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Did you know that cows have seven chambers to digest food? The process is called rumination because the grass eaten by the cow, must be digested seven times to digest fully. Thankfully, today we will discuss the human coping behavior referred to as rumination. We will not discuss multiple stomachs further, but we will discuss the repetetive act of focusing on the past.
Before diving into rumination, I’ll preface this post to explain that I will begin a mini series on mindfulness soon. Mindfulness is a behavior that can promote wellness in leaps and bounds. It also helps you avoid the negative psychological outcomes associated with rumination.
Rumination is a behavior that does not promote wellness, yet I suspect many of us are occasional ruminators. While rumination may be an unfamiliar term, is is important to learn about it along with the signs. This knowledge could equip you with the ability to recognize and perhaps quit this habit, if you catch yourself or another ruminating.
What is rumination?
Basically it has to do with getting hooked on negative feelings of the past. It is defined as, “the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions” according to this article.
Rumination is similar to worry. Worry is a sort of anxious obsession with the possible negative outcome of future events, whereas rumination is an anxious rehearsal of past negative experiences, feelings, or events while excluding problem solving.
Signs or red flags that may indicate rumination:
- negative thinking
- trouble with problem-solving
- interference with instrumental or proactive behaviors
- loss of social support
- a persistent focus on the self and one’s own problems
- self-critical or blaming self for current problems
- low self-confidence in the ability to overcome problems
- a sense that problems are unsolvable or overwhelming
- depression-like symptoms
Rumination is referred to as a maladaptive coping strategy. In other words, it hinders rather than helps. Coping strategies help us effectively cope with adversity and problems when they are adaptive, while maladaptive coping strategies disrupt coping altogether. (Most, if not all adaptive coping strategies are fall under the category of problem-focused coping-strategies. Likewise, maladaptive coping-strategies such as rumination are part of a category called emotion-focused coping-strategies. More on this another day!)
Equipped with the definition and red flags of rumination, you are ready to notice ruminating on your own. Recognizing and acknowledging is the first step. Developing adaptive strategies in the problem-focused coping-strategy is the next and final step.
Rumination is not the same as nostalgia, an emotion that also involves memories of past events. I will discuss nostalgia in the upcoming Wellness Monday post next week.
To prepare yourself for the talk on nostalgia, have fun taking this quiz to measure your own level of nostalgia by clicking here.