Using Hypnosis To Manage Rumination – Depression and Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
If you have a tendency to ruminate or dwell then you’ll already know how it can become an habitual, perhaps even seemingly automatic, way of thinking. You can find yourself going over and over negative events and outcomes and other situations where things didn’t turn out well or where you consider yourself to have failed in some way.
The more you imagine, focus upon and engage in these repetitive negative thoughts, the more they can lead to you feeling anxious, down, low or angry. And as those negative feelings increase, you get caught in the internal thinking spiral that leads to more and more overthinking and ruminating.
Whether you ruminate for a few minutes at a time, or for hours, it can seem like you are lost in a sort of trance of negativity that you can’t always bring yourself out of. Your head seems to be always busy and noisy and stressed.
Rumination is a thinking pattern characterised by negative and repetitive thoughts that are often linked to a sense of loss or failure. It is a common thinking pattern that contributes to common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. You may find yourself struggling with anticipatory anxiety where you worry ‘what if’ something bad happens and other anxiety provoking worst case scenarios. You may find yourself wishing that things could have been different to how they are (thoughts that are about ‘if only…’) or you can find yourself being negative and critical in your assessment of yourself and your capabilities, such as telling yourself you are a failure or not good enough and so on. As you repeat these thoughts and thinking patterns, you feel more and more down, low, anxious and stressed (which can then have a ripple effect into the rest of your life and your relationships with others).
Rumination, and the negative feelings that it generates and that persist, thrives on receiving focus, belief, engagement and having time and space to run on and on through your mind. Yet as a learned pattern of thinking, and because what goes on inside your own head is something you can certainly learn to manage and orchestrate, it is a style of thinking that can be modified reduced, diffused and changed in a variety of ways that will lead to you feeling more in control and feeling better in yourself (rather than repeating the same old ongoing spiral of negative thoughts that go on and on).
Dealing With Anxious Thoughts
We all have the capability of ruminating and thinking negatively from time to time. Maybe something doesn’t go how you wished and other examples of similar negative things start to fill your mind. Perhaps you have something important coming up and you start to worry about what others think or about what if it goes badly for you in some way. You might find yourself wishing things had taken a different turn in friendships, relationships and you career at a past point. Or maybe you have just developed a tendency to at times be harsh and down upon yourself in certain circumstances. And certainly if you are tired, stressed or frustrated in some way then it is very easy to drift into that repetitive negative thinking spiral.
The occasional negative rumination may not be a major issue for you and you may find your thoughts soon move on and you can get on things in a more positive, constructive way. Yet sometimes rumination, and the anxiety, stress and depression that go with it and that contribute to it, becomes more problematic and negative and anxious thoughts and feelings become problematic.
As I’ve covered before, it is rarely the person, place, situation or circumstance that causes the anxiety, depression, worry and stress. It is more your own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions, experiences, motivations, focus and other psychological factors that are causing the problem and allowing it to persist. That means that if you learn how to change what is going on inside of your own head, and to take control over your thoughts and feelings, then you change how you feel and how you experience things.
As well as the strategy below, I’ve covered many issues, methods and strategies for disputing, challenging and undermining your anxious thoughts, along with some other ideas, in these previous articles:
And if you are struggling with anxiety and all the wanted thoughts and feelings it brings, then there are many hypnosis downloads that can help you with getting back to being more calm, confident and in control and that you can check out here: Anxiety Help Hypnosis Downloads
Manage Your Rumination
In addition to the strategies and resources contained in the articles above to help you with managing rumination, a recent paper has also looked at two particular mindfulness techniques that could help you if you are struggling to manage your thoughts.
I’ve covered the topic of hypnosis and mindfulness for helping with issues such as anxiety and stress several times before:
As covered above, rumination is a mental phenomenon characterised by a negative, repetitive style of thinking about the present and past symptoms, loss, and failure. It is commonly observed as a thinking style in people with depression, anger and anxiety. And common themes of rumination include anticipatory anxiety (e.g. “What if…” type thinking), counter factual thinking (e.g. “If only…” structured thoughts), and negative self assessments (e.g. “I am a failure” style negative self beliefs and perceptions).
