Sunday, January 09, 2011


Sometime during the last year, I read that women are prone to ruminating. I instantly felt that I could identify with this, even without knowing exactly what ruminating was. Then, more recently, I read an Ensign article where a general authority cautioned against rumination. (Of course, I cannot put my fingers on either of these examples at the moment.)

After the second warning, I figured I had better do a little investigating. Here are a few pertinent things I found online:

Rumination is a way of responding to distress that involves repetitively (and passively) focusing on the symptoms of distress, and on its possible causes and consequences. Rumination is more common in people who are pessimistic, and who have negative "attributional style." The tendency to ruminate is a stable constant over time and serves as a significant risk factor for major depressive disorder. Not only are habitual ruminators more likely to become depressed, but experimental studies have demonstrated that people who are induced to ruminate experience greater depressed mood. There is also evidence that rumination is linked to general anxiety, post traumatic stress, binge drinking, eating disorders, and self-injurious behavior.

Although rumination is generally unhealthy and associated with depression, thinking and talking about one's feelings can be beneficial under the right conditions. According to Pennebaker, self-disclosure can reduce distress and rumination when it leads to greater insight and understanding about the source of one's problems. Thus, when people share their feelings with others in the context of supportive relationships, they are likely to experience growth. When people repetitively ruminate and dwell on the same problem without making progress, they are likely to experience depression.

While people may get into a ruminating frame of mind with the intention of working through the problem and finding a solution, research has shown that excessive rumination is associated with less proactive behavior, higher disengagement from problems, and an even more negative state of mind as a result. That means that rumination can contribute to a downward spiral of negativity.

Self Sabotage
Research has linked rumination with negative coping behaviors, like binge eating. Self-sabotaging types of coping behavior can create more stress, perpetuating a negative and destructive cycle.

--I am Tiffany1000 and I am a rumination-aholic! I've always done this, even as a little girl. Recently I came to terms with it and have started my road to rehabilitation. I started meditating and keeping a journal. During meditation I inhale happy thoughts and exhale all the negative. Trust me, this works. I've also had great success writing down the situations that cause me to ruminate. Journaling allows me to acknowledge what happened, validate my feelings, give it the attention I feel it deserves and then move on.

--I used to ruminate quite a bit and just couldn't stop. But two years ago, a very wise friend of mine, told me that her New Year's Resolution was to only allow herself four negative thoughts per day. And she'd count them down! (That's one negative thought. Now that's two. Only two to go until tomorrow.) I started doing the same thing and it cured my rumination! The reason? If you only have four negative thoughts a day, why use any on ruminating the same negative thought? I did this to help myself become a more positive person and was surprised and thrilled that it cured my rumination habits.

Holy cow. This really explains a lot. After reading through this material, I am convinced that I have a problem with rumination. I am famous (in my own mind, anyway) for mulling the same issues over and over in my mind, passively, without ever really taking action. Is it any wonder that those issues aren't going away??

I am thankful that a disciple of the Lord would address this, bringing it to the forefront of my attention. You can bet I will be trying the methods that helped the women in this article!


paws said...

Hm. I never realized that ruminate had a negative connotation. I just considered it a synonym to ponder. Good to know!

Claire said...

Wow! I'd never really thought of rumination being a bad thing.
Good to know though!

Jill said...

I'm glad all went well with the kids' talks! Please tell me that Max recognizes that he did a good job!

This topic is interesting to me and I can definitely see how as women we have a tendency to ruminate. I feel like I have been working on focusing on positive things and trying to knock out negative thoughts, but I fear I have one area in particular (R) that seems to be resistant to my efforts of change! It must be because I have a tendency to ruminate on my list of grievances. Aargh!

rmt said...

Wow. This is totally ringing true for me, and yet I've never really thought about it before. Wow. I can definitely see how this affects us as women and me personally...interesting. Thanks for giving me something (good) to think about! :)

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

What an enlightening post Michelle. Cows ruminate. They have four stomachs and the food goes back and forth, back and forth between the stomachs. Then they regurgitate it (no doubt you've heard "chew their cud") and work on it some more before they swallow it and the stomach passes it around again. In light of that, ruminating thoughts does not sound appealing.

Thanks for the enlightenment.

Susan said...

Your deep thinking always makes me feel that I should more of it myself.

Interesting and thoughtful. I'm going to study this a bit more. I don't feel that I'm much of a ruminator is that a word?!) . Maybe because I have too many thoughts in my brain constantly. At any rate, I'm going to really study this!

Glad the talks went well. I wish I could trade my gospel doctrine teacher in for a "Marc model"!

Charlotte said...

Hmmm, those are some interesting thoughts. I've definitely found myself prone to rumination. I'm an over-thinker—I think this will help!

And I'm glad all the talks/lessons went well!

Tasha said...

That's a really great idea! I hope you're feeling less blue. I think about you a lot.

patsy said...

I have read this over several times & plan on doing it again... so much to think about.

I really appreciate you writing about this.

Rebekah said...

Guilty as charged. I over-think and re-process everything.

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