Ruminating thoughts mental rumination How to decrease

Have you ever found yourself thinking and rethinking something over and over again? Have you even tried to stop thinking, but it seems that the thoughts seduced you and when you noticed, you were already thinking again? If you’ve been through this, maybe you suffer from ruminating thoughts. And, yes, ruminant thoughts can be a big problem, it is essential that you understand better about them and how to reduce them to live better.

Did you know that ruminant thoughts are linked to OCD? That’s right, can you see the importance of understanding more about them now? In this Psychology-Online article we will explain what ruminant thoughts are and how to reduce them.

What are ruminant thoughts

These are thoughts that “stay longer than they should.” They are usually negative and always focused on correcting mistakes or avoiding them, they are strongly linked with fearRuminant thoughts have obsessive characteristics. It is usually triggered when the mind is faced with a discrepancy situation in which the way things are is not compatible with the way the mind wants things to be. [1]


No wonder ruminant thoughts are linked with OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is strongly linked to perfectionism, with the idea that “things need to be the way we imagine”.

And it is precisely with this “must be” or “must be” that obsessive thoughts begin. After all, things are usually not as we would like them to be. So for the ruminators on duty, this is a full plate, because if things aren’t going the way they should, “I’ll keep thinking until I find a way to make them go”.

Is it normal to have ruminant thoughts?

It depends, all people will have ruminating thoughts at some point. It’s that thought that goes back and forth no matter what you do, you try to get rid of it, but it doesn’t seem to go away at all.

The question is, how much time do you waste with these repetitive thoughts? How much anguish do you feel with them? Have you ever stopped doing something to have these thoughts and ruminate? How much do these repetitive thoughts affect your life?

mental rumination

Mental rumination is the name of the process that contemplates ruminant thoughts. It is characterized by the process of thinking and rethinking about a specific subject several times, causing anxiety and stress.

Ruminative or ruminant thoughts are a little different from automatic or intrusive thoughts. Since they are usually together , however, they have differences.

Ruminant thoughts are known precisely for this process of repetition and act of rethinking while automatic/intrusive thoughts are characteristic for coming to mind without warning and with no clearly involved conscious acts.

How the cycle of mental rumination that leads to depression works [1] :

  1. The individual feels negative feelings or thoughts in a bad situation.
  2. This generates negative physical sensations.
  3. Physical sensations generate dysfunctional behaviors (example: withdrawal from friends due to tiredness).
  4. Dysfunctional behaviors bring negative thoughts.
  5. The cycle repeats.

OCD and ruminant thoughts

Mental rumination is directly linked to OCD. Not everyone who has mental rumination has OCD, but everyone who has OCD has mental rumination [2] .

When this circuit breaks down, starting to work very intensely and repeatedly, the way is opened for the development of OCD, since the mistakes made… become reasons for mental rumination, generating the obsessive ideas that trigger great anxiety.. .

The ruminant thoughts in OCD are the beginning of the compulsive manias we know. After all, these thoughts cause strong anxiety and as he ruminates in our minds, he keeps repeating, increasing the stress caused.

And with the increase in stress, there will be a need for behaviors in search of relief, these will be the famous compulsive behaviors.

People who have frequent ruminating thoughts are much more likely to develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But in addition to ruminative thoughts, there are also intrusive thoughts, which are also involved in OCD.

How to decrease ruminant thoughts

There are ways to decrease and even get rid of ruminant thoughts:

  • intense exercise
  • mindfulness
  • hiking
  • writing
  • Don’t get carried away by the cycle

It is necessary not to “get carried away” by the ruminative cycle, seeking their acceptance in an open way without putting any elusive intentions. Since avoidance only reinforces false feelings of relief, and can even increase the cycle of ruminating thoughts. [two]

We must act in this way with ruminant thoughts:

  • Open posture with thoughts
  • no criticism
  • Curiosities
  • Acceptance
  • Not fighting or diminishing emotions and thoughts

intense physical exercises

In DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) there are techniques linked with intense exercises to reduce ruminant thoughts. For this it is necessary to perform for at least 20 to 30 minutes. After practice there is a very quick effect.

This happens because the level of anxiety decreases when the heart rate is raised to 70% of the maximum depending on the age of the individual. [two]


Mindfulness meditation is a helping hand for those who think too much. There are already several studies that prove the effectiveness of meditations in the process of anxiety and quick thoughts.

don’t get carried away

This is one of the most important points. Ruminant thoughts are a little seductive. As if they convinced you to keep thinking and rethinking. They give the feeling of security, “if we think about it several times maybe next time we won’t be wrong” or “I need to understand this situation in detail so I don’t make a fool of myself”.

As we mentioned above, ruminant thoughts are linked to fear, so they will convince you that thinking will make you safer, when this is not true, since you cannot control situations that do not depend on you.

Overthinking is not always the solution, it is important to evaluate situations, however we must not let these thoughts take up so much of our lives, limiting our mental health and our affective relationships.

This article is merely informative, in Psicologia-Online we do not have the capacity to make a diagnosis or indicate a treatment. We recommend that you consult a psychologist so that he can advise you on your particular case.

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