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Tips on How to Stop Ruminating Thoughts

Nancy MacGregor MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, Clinical Director

Have you ever been focused on one single negative thought that goes through your mind repeatedly? No matter what you do, you feel like you cannot get these sad and dark thoughts to stop. This process is called ruminating and it can be very dangerous to your mental health. It can worsen depression symptoms, increase anxiety, and make it difficult to process emotions. These thoughts running through your head repeatedly may also cause you to push people away.

Several things are said to cause people to ruminate. Those who have personalities such as perfectionism, excessive focus on one’s relationship with others, and neuroticism are more likely to have this mental health concern. Some other causes of ruminating include:

  • Having a history of emotional or physical trauma
  • Ongoing life stressors that are out of an individual’s control
  • Believing that you will gain insight into your life or a problem
  • Failed relationships
  • Low self-esteem
  • Upcoming stressful events
  • Facing a fear or phobia
  • Awaiting information about a potentially life-changing event

Everyone may feel like they are “obsessing” over a certain thought at one point in their lives. However, when it becomes unhealthy with no result, it is ruminating. Certain mental illnesses have been linked to ruminating thoughts. Some of these can cause ruminating and but others can be brought on by these thoughts. These health conditions include:


Those who have anxiety may experience ruminating thoughts when it comes to specific fears or scanning their mind to find what can potentially go wrong. Anxiety is commonly caused by repetitive anxious thoughts. If you have anxiety, you may catch yourself ruminating often.


A person with depression may catch themselves ruminating on negative thoughts about their sense of self-worth. Those who ruminate are also more likely to develop depression, especially women. Research has shown that women are more likely to ruminate than men.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD can cause people to feel overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts. This leads to constantly checking doors, cleaning, and counting.


Individuals with schizophrenia often ruminate on unusual thoughts or fears such as hallucinations or voices. Research has shown that those who have schizophrenia and experience ruminating thoughts due to the condition’s social stigma. are more likely to also develop depression.


When those who have a phobia encounter the source of their phobia, they may ruminate on their fears. This often causes them to not think about anything else other than their fear.

Eating Disorders 

A person with an eating disorder may ruminate on thoughts about food, diet, calorie counting, and exercise regimen.

There are several tips you can follow to stop ruminating. Everyone may need to work through different strategies before they find the one that works best for them.

  1. Spend time in nature-Studies have shown that those who spent at least 90 minutes in nature experienced fewer rumination thoughts. Taking a nature hike daily or when you feel like repetitive thoughts are happening may put your mind at ease.  
  2. Avoid Triggers- Often, individuals find that there are specific triggers that start their ruminating thoughts. Avoiding or limiting access to these triggers can help unwanted thoughts. For example, If a person feels unattractive about themselves due to pictures that they see on social media, some options to avoid triggers would be to limit exposure to social media or delete any accounts that may make them feel bad about their self-image.
  3. Exercise-There is a lot of evidence that exercise can improve mental health. Studies have shown that even one workout session could reduce ruminating thoughts and boost mental health. For best results, try working out outdoors.
  4. Increase self-esteem- Individuals can experience ruminating thoughts when they feel like they performed poorly in an activity that is important to them such as sports or academics. By improving self-esteem, a person can make a defeat less painstaking for themselves.
  5. Mindfulness Meditation- Mindfulness meditation can help a person better understand their thoughts and emotions. Practicing mindfulness meditation throughout the day is an excellent way to improve mental health and have greater control over your thoughts.

Therapy at Harmony Bay Wellness

If you are experiencing ruminating thoughts, it is time to speak to a licensed therapist at Harmony Bay Wellness in South Jersey. Do not let your negative thoughts affect your inability to function, lower your self-esteem, or harm your quality of life. Speak to a Harmony Bay Wellness staff member to schedule your appointment with one of our therapists today. Call us at 855.765.6399.




“Rumination: How Obsessive Thinking Impacts Depression and Anxiety.” Talkspace, 23 May 2019, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

“Ruminating Thoughts: How to Stop Them.” Www.Medicalnewstoday.Com, 8 Nov. 2019, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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Harmony Bay is an outpatient behavioral health service that offers primary mental health treatment for a variety of mental health disorders. Our mission is to make mental health care convenient and affordable while providing an unmatched experience to our clients. contact us today by calling 855.765.6399.