Ruminate: to go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly.
Have you ever heard of this term before? I hadn’t until a year or so ago while listening to personal development. I can’t remember exactly which book or podcast I first heard it on, but it stuck with me.
A ruminator is someone who dwells on things that have happened in the past. It could have been just a few minutes ago, or years prior. What is typical, is that the ruminator repeats a situation over and over in their head, trying to figure out how they could have done something different or said something to change the course of the situation.
A ruminator continues to live in the past while also trying to move forward in the present.
For as long as I can remember, I have always ruminated. I dwell on situations to figure out how I could have done something differently. It doesn’t matter if nothing apparent went wrong, I still ruminate. I feel like there is something different I can always do so I am a better person, I don’t offend someone, I stand up for myself, etc.
I don’t know why I do it. It doesn’t help me in future situations. It doesn’t fix anything.
But since I learned of this term and habit, I have been able to identify when I do it. I can notice when I’m going down a rabbit hole in my past trying to fix something. I can tell myself that I’m ruminating again and to focus my mind on something else.
But, it isn’t as easy as being able to.
For some people, like me, ruminating doesn’t stop at the thoughts of what could be changed. It goes into a whole change of mood and outlook. Once I go down that rabbit hole, I can change an entire day. It could have been a great day with amazing things happening, and then BAM! that thought hits and there I go.
I’d like to tell you that I have been able to completely reverse my ruminating, but I haven’t. From experience, I can tell you that this habit is not an easy one to break. But, I have improved. I do it less often. I catch myself quicker. And I have come up with a way to pull myself out of the thought train and move on.
When I am ruminating and I finally catch myself, it’s like I flip a switch. You know that point when you feel like you finally understand something? Yeah, it’s like that. Once I realize what I’m doing and can get new thoughts going, I tell myself “so that happened” and then distract myself with new thoughts and dreams (something to look forward to) or by doing a task. I learned this from one of the coaches I follow, I believe Andrea Owen.
This method won’t work for everybody, and I don’t have other options to share, but learning to identify when you are ruminating will make a world of difference. Living by trying to fix things from the past will not change the future. Only living in the present and working on what is happening each moment will change the future.
I don’t want to say that you should never look back, because sometimes a quick look back to learn from a mistake or situation is just that, a learning experience. The problem is when a look back turns into a long gaze back turns into replaying something over and over again.
You aren’t going there. You can’t go there.
Learn from experiences and move on. Don’t dwell on what you cannot change.