A thoughtul young south asian man is distracted from his phone by his ruminative thinking
CREDIT: Michael Burrows via Pexels

Ruminative Thinking: What It Is and How to Stop

Wondering what ruminative thinking is? Watch this video to learn its meaning and how to stop, from Mitsu’s lead clinical psychologist.


Transcript below.



Hi, I’m Raksha. I’m a clinical psychologist and I’m going to be explaining about ruminative thinking today, because studies show that it is a key thought pattern underlying struggles with depression or anxiety.


But, if we learn how to manage it and recognize it, we can actually improve our mental health instead.


What is ruminative thinking?

So rumination means a pattern of negative overthinking. It involves focusing on causes and consequences of your distress, often leading to a never-ending cycle of negative thoughts and feelings.


Basically, it is like a movie with all your worst parts of your life playing in a loop in your head. And it can be pretty exhausting. And it never gets better.


Some people might ruminate by replaying every tiny detail of mistake or experience, trying to spot the moments where things went wrong. Others’ ruminative thoughts might involve imagining what they should have done, what others must have done instead.


But the four key features of ruminative thinking are: (1) it is often focused on the past, (2) it is negative, (3) it can be repetitive, and (4) it can often feel out of control.


And you may try to think about something else, but you might soon find yourself and the thoughts being pulled back into a loop like a magnet.


Ruminative thinking typically develops in response to stress, setbacks or even trauma. It’s an attempt to cope and problem solve, to make sense of challenging situations or emotions. You dwell on what went wrong, why it happened, and how to keep from it happening again. It is a natural response, it’s a natural process.


Our brains are built to review information and learn from it. But with rumination, you can never arrive at that moment of clarity, solution or even resolution. The fear of making the same mistake in the future keeps many of us stuck in the loop of rumination. Even perfectionism and self criticism for that matter, are linked with ruminative overthinking.


But no amount of reviewing the past mistakes keeps us from making them again. If anything, we might become more likely to make the same mistakes when we dwell on them, because so much of our attention and our, energy is focused on the past instead of the present.


How to stop ruminative thinking

Despite how it feels, you can escape the rumination trap. The techniques of cognitive behavioural therapy, or popularly known as CBt, are especially effective at helping people identify and change their negative thought patterns. Mindfulness and self compassion skills can also help.


So if you struggle with ruminative thinking, it’s not your fault. You are not alone and you don’t have to keep struggling. With the right resources, it is possible to cultivate a more positive and resilient pattern of thinking.



Raksha Rajesh (M.Sc., M.Phil., CRR No. A80195) is the clinical team lead at Mitsu.care. She is a clinical psychologist licensed by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) with 6+ years of experience in helping people from diverse backgrounds build skills to understand and manage their emotions.

More blogs