7 Ways To Stop Ruminating About The Same Things (Over & Over & Over)

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How To Stop Unwanted Rumination Using These 7 Mindfulness Exercises For Anxiety

Ruminating is a natural part of life. We all overthink things from time to time when something bothers us. But if your constant rumination is spiraling out of control and making your anxiety worse, learning how to use mindfulness exercises can help you put a stop those self-loathing (and seemingly never-ending!) thoughts at last.

Rumination, and the resulting anxiety, may be a result of negative self-talk when you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And since you're already in a worked up state, it's hard to stop these thoughts and feelings from taking root.

For example, say you're in a meeting, ready to give a presentation. But the office bully disrespects you in front of every single one of your peers with a smirk. When you try to defend yourself, your boss comes to his defense. What?!

Your thoughts begin to spiral out of control. How could they? I'm going to quit! Wait! What was I going to say?

Later, after the meeting's end, you start ruminating on it, and your feelings respond likewise ... it's ruined your presentation and thus, your self-confidence. Your day goes downhill even more. You begin to generalize.

Maybe the report you're writing now is lousy. That thought leads to another. You begin to think about how annoying your son is. About your mothering skills. When you get home, you blow up at him, and your thoughts go even further down the slope.

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The month continues to decline and, with it, your self-esteem. You're less friendly to your colleagues, short with your kids, and your heart begins to race every time you go into another business meeting.

You realize you're not making any bids for a promotion and that your stress from negative self-talk and constant rumination is now creeping into other parts of your life. But how can you stop ruminating when you have so many self-doubts?

Here are 7 mindfulness exercises for anxiety that help stop unwanted rumination from making your stress worse:

1. Think of your thoughts as a radio station that you can change or turn off at any time.

Thoughts have energy. "You are not the voice of the mind — you are the one who hears it," says best-selling author Michael A. Singer in his book The Untethered Soul. You, and you alone, can turn that voice off, just like you would your iTunes music. 

Today, try playing some Ed Sheeran instead of Amy Winehouse, figuratively speaking. Take stock at the day's end and see how you feel. If you have trouble staying on the Ed Sheeran channel, don't worry, you're human ... this takes time. Just keep in mind that there is a way for you to control your internal feedback, and it's much the same you can control a radio. 

Would you ever think that you couldn't turn your radio off? Nope, it's a thing, under your control, with an on/off knob. Your brain is similar; it's just got an invisible switch or you've lost the remote, but it's easy to control once you find it again.

2. Identify where these beliefs stem from and how often they affect you.

You learn most of your thoughts before you're four or five. Your thoughts are a complex highway you use to make sense of your world, but your perspective is almost always subjective. Your parents or other caretakers tell you what's good and what's bad.

You get disciplined, even yelled at, if you paint outside the lines. Their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs become your thoughts, and they run like a computer program in the back of your mind.

To counteract this, record your thoughts for one day and then see how many times you think the same thought, or how many thoughts are just another way of saying something you thought earlier in the day. Take stock of how many times you're ruminating on bad or negative thoughts and attempt to limit these instances further. 

3. Know that thoughts evoke feelings — not the other way around.

Did you know that emotions do not drive your thoughts? Yes, you read that right. Your thoughts actually drive your feelings!

So if you teach yourself to think new, more positive thoughts, you can start feeling better emotionally. The most important thing is to notice what you're thinking and how it's making you feel so that you can begin to identify triggers or where certain bad feelings can stem from.

You can even try envisioning your favorite art or singing your favorite songs in your head in order to help change the direction of your thoughts.

4. Break your negative momentum.

Thoughts like to group together, through connections and groupings of neurons. If you've been sending only negative thoughts to the hangout in your mind, chances are it's helping you make more negative thoughts (that you will inevitably ruminate on). Eventually, that can affect our genes, and thus, our health, both mentally and physically. 

Positive thoughts can actually breed positive health. 

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5. Take a time out to catch your breath.

It's important to stay grounded and connected when you're anxious. You can do that best by noticing your breath.

Often when you're upset, you might hold your breath or breathe too shallowly. So before you start spiraling out of control, take a few minutes to focus on and calm your breathing. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and roll out your neck as you do so, and you'll start to feel better almost instantly.

So focus on yourself and your breathing first. Then, and only then, should you address your ruminating thoughts once you have a more clear and calm mind.

6. Think about something else. 

Once you realize that you do, in fact, have control over your rumination and self-doubt, it becomes easier to shift your thinking to another thought. 

Often, you'll need to find something that is initially distracting to think about. This helps break that negative momentum and allows you to better reshift your focus. You could even put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it each time you catch yourself in the proverbial depths. 

For example, when a plane hits a bump of turbulence, you could look around and try to find the most interesting passenger you can. Maybe it's man with purple polka-dotted socks. Or maybe it's the specific color of a woman's blunt-cut style. Maybe it's the song that's currently playing through your headphones. 

After you're initially distracted and your negative thought pattern is temporarily broken, think a thought of gratitude, appreciation, or insight. Or find a way to make yourself laugh by tell yourself or a friend a joke. 

7. Reinforce positive thoughts. 

Once you're a little calmer, you can expand your thoughts. You can think about a favorable outcome — such as the feel of the plane tires smoothly hitting the runway in landing — or try a variety of rapid-relief tools that help build your self-esteem and keep negative thoughts from flooding back.

Here are 5 ways to reinforce your positive thoughts and keep unwanted rumination at bay:

  • Affirmations. You can try looking in the mirror once a day, using "I am" statements, such as "I am loved," or "I am an intelligent, interesting speaker." 
  • Tapping. You can also tap using a technique, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), as you say your affirmations to replace and reinforce the thought in your body. You can draw the new thought, or write about it.
  • Body sensations. Notice where the negative thought is in your body, and think the new thought until the physical sensation changes. 
  • Envision. Picture yourself in a location that represents the thought you're thinking, say, the bottom of a cliff, or a deep gully. Then picture a place you've always felt safe. Now "fly" to the safe place. 
  • Create. Just as you stepped into your story, you can step out of it, and the best way is creating a new story with art, music, dance, or words. 

Set aside a practice where you use any or all of these tools and techniques. And don't worry if you feel stuck at first! By keeping at it, you'll soon be on your way to better mental health and happier thoughts — no matter the circumstances!

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Kathryn Ramsperger, MA is an intuitive life coach and award-winning author. If you’re struggling with ruminating or anxiety, please email for a free consultation to explore achieving emotional freedom from the prison of obsessive thinking.

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