Rumination

Is our mind the greatest story teller?

Our minds seem to work on stories either via replay (he said, she said, and then this) or predictive stories. Our storytelling is largely based on emotion, rarely logical and largely perception biased. As our memory doesn’t work as a reliable filing system but instead recreates our recalled experience, our memories are largely false.

This is important when we consider rumination. Simply put rumination is the state of chewing over these stories we tell ourselves without any progress. Ever had that stressed time when the same story replays over and over in your mind. Each time the story replays it creates stronger neural connections in the brain, reinforcing the story, to the extent a false story can be recalled and felt (experienced) as true.

Is rumination a ‘bad’ thing? I recently had it put to me that life IS pressure, we can’t escape pressures. Stuff happens, cars break down, disagreements happen, it rains on wedding days and so on. The pressure isn’t bad, pressure can be managed and negotiated. We need some pressure to push us forward.

It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it—not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened anyone

Marcus Aurelius

What does make pressure a bad thing is rumination, endless storytelling and mulling over what pressures us. This leads to stress. Stress directly affects both our mental and physical wellbeing through the release of cortisol. Ruminating on events, particularly those that are challenging or unplanned can create a reality based on the emotions coming from ruminating rather than the reality or the logical reality of an event.

How can we reduce rumination? There are a number of techniques, some are based around a simple ‘jolt of experience’ such as putting on some attention-grabbing music, getting active and going for a brisk walk or workout – this has the added benefit of releasing endorphins which lift the mood and can influence our thinking to something positive or purposeful.

Another technique is meditation, either single focused (such as the breath) to give our mind space, given that space it will often find the logical or the closer truth (perspective) of what we are ruminating on. However meditation can lead to further frustration, rumination or dismay is we aren’t kind to ourselves and fight the thoughts that arise whilst meditating. Again an antidote to this is often to get out for a brisk walk before meditating.

Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.

Marcus Aurelius

We suffer more in imagination than in reality.

Seneca

Seek not for events to happen as you wish but rather wish for events to happen as they do and your life will go smoothly.

Epictetus

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