I felt the divine powers must be revealing something to me when I read the children’s book “Olivia” – about an overly energized ballerina pig – and saw myself in it’s pages.
There was one particular line that caught me – “Olivia even exhausts herself!”
I still have the mental image of a sketched pink pig, lying on the floor in a polka dotted tutu, staring wide eyed and exhausted at the ceiling. And, I still vividly remember the feeling I had when I realized she and I had something in common.
See, I – like Olivia – am excellent at self exhaustion. And, believe me, it doesn’t come from too many work outs. It starts with the person beside me being abnormally quiet, or a text message that never got responded too, and pretty soon I’m falling into a trap of regret, fear and self examination that can last – quite literally – all day.
Amy Maclin has a name for this. She calls it “rumination,” and writes that,
Persistently dwelling on distressing situations from the recent or distant past (called rumination, as in that thing a cow does when it constantly rechews food) can be one of the most destructive mental habits. It’s closely linked to depression, and it can sap our confidence, our ability to solve problems, and our sense of control over our lives.
Fortunately, Maclin has paved the way for a path out of over thinking – and into increased happiness and peace. Her six steps to stop over thinking were not only helpful for my rumination habit, they helped me to think more positively about myself, my situations – and to better love the people around me.
- Step one: If you can, take action
Instead of trying to change history, address the consequences. If there is, quite literally, nothing you can do – look into doing something that could make you happier with your life situation.
- Step two: Challenge your beliefs
Cognitive restructuring is a way of changing your thinking. It involves putting your thoughts on trial and challenging their accuracy. (ie – does it really make sense that my boss quiet in the elevator just because I had a typo this morning, or is it more likely that she was tired?).
- Redirect your attention
Find an absorbing activity to take up your time and energy, rather than allowing yourself to sit and think.
- Resist the urge to “talk it out”
“Studies have linked co-rumination between female friends to a significant increase in the stress hormone cortisol,” Maclin writes. Unfortunately, talking through your problem can often lead to more stress, instead of less.
- Observe mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that consists of simply focusing on the present moment without judgment – it can often be a helpful tool in moving past negative thoughts.
- Be patient
You may struggle as you work to change your thinking – don’t ruminate on it!
Read more about rumination, and the path out of it.
What do you ruminate most about – and were any of these steps helpful for you in changing your habit?