October 22


Rumination is the Biggest Predictor of Mental Health Problems

By Staff Writer

October 22, 2013

negative thinking, rumination

Stress is a big deal in the UK. OK, well stress is a big deal in many “civilized” countries, but Britain got more serious about how they deal with work-related stress infringements, upping the maximum fines allowed in 2008 with the Health and Safety (Offenses) Act 2008.

A study that was conducted by the BBC’s Lab UK along with the University of Liverpool and published just last week shows that rumination is actually the most significant predictor of mental health problems in the UK.

We can be pretty sure that holds true for other countries as well.

Rumination is described on Wikipedia as:

[box type=”warning” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ ]Compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.[1] Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential bad events in the future.[/box]

Rumination, along with worry, are associated with anxiety and depression, the most common mental health problems found in the UK today. But there had not previously been enough information to show just how much of an impact rumination has on mental health – focusing too much on negative events is the biggest single predictor of depression, anxiety, and stress that people feel.

Many of us experience traumatic experiences at some point in our lives, whether it was being bullied as child, losing a job or a special person, an accident. The incident itself doesn’t have as much detrimental impact as the rumination about it. People can get into the habit of thinking about these negative events over and over any time that something else negative happens to them.

But the good news is that this behavior is something that can be changed! The way you think about and deal with things in your life is largely habitual, and with some simple psychological help and techniques it can be modified.

Mindfulness meditation is something that has been found to be very beneficial, in that it teaches you to focus in the now, to bring your attention back to the present which breaks the cycle of obsessive thinking of past events.

Distracting yourself by taking some sort of action can also help to break free of this negative thinking – it doesn’t have to be at all related to what you are thinking about. Go for a walk or a run, take a hike, do some gardening, read a book.

About the author

Our staff writers come from various backgrounds in the neuroscience, personal development, brain science and psychology fields. Many started out as with us as contributors!

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