Do you find yourself continually lost in thought? Do you find that as you go about your daily business at work, at home, or out with friends, negative thoughts seem to intrude into your consciousness and distract you from being present in the moment? Do you find that your mind swirls uncontrollably as you recount past negative experiences, one after the other? Once you start, do you find it impossible to stop and feel as though your mind has completely taken over?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could suffer from rumination. Side effects of rumination include anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, health problems, selfishness, and sour relationships. If you are prone to ruminating, don’t worry. The good news is that you’re not alone — and I know the secret antidote!
For many years, I myself suffered from rumination. When something bad happened in my life, I found it nearly impossible to move on from it because I felt like my mind kept mulling it over and over and over and over. Even if something bad happened three years previously, my mind would ruminate about it like the bad event had happened yesterday. There was no escape! I felt like my mind was continually holding me as a prisoner. For many years, I felt helplessly enslaved to my own mind.
It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the situations that happened in my life were not the problem. The problem, I discovered, was that I kept ruminating about the negative situations in my life. It was the ruminating that paralyzed me from moving forward, not the events themselves.
Once I understood this, it took me awhile before I discovered the secret antidote. Eventually, I discovered the antidote in a book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. In this book, Carnegie describes the critical thinking method, which is by far the most invaluable piece of advice that I have ever received in my life. By practicing critical thinking every day, I was soon able to gain control of the thoughts that continually swirled around in my mind and I was able to think of solutions to move forward. Not only that, but I could actually take action; as a result, I could cease thinking about the same problems over and over again.
So how does it work?
Good critical thinking skills employ the following steps:
- What is the problem?
- What is the cause of the problem?
- What are my goals?
- What are all solutions to the problem?
- What is the best solution to the problem?
All you have to do to unpack a problem– ie) controlling the swirling thoughts that ruminate around in your mind– is to sit down and write out the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.
Absolutely revolutionary. What. A. Genius!
Not only does the critical thinking method allow you to remove the thoughts from your mind, but it also allows you to unpack the problem and actually think about solutions to the problem. In addition, it helps you to reframe your mind from one of negativity (thinking about a problem) to one of positivity (thinking about your goals and solutions). Huzzah!
Once you practice critical thinking, then you will start to really think through the decisions you make. Eventually you will become so good at this that you will start to make really good decisions on your own. Consequently, you will rely less on other people’s advice and perspective and rely more on your own. As a result of this, you will build a self worth and a trust in yourself simply because you have the knowledge that you can make great decisions all by yourself.
When you think about it, rumination is actually a combination of 1) anxiety, 2) unforgiveness, and 3) victim mentality. People who ruminate frequently are paralyzed with fear of taking action because they do not know how to avoid repeating the same negative event or circumstance again in the future. People who ruminate frequently are simply blaming other people or circumstances for their own misfortune in life. They do not know how to move forward because they are stuck in the same bad circumstances from the past, as bitter victims.
As I learned, the best way to un-stick yourself from the past is to learn how to forgive the people who hurt you and to cultivate an accountability mindset. Learn how to examine the situation from both sides to determine what role you played in causing your own current situation of misfortune and then learn how to grow from it. Improve yourself to be better or to act differently so that you can avoid similar misfortune in the future. Lastly, cultivate a mindset of accountability and responsibility.
Remember: You, and you alone, are responsible for your current circumstances and your life. If you do not like something, then think critically about it and then take action to change it. This is the secret antidote.