If rumination is an issue for you, then you will know that the ongoing cycle of thoughts can lead to many uncomfortable feelings such as low mood, worry, anxiety, stress and dread. Perhaps even worse sometimes is the knowing that these thoughts are generated, created and maintained by you within your own head, yet you may feel powerless to stop that ongoing churn of thinking.
You may find that if you are able to keep busy and distracted then the thoughts diminish for a while (although they are still there at the back of your mind), and if you try to suppress them or to battle them then that can lead to even more unwanted ruminating, especially in the quieter moments of your day.
As discussed in the articles I’ve linked above, mindfulness can often help with learning how to manage and regulate your emotions and in learning how to become more detached from any previously distressing thoughts. You can develop the skill of being able to notice ruminating thoughts, yet without engaging with them or responding to them. This then reduces your emotional distress and also diminishes any emotion associated with the thoughts so that they become more like any other passing thoughts that just come and go through your mind each and every day (and that also don’t cause you any emotional distress).
Rather than your attention being fixated on an unwanted thought or idea, you can learn how to redirect your attention onto another competing experience in a detached manner.
Otani (2023) describes two particular mindfulness techniques that can help with managing rumination, these are mindful thought detachment and mindful dereflection. By utilising mindfulness you shift your awareness and focus to the here and now so that the ruminating thoughts are no longer your focus.
As Otani describes, in mindful thought detachment, you swiftly shift your attention from the ruminative thought to a pre-established object, such as the breath, a scene or a sound, and you repeat this process until the rumination subsides. You shift your awareness to a simple object, such as your breathing. Mindful thought detachment encourages you to view repetitive ideas simply as ‘unwanted, intrusive thoughts’ occurring temporarily in the mind.
Mindful thought detachment can help you to diminish and halt rumination. Where unwanted ruminating thoughts continue, a second approach can be called upon. Mindful dereflection involves redirecting your attention to any available sensory cues when rumination begins. This is similar to mindful thought detachment yet does not require using a predetermined cue, such as the breath. When you catch yourself starting to ruminate, you shift your attention to any immediately available stimulus to counter it (e.g. a sight, a sound or a smell). You then continue to repeat this until the urge to ruminate dissipates.
What you are aiming to achieve here is to shift your focus of attention away from the unwanted thoughts and onto a different felt experience in the moment (e.g. the breeze on your arm etc.). You shift your attention to something else in the here and now without seeking to challenge or change whatever you were ruminating about.
And so, for example, if I found myself dwelling on some previous negative memory that was embarrassing or a perceived failure in some way, I would shift my attention as quickly as possible to the breath, or the smell of the air diffuser in my office, or the feel of the heater on my hands, or any other sight, sound, smell or thing in my immediate environment. As with most strategies and techniques, repeated and consistent repetition of shifting awareness will make it easier and quicker to do effectively.
“Both strategies utilize the fundamental principle of mindfulness: first, acknowledge the occurrence of redundant thoughts, then shift attention to a different, predetermined cue or to available competing perceptual experience (mindful dereflection). Either approach helps the client to avert “being trapped” in the ideation, i.e., rumination” (Otani, 2023).
Thoughts, and the negative emotions that go with them, tend to grow and increase through focus and attention. Through repetition and engagement, rumination can become a seemingly habitual experience that brings discomfort and stress. Alongside your other approaches and strategies for orchestrating your thoughts, taking control over what goes on inside your own mind and directing your own focus of attention, these two mindfulness approaches can become and additional way to help you to manage and reduce your ruminating and dwelling.
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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(2023) Using Buddhist Meditation-informed Hypnotic Techniques to Manage Rumination: Two Case Illustrations, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis,