As a champion ruminator I have been trying out a few different techniques to deal with repetitive thoughts:
1. Be mindful. I have started meditating daily for 20 minutes using the Headspace app. During my daily sessions (and afterwards) I try to note the thoughts and feelings that are present, and rather than suppressing them, just return my focus to reality. We all spend so much time “in our minds” missing what is actually happening. Adopting this practice – of noting and then returning to the present – has been a key step towards not letting these thoughts rule my life.
2. Journal. I have been using the Penzu app to keep a journal. Whenever I catch myself stewing, I think: “Don’t worry about that now. Worry about it when you are writing in your journal.” I mentally note it, and move on. I don’t actually journal every night, but I do try to note down things that are bugging me, as a way to forget about them.
3. Stop sign. Whenever I catch myself stewing, I picture a stop sign and think of something else. I think this is useful if the thoughts keep on coming back.
4. Distraction. Deliberately choosing an activity that occupies your mind can help. I’m thinking movies, TV series and fiction books. Not science or psychology or self improvement books.
5. Don’t worry. Worrying about the worry is the worst part of it. Some rumination is normal. Don’t make a mountain of a molehill.
6. Analyse. Assuming there is some rationale behind this habit, I have noted down the positives and negatives of rumination. For example, if I ponder a problem long enough maybe I will come up with a solution. It does work that way sometimes.
7. Exercise. I swim and walk a lot. Neither of these activities occupies the mind, so I find when I start that I stew more, but then my mind settles and I think of nothing. On the rare occasions when this doesn’t work then I put on an audiobook, or I focus on my swim technique. Or I stop.
These are some techniques I use to deal with the worrying. None of it stops the thinking altogether, but that’s ok. It is human to stew a bit. Rumination will always be there. These techniques help me accept it.