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

The downward spiral of rumination can be stopped by following these mindfulness tips.

female reflecting out window with coffee in her cup in4mal, Rido | Canva

Ruminating is a natural part of life. We all overthink things from time to time when something bothers us.

However, 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 to self-loathing thoughts at last.

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


RELATED:15 Ways To Calm Your Racing Mind & Find Your Inner Joy

Stop ruminating about the same things

Imagine you're in a meeting and ready to give a presentation. Then the smirking office bully disrespects you in front of every single one of your peers. 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 in this meeting?

Later, after the meeting ends, you start ruminating and your feelings respond likewise ... it's ruined your presentation and thus, your self-confidence. Your day speeds downhill. You begin to generalize and let the past paint the future.

Maybe the report you're writing now is lousy. One 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 your partner, and your thoughts go even faster down the slope.

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 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?

RELATED: Why Trying To Overcome Your Anxiety Only Makes It Worse

Here are 7 simple ways to stop ruminating about the same things (over & over & over):

1. Think of your thoughts as a radio station 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 the 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. keep in mind 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 you couldn't turn your radio off? Nope, it's a thing, under your control, with an on/off knob. Your brain is similar; but it's 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 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 how thoughts evoke feelings — not the other way around.

Did you know 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 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 come together through connections and grouping 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 (thoughts you will inevitably ruminate on). Eventually, overthinking can affect our genes, and thus, our health, both mentally and physically.


Positive thoughts can actually breed positive health.

RELATED: 30 Reasons People With Anxiety Can't Fall Asleep At Night

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 clearer and calm mind.


6. Think about something else.

Once you realize 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 distracting to think about. This helps break the negative momentum and allows you to better readjust 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 a 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 currently playing through your headphones.

After you're initially distracted and your negative thought pattern is temporarily broken, think of a thought of gratitude, appreciation, or insight. Or find a way to make yourself laugh by telling 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 to help build your self-esteem and keep negative thoughts from flooding back.

Here are 5 ways to reinforce your positive thoughts and keep unwanted ruminations 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 of the new thought until the physical sensation changes.

Envision. Picture yourself in a location representative of the thought, 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. In the same way you stepped into your story, you can step out of it, and the best way is to create 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!


RELATED: 10 Ways To Get REAL With Yourself About Stress (So Life Doesn't BURN You Out)

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger wrote for National Geographic and Kiplinger before working as a humanitarian journalist in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. She's also an intuitive creativity coach and creator of Step Into Your Story! (TM), as well as the award-winning author of two novels, including her latest A Thousand Flying Things.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.