetitive thinking or persisting on negative thoughts and feelings, mulling over them gives distress and it may leads to anxiety and depression. Rumination can even worsen the existing conditions.

    Also Read: 9 Signs of Highly Sensitive People

    Response styles theory:

    According to response styles theory (RST), rumination is a passive and repetitive act of thinking obsessively, which accelerates or results in developing and maintaining the symptoms of depression and that of major depressive episodes in a person. A person ruminates, focussing on the symptoms of depression. Recently, the response styles theory expanded the rumination stating it’s implication in general distress and other conditions too apart from just depression. Further, response styles theory suggested that positive distractions is a great alternative for rumination where instead of thinking about negative symptoms and consequences, people diverts their mind to positive stimuli.

    Goal progress theory:

    Goal progress theory (GPT) is also known as control theory. It states rumination, as a function of goal progress, which means that a person is more likely to ruminate or remember information from incomplete, pending tasks rather than the finished ones. They tend to think recurrently or repetitively about important, unachieved goals which are yet to be attained. Those for whom the important goal related information is accessible are more likely to ruminate about that.

    Effects of constant rumination by an individual

    Rumination could worsen the person’s mood, making them moody and irritable by remembering instances from the past or present, which causes emotional distress in the life of an individual. Rumination also welcomes more negative thoughts and feelings in an individual’s mind to ruminate about it even more. This leads to stress or even depression.

    The person would get highly susceptible or responsive towards negative events and things in life rather than focussing on all the wonders and opportunities life provides. People who ruminates have access to negative memories easily. Rumination is seen to prolong the symptoms and consequences of depression and episodes of major depressive disorder.

    Also Read: How to Immediately Get Over a Bad Mood

    Tips and techniques for breaking the cycle of rumination

    Get busy and a little distracted by important stuff:

    Staying preoccupied with some work or activities helps distracting oneself or diverting one’s mind from the irrelevant rumination of negative thoughts and feelings. Focus on more positive, relaxing memories instead of the negative ones.

    Practice mindfulness:

    Mindfulness is a great technique which helps an individual to stay in the present moment, not paying attention or worrying about the past or future. When a person is living the moment, he has got no time to ruminate over some past negative events. It’s a great way to make life seem joyful and helps overcome rumination.

    Start Journaling and practice gratitude:

    Writing down the thoughts and negative emotions that are being ruminated in an individual’s mind helps them to let all the negativity out on the paper and free up their mind from all the stress and recurrent thoughts. Then, list all the things, memories and people one is grateful for each passing day. If one is not able to remember positive things, challenge the brain in remembering some at least. This helps in replacing the negative perspectives and thoughts by the positive ones and looking at life with a new fresh perspective.

    Shift to newer environment for a change:

    Sometimes it’s the place that gives an off vibe or is connected to some bad memories from the past. It’s best to take breaks from that place for quite some time and make good different memories at different place. Prefer to visiting the places that has some kind of positive associations and does feel like home.


    Exit mobile version