Reduce Your Rumination
“Me: Please let me sleep! Brain: Nope, we have to stay up together and go over every bad life decision we have made so far”
Have you laid awake at night worrying?
Rumination is defined as a deep or considered thought about something. It is generally associated with negative thoughts.
When we ruminate we are stuck in a negative spiral of over-thinking. We are re-living unpleasant events thinking about what happened, what it means for us and what it might mean for the future. Such negative thoughts are perceived by the brain as a threat and so we experience a classic fight-flight reaction with elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol.
We ruminate for lots of different reasons. Some of us have experienced traumatic events and rumination is part of the PTSD we experience. Many of us have a deep seated lack of self-worth and so we engage in an ongoing narrative that confirms that lack “ I’m so stupid, why did I do that, it’s no wonder that happened”. Sometimes we are striving for perfection and replaying events over and over again becomes a part of this, a never ending reflection. This may appear to be us bettering ourselves but we don’t remember past events accurately and we are harder on ourselves than anyone else would be and so the effect if is more akin to brow-beating. At times we are preparing ourselves for the worst however, in doing this we are living in that worst case scenario.
Is there any value in rumination?
The short answer is no!
When we ruminate we are projecting out of the present moment either into a scary future or a frightening past. This is unhelpful as no-one really knows what will happen, the future is unknown and the past is just that, past and therefore unchangeable. The time we spend ruminating about past and future is pointless and the fight-flight response we endure is uncomfortable and absolutely unhelpful in the dark of night.
Persistent rumination is associated with anxiety and depression, alcohol misuse and eating disorders. it can magnify pain and has a negative effect on our physical health.
In addition a lack of sleep is linked to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, obesity and depression. When we are sleep deprived we are more likely to have accidents and less able to think clearly.
So, next time you are lying awake at 2am...
Take 3 deep breaths
Make them as slow and even as possible
On each in-breath acknowledge the gifts you received that day
The lessons you learned
On the out-breath let go of all that is bothering you
Now set the intention to sleep
Bring yourself into the present moment using all five of your senses
Notice the feel of your bedclothes against your skin
The weight of the duvet
The warmth of the mattress as it absorbs your body heat
The relaxing of your muscles as you let go of tension
What can you hear in the quiet of the early hours?
The familiar noises of the house?
The call of night animals?
Late night traffic?
What can you see in the dark?
The reassuring shapes of your bedroom?
A glimmer of light from outside?
Are there any smells?
What can you taste?
In this present moment you are safe and secure with everything that you need
All that has happened before and all that is to come is irrelevant
Focus on your breath and allow yourself to slip into the dreamworld knowing that tomorrow is another day
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