“Hey – you know the other day when I said, ‘Nice dress,’ and you said, ‘thanks,’ and I said, ‘it looks like something my mom has,’ and you laughed and walked off? I am so sorry; I really didn’t mean for it to come out that way at ALL, and I really do like your dress, actually, BECAUSE it reminds me of something my mom had in the 80’s, which is TOTALLY in style right now and that is what I meant by it.”
“Yeah, I don’t even remember you saying that.”
If you’re a spaz like me, these kinds of conversations happen a little too often. I will say something off-hand, which I then replay over and over in my head. I’ll conclude that it was exceptionally offensive only to have the other person laugh it off. Some might say I am a bit obsessive…
Author Joseph Emet would say I am ruminating too much. In FINDING THE BLUE SKY, Emet defines rumination as an automatic way of thinking where we focus on the same negative thought over and over until we are either stressed or depressed. And this rumination easily becomes habitual, which means that the stress and/or depression that results from it becomes habitual, as well. A vicious cycle.
The good news here is that habits can be changed. Some say it takes 6 weeks (which seems unverifiable – sort of like how the recommended 10,000 daily steps isn’t based on science either, but I digress). No matter if that time frame is accurate or not, the point is that with some effort and desire, we can change how we feel by altering our habitual way of thinking.
These three tips from Emet have helped this anxiety-prone ruminator tone it down a bit. Maybe they will help you, as well:
1. Write down your obstinate thoughts. While you might be thinking, “She hates me” when ruminating, you are not likely to write down a whole page of it when journaling. Instead, you are more likely to put it into perspective, come up with a solution, or move on.
2. Meditate. Emet puts it this way: “Meditation is like grazing; rumination is like burping what was previously chewed and swallowed.” Ok, a little unappetizing, but he makes a good point. Meditation helps us put things into context and breaks the maddening cycle of unproductive thought.
3. Mentally say “Thank you” to your thoughts. Emet says, “This is a polite way of refusing to play its game. Don’t argue. Just say ‘Thank You,’ every time you hear a thought and do not get involved. This is a great way to train yourself to dissociate from the voice of the brain.”
I actually found that last one to be the most helpful. I’m usually pretty busy, and while I do write and meditate during my increasingly-rare kid-free moments, I can always mentally say “thank you” to ruminating thoughts that won’t leave me alone.
~Post by Kelli, nonfiction reader, skeptical spiritual seeker, reluctant Pisces, and blocked artist
These tips were taken fromFINDING THE BLUE SKY, available at these retailers: