Ruminating is thinking about something from every angle, replaying mistakes over and over in your head and obsessing or over-thinking about important aspects of your life, such as your relationship or career. Obsessive behavior is often born out of rumination. Studies reveal that constant rumination can have negative side effects such as depression, anxiety, binge-eating, alcohol and substance abuse and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What happens with rumination is that you get caught up in these negatives thoughts and they consume you. The more you think about them the more you get stuck in their pull and it becomes a viscous cycle.
Professor at Yale University Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a psychologist says of this phenomenon, “when people ruminate while they are in depressed mood, they remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.” Rumination pulverizes our problem-solving skills by making us feel helpless, and that it is all just a waste of time. You become so obsessed with the problem and how it makes you feel that you cannot make any plans for actually solving the problem.
What’s more, when a problem looks hopeless, all the people around you become tired of your negativity sooner or later. Says Nolen-Hoeksema, “When people ruminate for an extended time, their family members and friends become frustrated and may pull away their support.” So why do people ruminate if it can be so destructive to personal and romantic relationships? Some people are just overloaded with stress in their lives. Nolen-Hoeksema adds that, “Some people prone to ruminate have basic problems pushing things out of consciousness once they get there.”
According to the professor, women are more apt to ruminate than men. So how do you reduce the problem? First, do things that make you feel positive. Volunteer. Get some exercise. Take part in your favorite hobby or past-time. According to Nolen-Hoeksema, “The main thing is to get your mind off your ruminations for a time so they die out and don’t have a grip on your mind.” Next, empower yourself. Instead of wallowing in the thought that there is nothing you can do, make plans on how to conquer your problem or fear and follow through with those plans. Finally, replace rumination with positive self-reflection. The difference? Focus on the things you can change, the positive things you can do to make your situation better. Don’t let rumination ruin your relationship. To read more pick up a copy of, Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema.