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Rumination: the annoying vicious circle of thought

Rumination: the annoying vicious circle of thought

November 29, 2022

Although human beings have a good capacity for inventiveness, it is also true that we are not always especially imaginative and spontaneous.

There are some situations that make us more likely to make our mind go through the same routes known over and over again, as if we were a vinyl. These vicious circles of thought not only stop our creativity, but transform everything that over time are making us feel worse.

What in psychology is known as rumination It is an example of this.

What is rumination?

The rumination of thought is the psychological phenomenon that appears when our focus of attention is "hooked" on a real or imaginary element that causes us stress and discomfort. That is, in rumination there is a paradox: something like thought, which by definition is dynamic and constantly changing, becomes almost static and locked in a circuit that makes it move in loops.


Where there is rumination there is also a person who is incapable of thinking without a good part of the things that he experiences, whether external stimuli or memories, make him think about his discomfort and the causes of it. When we find so many references to the origin of that feeling of grief and anxiety, everything to which we turn our attention becomes a trapdoor through which we fall back to the place where we were before: the consideration of the things that concern us.

This repetitive process makes more and more experiences that we have linked to stress in previous occasions accumulate in our memory, so that the variety of references to our discomfort grows over time.


When the thought goes on rails

In a way, rumination causes our thinking to adopt an automated and repetitive pattern based on a simple mechanism: t All the thoughts that come to mind will be spun among each other so that they are related to our discomfort . In this way, we lose concentration capacity and it is more difficult for us to manipulate ideas voluntarily, since all the elements will end up shifting our attention towards a concrete experience or a thought that produces negative sensations.

As our thinking is caught in this loop, it is hard for us to take initiatives that can be used to discharge that accumulated stress, and this in turn will prevent us from finding stimulating distractions in which we can concentrate.

The outcome of the thought rumination

In most cases, at some point the person experiencing rumination of thoughts spends enough time distracted to make the loop weaken and stress levels fall, but in other cases its persistence is associated with the appearance of the symptoms of depression.


In fact, one of the characteristics of depression is the lack of motivation of ability to set goals that are not immediate, as well as sedentary lifestyle, two factors that are also related to rumination .

Three ways to break the loop

If instead of waiting for rumination to disappear on its own, we prefer to take action on our own, There are some strategies that can help in this respect

The most useful and simple to reduce stress levels and release the focus of attention are:

1. Sport

Physical exercise is a great help to combat rumination, among other things because, while it makes us release endorphins, it requires us to concentrate on experiences that occur in real time.

After getting tired exercising, our muscles are not the only ones that start to recover: the neural connections also begin to connect with each other in a new way , after having been dedicated for a while to approach the goal of each physical exercise.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness has also been shown to be effective in reducing levels of anxiety and in disengaging attention from sources of stress. Although it is true that even during meditation our thinking does not stop (it does not even while we sleep), during these sessions it takes alternative routes, and it keeps us away from the self-referential thought that creates loops of discomfort and stress .

Other forms of meditation may also have benefits of this type, but they have not been so scientifically studied.

3. Walk

Something as simple as going for a walk can help you think more spontaneously , in addition to serving to release endorphins and discharge tensions. If this is done in natural environments with vegetation and away from noises, the better.

As in nature there is an atmosphere that helps us to relax and, at the same time, it is difficult to find direct references to our daily routine and what causes us anxiety, this type of space is perfect to disconnect. During the time we spend in wild environments, our brain learns to function by leaving the path marked by rumination, and that effect is fixed over time.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - Vicious Cycles (November 2022).


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