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Are you also one of the people who keeps going over past situations? Surely you repeat over and over in your mind as ways you could have done better. Something less silly than to say or not to ” drop the ball” in that project.
Doing this too much is known as “ruminating.” It is a form of negative meditation that can block you from advancing in your goals. This is because by remembering events in the past you evoke the same negative emotions in the present. You can come to punish yourself for that gap that exists between the ideal and reality. You blame yourself for not being more organized, ambitious, smart, disciplined, etc.
Rumination is not only an unpleasant activity, it is also linked to a decrease in problem-solving ability, increased anxiety and even depression.
Do not worry. The good news is that breaking this cycle is much easier than you think.
The first step is to identify the triggers
It’s easy if you make a list of what was happening from the last times you experienced something that you tend to rethink a lot.
Usually your trigger list can have things like:
- Taking bad financial advice
- Make a big career change
- Collaborate with people you didn’t trust
- Working with people who seemed smarter than you
Solve it by creating distance
Now, create a little space between you and the thought that you review so much. It is a technique that works very well in meditation to gain clarity about reality.
For example, if you tend to develop anxiety when you rethink about the time you failed to complete a task perfectly, pay attention to your thinking. Instead of thinking “I am not competent”, change your internal speech to something like “I have the feeling of not being competent.” You can even create more space by saying “My mind has the feeling that I am not competent.”
This will help you recognize that no matter how powerful your thoughts are (as they affect your reality), you are not them. Identify that wanting everything to go perfectly is an impossibility. And obsessing over something that can’t be is just a waste of time. In this case, also energy that you can invest to improve the next time.
Distinguish rumination from learning
Reviewing situations from the past is a great way to learn to improve. But in the case of rumination, the returns are diminished the more you do it. It quickly becomes a source of anxiety rather than learning.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology found that women who tend to ruminate took a month longer than the average person to seek help after detecting abnormalities in their breasts.
To change your mind from ruminating to learning, simply ask yourself, “What is the best decision right now?” Start with the first step, it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect or as detailed as you can do. This is extremely helpful for people who are perfectionists and are paralyzed by fear or anguish of making a mistake again.
Train your mind to detach
As soon as you identify that your mind has entered a ruminant state, physically distract yourself for a few minutes. Focus your mind on some other activity that demands your attention, but is not strenuous. It could be cleaning your inbox, filling out an expense report, or even going for a walk. When finished, go back to the task you were doing before your mind began to ruminate.
Practicing yoga or meditation is another great way to train your mind. It is impossible to stop the thoughts that your mind offers you. It is precisely through meditation that you can train your mind to attend to thoughts, correctly identify them and separate them from reality, and finally return your mind to the present. Ultimately this (bringing your mind back to the present) is exactly what you need your mind to do when you ruminate.
Look for errors in your thinking
Sometimes rumination is activated by errors in our cognitive process. The problem is that we are usually not good at detecting these errors. Particularly when we are already ruminating, because this already clouds our thinking.
The solution in this case is to develop a good understanding in advance of the errors in our logic. Over time, those moments of calm we can have greater clarity. Pay attention to what your logic dictates in these moments to be clear in moments of anxiety.
For example, Alice Boyes, PhD in clinical psychology and author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit gives us a personal example in a book.
“Often when reading work-related emails I am faced with one or two statements that annoy me. As a result, I end up invalidating or misinterpreting the rest of the message. But as I am aware of this pattern in M i, learned not to ruminate on my first impressions. Instead, I reread the mail the next day, and I realize that my first impression was wrong. “
Another cognitive error is usually having very high expectations of ourselves, or misinterpreting the expectations of others. We tend to underestimate the possibility that people equal or more capable than us also have acceptance problems. We drown in a glass of water.
If you start to ruminate on the behavior of others and attribute a cause to that behavior, at least keep the possibility that your explanation of the cause may be wrong. Or accept the possibility that we may never know the real reason. The latter is a great way to escape the trap of constantly rummaging for imaginary reasons.
Rumination is a fairly common problem. More than we would like to acknowledge. The first step in breaking the cycle is recognizing when your mind begins to ruminate unproductively. Then have strategies ready and at hand for when you have to return your mind to the present.
This training will take a little time, but it is a great skill to increase your productivity and emotional well-being. You can change your mentality from “I should have …” to a “The best thing to do now is …”