Rumination is a response to prolonged stress and/or trauma where we experience repeated involuntary and intruding thoughts about past experiences, and in recent years this definition has been broadened to include the same form of circulating thoughts about what may happen in the future.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in the prevalence of rumination, partly due to the relentless frightening media coverage, but in many cases due to the individual traumas that people experienced during this time. Although lockdown itself, along with social isolation was a widely shared trauma, each person’s experience was unique. Some individual traumas during this time included the loss of jobs, homes and businesses, the loss of family members, vastly reduced quality of education and career prospects, the destruction of dreams and aspirations, many of which had been sacrificed and fought for for years. Other traumas included isolation with an abuser and domestic violence, loneliness, loss of trust in institutions, and fear of the unseen virus itself.
Although, for the most part, the pandemic has now past, it is clear that stress levels remain high and many people are finding it very difficult to move on. Rumination on losses and traumas of the past, compounded by fears of the future, can take much of the joy out of daily life and it has become relatively common to see a tight, insular and/or disassociated quality in many of the people that we encounter day to day.
Contemplating life experience is an important facet of self care, but when our mind takes over and we continue to dwell, and even obsess, on negative experiences of the past or fears for the future, we are lost to the present and can begin a downward spiral into anxiety and depression with a wide range of harmful effects.
Although often overlooked as a mental health concern, rumination has a wide range of serious consequences. First, it creates a feedback loop with stress. Stress and trauma can lead to rumination, which in turn increases stress levels, with the knock on effects of high cortisol levels, fatigue, weight gain, inflammation and chronic pain. Irregular sleeping patterns and insomnia are common effects too, and one of the most serious effects of rumination is difficulty maintaining focus, which can have a huge impact on our professional lives and lead to damaging procrastination and disassociation in our personal lives as well. Less noticeable, but no less important, is all the time that we lose to rumination. Depending on the severity, our dreams and goals can flow like sand through our fingers while our mind is chained to the past.
Rumination is experienced on a continuum and, depending on the severity of the event that initially triggers it, personal susceptibility and whether other mental health conditions are present, symptoms can range from a short period (days/weeks) to prolonged chronic rumination that can take over a person’s life. Once circulating thoughts take hold, they create deep impressions on the mind and it can be challenging to shift out of this groove and regain quality of life.
The good news is that meaningful interventions can significantly reduce rumination and provide a clear path to recovery. In this article, I’ll share a range of perspectives on rumination, along with ways to support healing from both Western medical and TCM perspectives. Engaging with the recommendations below can be profoundly healing, however if trauma has been significant, or if symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental health conditions are present, it is essential to seek support and guidance from an experienced therapist. Unfortunately, mental health support can be difficult to obtain in the best of times, but post-pandemic one may have to rely on the support of family and friends. If this is case, make good use of mental health hotlines as needed for support and the simple methods below can be used as a structured approach to self care until professional help is accessible or symptoms are resolved.
Rumination has several therapeutic definitions, depending on the context, but the most widely accepted definition is Response Styles Theory, which states “rumination consists of repetitively thinking about the causes, consequences, and symptoms of one’s negative affect.”(1) A related model is the Rumination on Sadness conceptualisation which defines rumination as repetitive thinking about sadness, and circumstances related to one’s sadness. (2) Studies seeking to define, understand and treat rumination have been extensive over the course of the last decade, and there are now several theoretical definitions (3), however anyone who has repeatedly thought about their own mistakes, a loss or betrayal, a traumatic event or lived in a state of apprehension or intense anticipation, will know how oppressive and relentless circulating thoughts can be.
One way to look at rumination is that it is ‘healthy reflection’ gone awry. Whereas healthy reflection is deliberate and productive, rumination is habitual, reflexive and continues long past the point where reflection is useful. Healthy reflection is essential for personal evolution. It helps us to know ourselves, take responsibility for our behaviours and learn from both our successes and our mistakes. It is also an essential tool for determining steps towards better behaviours and choices in the future. An example of healthy reflection might be going over an argument with your spouse to honestly evaluate what led up to it, what each person contributed to the escalation of emotions, along with assessing the degree of truth in any accusations levelled at you and/or vice versa. Healthy reflection then leads to a constructive game plan for future actions and behaviours.
Rumination is the same process of analytical thinking, except that instead of leading to constructive actions and behaviours, the mind remains in a loop of reliving and analysing past negative experiences. An example might be replaying an argument with your spouse and the accusations levelled at you, leading to replaying every disagreement and every accusation and every hurt, not only in this relationship, but potentially in every relationship, leading to increased anger, feelings of hurt and betrayal, anxiety, hopelessness and/or depression. Instead of creating a constructive game plan for future actions and behaviours and taking positive steps forward, one remains in a recurring cycle of negative thinking.
Some key ways to distinguish between healthy reflection and rumination are as follows:
If you make a conscious decision to reflect upon a given event, exchange, circumstance, etc., than this is a sign of healthy reflection. If thoughts invade your mind automatically and habitually without conscious intention, then this is a sign of rumination.
When questioning whether you have crossed the line between healthy reflection and rumination, consider whether your motivation is to learn and grow, or whether you are motivated by the desire to feel better. This may seem counterintuitive, but negative thinking about others can temporarily make one feel better about oneself, however, as there is no constructive outcome, this can become an addictive cycle of self soothing that only magnifies and extends suffering.
