Ruminating is generally something a person should avoid, but it seems to come naturally for some people. I have found ruminating, or thinking consistently of a problem, makes things worse not better. Another word for ruminating is worrying. Worrying or ruminating has never helped me find good solutions to my problems, gain new or better insights, or help me to deal better with the problem if it does occur. Instead, it makes things more confusing for me, and instead of helping me feel more confident or assured, or finding a solution, I often end up more scared, depressed, confused and/or tired.
A person does need to face hard decisions and difficult problems in life, and this often requires thinking about the decision or difficulty to make the decision or find the solution. And that can be uncomfortable, anxiety provoking, or even emotionally painful. I have two suggestions when thinking about your “issues”: 1) think about them when you have the most energy in your day, and 2) limit the time and energy you spend thinking about your “stuff”. Regarding my first suggestion, this is important because you are less likely to think negatively about the problem, and when you have more energy you are more likely to come up with a good solution or accurate perspective to your problem. I think a lot of people have a time of day when they have the highest amount of energy and creativity. Or perhaps you have more energy in some settings, such as a coffee shop or while listening to your favorite music.
Regarding limiting the time and energy you spend worrying, one solution is to plan to worry for a limited amount of time, say 20 or 30 minutes a day. Then after that, do other things to distract you. Many things can distract a person, such as socializing, work, chores, volunteering, prayer, reading, watching TV, exercising, doing crossword puzzles, doing a hobby, drawing, and so on. Some activities are better then others at engaging your mind and attention, so you don’t have the chance to worry.
One way to get out of the cycle worrying and ruminating is reframing the situation. Reframing a situation basically means thinking about it in a different or more positive way. This is often a lot easier to say than to do. A structured way of reframing the situation is therapy like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In fact, you could say that perhaps the main goal of CBT is to reframe your thinking about a situation, person, people, or life. But one problem with doing CBT, is it takes energy and time, which is often in short supply in some people’s lives. People often don’t have enough time, and when they find time, they are often too tired to do anything but plop themselves in front of a TV.
Besides CBT, I use a few ways to reframe my experiences. My favorite method is listening to recording which I explain in my blog Looping Recordings. During the day, I quickly glance at one of my favorite Baha’i writings, or I glance at one of the Emotions Anonymous “tools”, or I glance at one of the names of God, or I glance at some affirmations I have found helpful. If you don’t know where to start, google “positive affirmations” or something of that nature. I have printed out my quotes and EA tools on pages or 3 x 5 index cards, and I keep them near my desk during the day. During my day, when I take a break or am waiting for something, I glance at one of these “resources”. Just a quick glance at a slogan like “this too shall pass”, or “by the grace of God”, can help me think differently about what ever is bothering me.
Emotions Anonymous is a 12 step program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. The Emotions Anonymous “tools” are the 12 steps, the12 just for todays, the 12 slogans, the 12 concepts, the 12 traditions, the 12 principles and the 12 promises. As far as I know, all of these 12 step Anonymous groups like Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous, are all based on Alcoholics Anonymous just like Emotions Anonymous is. From my experience, there are many, many similarities between these groups too.