Healthy Living

How Rumination Is Linked to Anxiety and Depression

How Rumination Is Linked to Anxiety and Depression

What is rumination?

According to various research studies, one of the important factors or causes of depression and anxiety is rumination.

When people ruminate, they continually contemplate about certain problems or thoughts without end. Most of the time, individuals who are depressed have episodes of rumination about being worthless or inadequate. The repetitive cycle of feeling inadequate increases an individual’s anxiety, which often interferes with problem solving. It then leads to a deepening depression. 

Individuals who suffer from anxiety and depression often have minds plagued with uncontrollable thoughts. These thoughts are mostly sad and depressing. They are also related to past experiences, which help maintain the state of anxiousness and depression in an individual. 

Ruminating or worrying about small things has been seen as a common occurrence in our daily lives. Rumination is known to be one of the common similarities between anxiety and depression.

People who ruminate focus their attention on particular symptoms or situations, which then lead to their distress. Worrying a lot and rumination are both linked to anxiety and other kinds of negative thinking. However, its measures have not been unified yet.

Rumination Linked to Depression and Anxiety

In rumination, the function of the brain plays a significant role in a number of ways. However, an important aspect of brain function in rumination is related to an individual's memory. We often remember certain things, which are related to each other through neural networks. When we are distressed, our brain lights up certain connections to previous times we felt the same way.

Ruminating worsens an anxious and depressed brain. It can also lead to a person’s inability to create solutions to problems. In such situations, the brain finds it hard to shift to another perspective to solve problems, which further intensifies rumination along with heightened anxiety and depression. 

Treating Rumination

To switch off ruminating thoughts into something positive, two methods can be followed:

1. Stop rumination by exiting all negative neural networks.

The first thing to do is to stop the process of rumination on any negative thoughts and activate the neural network of the times when everything worked out fine. However, they may be hard to remember. The neural networks present in the brain can be triggered by the mood of an individual. Certain moods may be connected to other moods when an individual is scared of any kind of bad outcomes.

In such conditions, an individual should deliberately try to recall fearful situations but with positive outcomes. This then leads the anxiety networks into remembering positive consequences. However, one should also remember that ruminating may get an individual quite negative to shift into a network of positive thinking without the help of a memory jogger. So what can help people shift into another network? 

  • Positive Thoughts - An individual can get help from their family and friends in remembering positive thoughts. Ask them to help you remember the times when everything was fine. Have encouraging conversations, which can help shift the attention to a different kind of network in the memory, and when other individuals start to point out the positive outcomes, then you can start to go on a different neural network path, which is no longer disappointing or depressing.
  • Recall Happy Memories - A memory jogger can be helpful when recalling the times you were happy and feeling good. It can be done by going over old pictures of good and happy memories. As you go over past happy memories, try to recollect not only what you were thinking at that moment, but also on how your body felt at that particular time. It would surprise you to know that the feelings of joy and happiness are basically a type of physical sensations. To get in touch with your memory, try to scan your senses--the things you saw or hear, how a particular food tasted, how it felt, and how it smelled.
  • Music - It is known to have a lot of power in itself. It holds the power to put people directly back into a different place when they hear a particular music. It takes us to a mood we were in when we heard it. It then fills up the pieces of memory with situations and people. Life is never perfect, but music takes us into a different zone the moment we hear it. Is there a particular type or frame of music, which helps you land into a good and happy place? If the answer is yes, then make a collection of those songs or music, and listen to them the moment you get negative thoughts or when something depresses you to fill you up with positive thinking leading you into feeling good.
  • Enjoyable Places - Another interrupter is to put oneself into a place wherein you can connect with things, which turn out good for you. You can go to a location, which fills you up with a positive state of mind.

When we talk about going into another neural network, it does not mean to get lost in old memories, but to effectively find a way that leads to a positive neural network, where one can appropriately think about the solution to the problem being faced.

2. Conduct proper planning and tackle the problems one at a time.

Try to separate the problems and make plans. Ruminating over negative thoughts can prevent you from solving the problem or moving ahead if you still do not have the solution to the problem. In such cases, try to break down the problem just to see if there is actually a problem that can be solved or just a form of worry that can be eliminated.

A person who ruminates may try to connect unwanted or unrelated problems, and could not let go of them. If this type of rumination sounds like the way you deal with your problems, then you can try the following:

  • Make a list of your ongoing problems and place them into columns alongside to clearly see whether they are connected in any way.
  • The next step is to identify the problem and make plans for it. You can write down your plan with corresponding action steps. 
  • Carry out the same process for each problem being faced.
  • Try to look across the columns. Are there action steps that are connected to each other? If the answer is "yes", identify which step would come out first. This is where you can direct all your initial steps and efforts. If in case they are not connected in any way, then pick out an action plan, which you would attend to first.
  • Check out the columns to see if any of the problems do not have a solution. Write down the date when there can be more information to think about it again. So for now, it is just a worry. There is no need to contemplate about it in the meantime.
  • If any of your problems come up, constantly remind yourself that you have a plan. This would calm you down and prevents you from rethinking about your plan on hand.

Depression and anxiety tend to improve as you get better in trying to interrupt your ruminating thoughts. It is possible for an individual to stop brain patterns that can lead to signs of anxiety as well as depression by ending the rumination itself. As you keep on practicing, it would get easier to manage. 

According to various research studies, one of the important factors or causes of depression and anxiety is rumination.

When people ruminate,

Key Takeaways

  • Ruminating worsens an anxious and depressed brain. It can also lead to a person’s inability to create solutions to problems. 
  • In such situations, the brain finds it hard to shift to another perspective to solve problems, which further intensifies rumination along with heightened anxiety and depression. 
  • It is possible for an individual to stop brain patterns that can lead to signs of anxiety as well as depression by ending the rumination itself. As you keep on practicing, it would get easier to manage.