Repetitive thinking about problems is unhelpful if if it becomes an automatic habit that is triggered in lots of different situations . As a habit , it can be set off and start running out of control before you even realize it.

The pioneering work on rumination in depression was conducted by professor Susan Nolen – Hoeksema at Yale university. Her research indicates that rumination is a learned , habitual way of thinking that people adopt when they feel sad or down.

At its simplest, a habit is a way of responding that has repeatedly occurred in particular circumstances , so that those circumstances then become a cue for the response to occur automatically .

For example may have regularly smoked when in the pub with his friends (Before the change in the law) , so that going to the pub and having a drink could act as a cue to lighting up a cigarette without realizing. This is one reason why giving up smoking can be difficult , unless the routines and places associated with smoking are replaced .

Likewise, to build a positive habit like exercising , it helps to have a regular routine , where you go for a run at the same time each day. As such, rumination can be considered a mental habit, triggered by feeling low.


Like all habits, rumination can be changed , but such change requires two things. First, becoming more aware of the habit, and second , repeatedly practising a different response in those circumstances. For example, someone who is trying to break out of the smoking habit needs to notice their cues to light a cigarette (feeling stressed , internal craving) and then practise an alternative response that is not smoking( such as exercising to reduce stress , or chewing nicotine gum to reduce craving)

Habits occur frequently and automatically , without effort, and are hard to control. So , if you notice that your rumination has any of these qualities – that you do it without thinking about it, that you start doing it before you realize you are doing it, or that you find it hard to stop – then it may well be a habit for you.

Habits can be learned in two ways:

1– They can be learned from another person- if your mother or father was a worrier , you might have copied their tendency to ruminate when you were younger.

2- Habit can develop through repeated practice of an action in the same circumstances , especially when the action has some reward (for example , when it makes you feel better or avoids something upsetting).


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