4 Techniques for Overcoming Rumination

March 20, 2019 Sam Woolfe

Learn what rumination is, the role it plays in low self-esteem, and some techniques for overcoming rumination at HealthyPlace.

Overcoming rumination is important because rumination is when you dwell on negative thoughts. Unlike introspection, which involves a curious and healthy exploration of thoughts and events, rumination is repetitive and self-destructive. Ruminating thoughts tend to focus on personal regrets, mistakes, and embarrassments, which feed into a negative self-image. While introspection can lead to insight and personal development, rumination keeps you stuck, trapped in a cycle of self-criticism.

You may find yourself ruminating in certain situations, such as when you spend too much time alone or at night. Before you know it, you’re turning around negative thoughts in your head, obsessing about the past as if doing so were the best way to deal with it. However, rumination doesn’t lead to problem-solving. Rather than helping you arrive at a solution, rumination usually centers on feelings of inadequacy or being a failure in some respect. This is why rumination too often can fuel low self-esteem and depression. But, there are ways to stop rumination and the mental health issues that can follow. Here are some useful techniques to use to overcome rumination when you start overanalyzing the past.

4 Techniques for Overcoming Rumination

  1. Mindfulness -- You can combat rumination by practicing mindfulness. This involves simply noticing distressing thoughts arise without overthinking them. It’s completely normal for painful memories to crop up. They might be triggered by a thought, someone you met, or a particular experience. Mindfulness, however, can stop you from obsessing about past events by letting memories come and go, without judgment or drama.
  2. Self-Compassion -- It’s okay to make mistakes, you’re only human. If you find you’re being harsh to yourself in your head over the past, remind yourself that we all slip up. No one is perfect. The problem with rumination is that it doesn’t allow you to let go of the past, and that’s where self-compassion comes in. By prioritizing your wellbeing, you will see the importance of showing kindness towards yourself. Always aim to treat yourself as a friend rather than an enemy – this is a powerful antidote to rumination.​​​​​​​
  3. Self-Forgiveness -- Like self-compassion, forgiving yourself for past mistakes can be difficult. But it’s really the only way to move past regret. You can practice self-forgiveness by recognizing the mistake for what it is (without exaggerating your role in making it), accepting the mistake as a learning experience, ask for forgiveness from someone if you need to, and then figure out how you will avoid this mistake again in the future. This offers a solution to the problem, unlike ruminating thoughts, which just keep you stagnant.​​​​​​​
  4. Distract Yourself -- When you spend too much time in your head, especially as a sufferer of low self-esteem or depression, you may easily fall into the trap of rumination. This doesn’t mean you have to fear your own company, only that it’s crucial to recognize when you need a break from solitude. Indeed, being isolated for long periods of time can be unhealthy, whatever your disposition. So if you find yourself binging on ruminating thoughts, do something to get out your head – see if there’s someone you can chat to or meet up with. Other distracting activities that can help you stop ruminating include reading, writing, drawing, exercise, listening to or playing music, or watching a TV show or film.

By using these four techniques, you can stop rumination in its tracks. It’s crucial, though, to constantly practice these techniques. If you’re someone prone to rumination, you may view a failure to apply one or more of these techniques as further evidence of your inadequacy. That’s completely normal. Just keep applying the techniques. Over time, they will become habits – and you will start to notice improvements in your way of thinking. You can overcome rumination.

APA Reference
Woolfe, S. (2019, March 20). 4 Techniques for Overcoming Rumination, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Sam Woolfe

Find Sam on TwitterFacebook and on his blog.

Leave a reply