3 Secrets On How To Stop Brooding Over The Past

Rumination_Nicholas_TYou encountered a conflict with a colleague and had some minor argument.  A few seconds later, you kept thinking about the incident, re-creating the scene and how you could have managed it better.

It was an emotional exercise and you could not help re-think.  You tried to talk it out with another fellow and it seems that your reaction to the incident made sense. However, that small incident lingered in your mind for a while and kept coming back over the next few days.


Do you experience brooding over some big as well as minor incidents and find yourself wasting time, energy and emotion as you replay it back in your mind?

My Encounter With Brooding Over

Recently, I had a chatter with friends and persuaded the career consultant in the group to use one of his methods to ‘analyze’ us. When  it was my turn, he revealed that I was a sensitive person who has the knack to sense people’s behavior.  I think and ponder over a lot of things.

In other words, I tend to sense what others think – which is good for my analytical profession but on the other side I tend to brood over some incidents over some time, even for days. That hit me bull’s eye!

I did not even know how you call that but this friend just told me how to describe it- ‘you brood over things for a while’.  Looking it up further on the net, something else came out- ‘ruminate’.

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s replaying an argument with a friend in your mind. It’s retracing past mistakes. – Margarita Tartakovsky, MS in “Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop” from PsychoCentral

Everyone has his piece of this experience.  Hence, you and I are not alone! Many are mildly able to brush it off after some stage in their life, some carry on with this challenge for most of their life.

Sad to say, it is not a joke to get into these situations, as probably most of you who experience this can tell.  Psychologist Guy Winch from Psychology Today mentioned a number of dangers in brooding over too much such as that it can be addictive, cause depression and more so physiological and psychological stress.  This is considering burdening oneself with a lot of thoughts on even the simplest things that become so complicated.

We would not want to waste time and energy brooding over useless things.  For sure we want to get over ruminating and be able to make good use of our resources.

Here are 3 tips on what to do to stop brooding over the past and over-analyze and move on to a more productive and happy life!

#1 Go cold turkey 

In the same article in Psychology Today, Winch suggested this way to get over with ruminating. By throwing the thoughts out of our brain windows once we catch ourselves ruminating, we might be able to save ourselves from this trouble.

Just as the typical advise on getting over an emotional or heart-breaking experience, distracting ourselves and keeping ourselves busy may help simmer down this bad habit.

Sometimes, the more you dwell on those ruminations, the more you get stuck.  As long as you are able to keep yourself into sanity and being conscious of how much the thought requires thinking and its implications, it is better off to just plainly ‘forget it!’

Our ruminations can come into many forms and can include for example that recent encounter with your boss criticizing you, that innocent frown on the face of a colleague or that nag from your spouse about the use of toothpaste.

If the boss’s criticism will not entail a heavy consequence such as losing your job – perhaps you can think whether it is worth to find time to discuss this with this boss or put it aside as non-sense typical encounter? Regardless of the issue, always think if it’s worth your previous time. Otherwise, go cold turkey.

#2 Engage in positive thoughts

Tartakovsky advices on doing positive activities that will foster useful thinking.  Instead of dwelling on the issue and playing back what happened and over-analyzing it, orient yourself in the positive exercises such as reflection, breathing exercise or meditation.

It is not only going to help to distract yourself as mentioned in #1, but to use positive psychology methods in order to give your inner self some cleaning and unburdening that it allows you to get a fresh perspective of the situation.

#3 Solve the problem

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, psychologist from Yale University who did research on the subject said that people who ruminate not only replay the situations in their heads but also  tend to ask abstract questions like “Why is this happening to me?” rather than “What else can I do to resolve the issue and move on?”

Hence she suggests coming out with a concrete solution to get on with rumination and continue with life.

What I find useful in escaping the grimy world of rumination is to write down the situation that bogs me in simple terms and what I could do to resolve it (if there’s a problem to be solved).  If it’s plainly replaying the incident and what-I-could’ve-done thought, I just write down how I feel about it and ‘park’ the emotion on my notepad.

Some others find the ‘traditional’ ranting it out to a fellow or friend – a useful tool to get away with brooding over.  Be careful though that doing this can replace the thinking into verbalizing which ends up with another dilemma.  Rather, talk it out keeping in mind of getting over rumination and shouting out the thought inside of you.

Put it Plain and Simple

We must be familiar with the words ‘analysis paralysis’.  We often times get trapped in thinking and over-analyzing situations even the simplest ones out of habit.  But the only solution is to throw it out of our mind and engage in useful activities.

Any concrete way you plan to apply reducing rumination in your life? Share your views and comments and start the conversation!


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One Response to 3 Secrets On How To Stop Brooding Over The Past

  1. Rkj February 26, 2016 at 12:42 am #

    Nice article.