There are only two things you can truly control—your thoughts and what you do. No one else can choose either one of those for you. Thinking about the past with regret can become negative and robs you of your present well-being and, over time, can lead to serious problems like anxiety
Why do we keep going over negative things in the past?
- Maybe we are trying to work out a solution
- Sometimes it is just a bad habit.
- Sometimes we are expecting something to go wrong and trying to avoid an unfavorable outcome.
The problem with ruminating is that you are focused on things going wrong instead of how to generate the answers to resolve the situation and make things go right. If your partner got angry with you, you may be ruminating on what you did and worrying that if you do it again there might be more fights, and eventully you may fear you will even lose your relationship. You might replay the scene over and over in your head, or worry alot about what would happen if the worst-case scenario did happen. This kind of thinking activates your fight-or-flight response which actually shuts down your creative problem solving thought process. In order to find the answer that will allow you to let go of the problem, you need to become a bit separate from the ruminative thought pattern.
Stopping thoughts, however, isn’t something we are very good at. So here is one way you can begin to regain control over your thoughts:
Switch the channel to feel better
Feeling follows thought, so negative rumination generates bad feelings. Worrying makes you feel anxious. However, sometimes behavior can change emotions, too. If you do something that you know generally makes you feel better—going for a run, calling a friend, watching your favorite netflix series, or meditating—you can change your emotional frequency. When you are in a better mood, you can think more clearly and may gain a different perspective on the situation. Doing something that generates positive emotion also acts as a distraction by simply giving you something else to focus your attention on.
Read this to learn more
My colleague Tim Hill, has written a great blog explaining the difference between ruminating and introspection. You see, sometimes it can be really positive to reflect on the past if it is positive and Tim explains why well. I love the tips he gives for how you can turn your rumination into introspection. My favorite question is when he asks:
“Rather than just revisiting the past, is there some way that you can put the past to rest?
Click here to read his full blog http://timhillpsychotherapy.com/thinking-about-the-past/