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  • Writer's pictureCécile Hemery

The Art of Not Ruminating

Updated: Apr 29

Worried Indian woman ruminating thoughts with head in hands at park

Rumination, the act of replaying situations over and over in our minds, can be a debilitating and counterproductive habit. It often involves negative thought patterns that keep us stuck in a loop, preventing us from moving forward and finding solutions. In this article, we will explore the nature of rumination and provide practical strategies to help you break free from its grip.

Understanding Rumination

Rumination is different from processing events. While processing allows us to work through our experiences and learn from them, rumination keeps us trapped in a cycle of negativity. When we ruminate, we focus solely on the problem, feeling worse the more we think about it, without making progress towards a solution. It's like being stuck in our most painful, awkward, or humiliating experiences, reliving them repeatedly without the ability to change anything.

The Negative Impact of Rumination

Rumination is not only painful in itself but also frustrating. We often feel guilty for not being able to stop, even though we know better. It's a powerless feeling, as if we are unable to do anything else. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre aptly described the experience of rumination in his quote:

"It would be much better if I could only stop thinking. Thoughts are the dullest things. Duller than flesh. They stretch out and there's no end to them and they leave a funny taste in the mouth. Then there are words, inside the thoughts, unfinished words, a sketchy sentence which constantly returns...It goes, it goes ... and there's no end to it. It's worse than the rest because I feel responsible and have complicity in it. For example, this sort of painful rumination: I exist, I am the one who keeps it up. I." - Jean-Paul Sartre

Strategies to Overcome Rumination:

The good news is that you don't have to stay in a state of rumination and there are actions you can take to support you:

1. Awareness is Key

The first step in overcoming rumination is becoming aware of when you are doing it. Once you recognise that you are ruminating, you are in a better position to take action and break the cycle.

2. Engage in Different Activities

One effective strategy to stop ruminating is to engage in different activities. Go for a walk, visit your favourite coffee shop, talk to someone, or engage in hobbies like reading, gardening, or drawing. The goal is not to avoid the problem but to interrupt the rumination process, allowing you to approach the issue from a more grounded and solution-oriented perspective.

3. Practice Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises

Mindfulness meditations and breathing exercises can be powerful tools in combating rumination. By training your body to recognize the signals of slowed breathing and focused attention, you can bring yourself back to a state of coherence more quickly and efficiently when facing stressful situations. Regular practice can strengthen your mental muscles and improve your ability to move out of stress.

4. Adopt a Learning Mindset

Viewing life's challenges as opportunities for growth can help shift your perspective. Instead of labelling setbacks as failures and beating yourself up, try to approach them with a learning attitude. While not all setbacks can be seen as positive experiences, using them as a way to move forward, learn, and grow can prevent you from getting stuck in rumination.

5. Seek Support

Don't isolate yourself when dealing with rumination. Reach out to someone you trust, whether it's your partner, a friend, a colleague, or a professional like me. Talking about your thoughts out loud with someone else can provide a different perspective and help you break free from the cycle of rumination.

In a session, my clients bring these ruminating thoughts as topics of conversation and we pick them apart. We look at them from different angles. We lighten them. We focus on solutions. We take away the ruminating thoughts and the power they hold so that they do not control my clients anymore. My clients take action and move on.


Rumination can be a challenging habit to break, but with awareness and the right strategies, it is possible to overcome it. By engaging in different activities, practising mindfulness, adopting a learning mindset, and seeking support, you can break free from the cycle of negative thoughts and move towards a more solution-oriented approach to life's challenges. If you find yourself struggling with rumination and need guidance, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional such as myself who can provide the support you need to move forward.


Cecile Hemery is a certified Career and Executive Coach, founder of Walayance, specialising in helping quiet leaders navigate professional crossroads and find meaning, impact, drive and recognition in their work. Schedule an exploratory chat with Cecile.


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