Anxious thoughts can be a problem when self-reflection gets out of hand and becomes negative rumination.
As a health professional I accept that the Mental Health Foundation place this issue as a cause of anxiety and depression.
In 2013 the University of Liverpool published a study that said that rumination (a word for constant repetitive thinking or dwelling that comes from the action in cows of chewing the cud) far from being a player in the most common mental health issues, is the largest predictor.
So what does this mean for us? It means that when we dwell on things, not only do our thoughts tend to spiral downwards but that can lead us to poor mental health.
This will come as no surprise to therapists, but the extent may. Most therapists see the link between persistent negative thought and self-blame and anxiety and depression, but as a causative factor?
It also means that psychological issues can lead to problems at a mental health level. Replaying thoughts over and over again makes us sad and anxious.
There is also evidence that rumination is at play in OCD and eating disorders, in fact anywhere our negative thoughts are stuck on repeat, we find the potential for problems.
So… what can we do about it?
Well firstly, we can learn to relax. Relaxation is often the key in early therapy to opening up the space into which the client can grow and change can be made.
Think about the amount of time that anxious thoughts or worried thoughts take up, or as some say, the amount of space they rent in your head. With all that time and energy freed up, what would you be able to do?
After that, we can look at the sense of threat that generally underpins anxiety, often being able to identify that threat can help us move forward to explore it and perhaps re-frame it or find ways to cope with it.
Please don’t think that anxious thoughts, constant thought repetition or rumination are something that you have to ‘put up with’ or suffer. If you need help to overcome these patterns, then please reach out to a professional.