How to Stop Rumoring – The New York Times

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Divert your attention Dr. Siegel said that one of the most effective things you can do when your thoughts are spiraling out of control is to distract yourself. For example, in a study published in 2011, researchers found that when socially anxious college students redirected their attention using word-rearranging exercises immediately after giving a three-minute speech, they reported more felt positive about how their presentation compared to those who performed the guided negative rumination session. In another 2008 study, 60 college students were asked to recall events in their lives when they felt lonely, sad, rejected or hurt. They were then asked to spend eight minutes either focusing on mindfulness or distracting themselves with random thoughts and observations. Rumination prolonged negative moods, whereas distraction reduced them. Mindfulness neither helped nor worsened his mood.

“Listening to music and focusing on the words or melody” can also help draw you out of your thoughts — at least temporarily, Dr. Marx said. Other distraction strategies, such as talking with a friend, playing a game, or exercising, may also help.

Avoid your triggers. If watching a Hallmark movie brings up overwhelming memories of the loss of a family member, or if scrolling through social media leads to an unhealthy fixation on your appearance, avoiding those triggers can help interrupt such thoughts. Jodi Lewis Russell, a doctoral student who studies the philosophy of rumination in depression and anxiety at the University of Edinburgh. Use the “mute,” “block,” “unfollow” or “not interested” functions liberally on social media, or avoid the Internet or certain types of media altogether if you find they are doing more harm than good. .

Set a worry timer. When you’re ruminating, it’s possible to get stuck in a feedback loop where you feel bad about ruminating, which can itself lead to more rumination and deeper feelings of distress. Setting aside 10 to 30 minutes of dedicated “worry or rumination time” can help take some of that pressure off from time to time. Even the simple act of giving yourself permission to contemplate can help you feel more relaxed, Dr. Siegel said.

Adding an activity like writing in your journal can also be laxative and help clarify and calm your feelings, Dr. Marks said.

Immerse yourself in the moment. Sometimes people think about things that happened in the past or that will happen in the future, and that have no immediate solution. To get yourself out of that unproductive thought pattern, Dr. Marx said, take a moment to pay attention to what is happening around you, such as: “What do you see in front of you? What is the temperature in the room? Is there anything you can smell in the air? Whatever experience you are in, take it and immerse yourself in it.”

Some experts said that while the strategies above may be helpful for some people who think and have certain mental illnesses (such as severe OCD), they will need more regular intervention. If your thinking tends to be in a near-steady state, it would be unrealistic for you to try to be distracted or conscious all the time, Dr. Greenberg said – like constantly trying to float on a fly or catch a balloon under water.

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