I am a great believer in self-awareness, analysing things, and digging into things that are hiding beneath the surface, bothering you. Unfortunately, that can cause me to turn myself into a squirrel, analysing things to death…the so-called paralysis by analysis. But in the past, I also found that on occasion, if the thing I was dwelling on was negative, it could lead to a very unhealthy mental spiral. So I frequently click on clickbait articles like the one by Jenny Cook at How to stop dwelling on negative thoughts (November 2, 2017). I rarely find them worth sharing, or even worth clicking, but this one started with a decent summary.
Rumination can be twofold. If you find that looking back over the past and assessing various situations can give you answers and closure, then the effect can be positive.
However, if you find that you’re repeatedly going over and over the same situation without getting anywhere, both your private and public life may be affected and your mental health could suffer.
For the nine tips, not all tips are created equal. Assessing whether it is likely to help you in some way doesn’t really help you forget about it, for instance, nor necessarily does focusing on the positives (the “count your blessings” philosophy).
However, setting aside time to think about it and mentally doing some contingency planning for worst case scenarios takes a lot of power out of the nagging thoughts and worry. It might not be pleasant to think about, but having the contingency plan gives you a coping mechanism. There is a small danger that dwelling on that worst case scenario can lead you to take certain steps that will actually bring it about — i.e. the whole planning mantra that if you plan for something, it will happen, except in a negative sense. So you kind of have to settle for transforming the cliche of “hope for the best, plan for the worst” into “strive for the best, contingency plan for the worst”.
Her article also talks about communicating with others (talking about it), finding distractions, and being mindful of your moments, but those are not universal panaceas, and talking with others only works if you talk with the right people. There are many people who are what I call “Nike clones” — the “just do it” people. They’ll tell you what to do, and they think it is just a matter of doing it, like the Nike slogan. But here’s the thing. If you could just “do it”, you would have already done it. In most cases of personal change, something is holding you back. So talking to the “Nike people” really doesn’t help you, because their solutions tend to be very superficial.
The article also talks about two other aspects — finding the cause and learning to let go — and I wish there was more focus on them. They are often the only two ways to really create lasting change. At least they’re included though.
As I mentioned, a good summary article that I liked…