When our thoughts are exclusively negative and can’t or won’t be shifted to include compassion for ourselves and/or others, then this magnifies the tendency towards rumination. Although highly polarised victim and victimiser situations do occur, and in this case the compassion may be focused primarily on oneself, the inability to recognise the person who has hurt you as a fallible human being increases the trauma that we experience and makes it more challenging to reach a point of acceptance within ourselves so that we can move on. If reflection is angry or hateful, it has crossed the line into rumination and long term can lead to a heart of stone where we are unable to access empathy or care for others.
It is natural and healthy to reflect upon events and interactions immediately after they occur. If a situation is complex or traumatic, we may need to reflect for an extended period of time or have several separate sessions to reflect upon events before we can understand them sufficiently to create a constructive game plan for future actions and behaviours. However, if we continue to reflect upon the same situation repeatedly, well after the event has occurred, then it is likely that we have crossed the line between healthy reflection and rumination.
It can be difficult to acknowledge that rumination is having a detrimental effect in our lives as, the more deeply ingrained rumination is, the more we can feel that it is fulfilling a useful purpose. Some ways in which rumination may disguise itself as healing or useful include:
When something bad happens to us there is a natural feeling of vulnerability, helplessness and uncertainty. The earth shakes and we want to know why so that we can take steps to find our ground and ensure it never happens again. Why did this person do this to me? What did I do to attract a situation like this? Could I have done something differently? How could they be so cruel? However, although rumination can feel like we are making progress towards understanding ‘why,’ sometimes we have to accept that there isn’t always an answer and move forwards anyway.
The loss of a loved one, a betrayal and being a victim of a crime are some examples of events that may leave us feeling intense pain. In these circumstances rumination may temporarily reduce the pain that we feel as it is a mental activity that shifts our focus away from our feelings. Unfortunately, we can only heal what we can feel, so although revolving thoughts may make us feel like we are making progress in our healing, in reality they can keep us reliving the loss or trauma, perhaps for years.
When events beyond our control have a significant impact on our lives, rumination can feel like we are taking active steps to gather the threads of our life back together, however healing requires letting go of the hope for a better past so that we can open ourselves to a better future.
When we are humiliated, shamed, tricked, our boundaries are violated, or circumstances are unfair, it can damage our trust in ourselves and others, and can be tremendously disempowering. Reflecting upon what has happened can bring up a wide range of feelings, including anger at those who have harmed us. It is tempting to ruminate on how horrible those who have hurt us are, as righteous anger affirms our own superiority to those who have harmed us and can, temporarily, feel empowering. Although this may feel therapeutic, anger only provides the illusion of empowerment while simultaneously creating a deep groove in the mind that can spill into other relationships and cause significant damage to our lives. No matter how righteous anger may feel, ruminating on how horrible others are and what they have done to us is ultimately self destructive.
As Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Because rumination is a habitual behaviour, it takes conscious effort to shift to a new habit of embracing life and living with joy in the present again. One must first admit that rumination is having a harmful effect on your life, and then make a conscious choice to let go of the past and build a healthy, positive future. It is also important to understand that rumination is an imbalance that also has physical causes and effects. While it is essential to take steps to shift our thought processes, it is also essential to support this shift from a more holistic perspective.
As only we have access to our own thoughts, we must first recognise and acknowledge that rumination is causing suffering before we can make the decision within ourselves to heal. Structuring this commitment to self healing in the form of a game plan is an important first step. One way to begin the process is to write a list of things that you enjoy doing or that you’ve always wanted to try, along with what you would like to accomplish in your life. Focusing your attention on positive activities, your dreams, and what makes you happy will remind you of the rewards that await you once you’ve committed to your self healing.
Next, create a daily schedule that includes a commitment to both of the following:
When we are lost in our mind, it can be a tremendous relief to place ourselves firmly in our body. Movement that is aerobic and requires attention is ideal, such as playing tennis, a team sport, swimming, attending a yoga class, or dancing to your favourite music. Alternatively, a 60+ minutes walk in nature significantly reduces rumination. While walking in nature, draw your attention to the sensations and beauty of nature; the temperature, light, colours, sounds, smells and shapes. Breathe it all in, appreciate the beauty and wondrousness…smile!
There are many different methods for meditation and if you already have experience with a method that has worked to calm your mind, then you can use this method. The key is that the meditation must be silent and a method where you repeatedly train your mind to focus exclusively on a mantra, to the exclusion of other thoughts. With this meditation you do not focus on your breathing, instead clearing your mind and gently placing your inner attention in an open but centrally focused space in the inner darkness. There is no need to strain to look at a specific point. This is a relaxed, open, inner central gaze.
With your eyes closed, and your inner gaze open and central, begin to repeat your mantra internally (not spoken) with full attention. When thoughts intrude, there is no need to worry. Continue to give your full attention to repeating the mantra. There is no strain in this. If another thought comes, simply brush it aside and reaffirm your focus on repeating the mantra to the exclusion of other thoughts, with a calm, central, relaxed inner gaze.
Some mantras that have long traditional use are Shanti Anandam (restore peace and harmony, restore inner joy and contentment), Om-Na-Mah-Shi-Va-Ya (the primordial sound of creation ‘Om’ followed by the sounds of the five elements countering the negativity one faces in life so that one can experience peace), and Radha Soami (establishing connection to your higher self; the Lord of the Soul), however you can create your own mantra that affirms your intention, such as ‘I choose peace and contentment,’ ‘I change my thoughts, I change my world,’ or ‘I am gentle with myself and others.’
These two activities are the foundation of a holistic approach to healing, and these two activities should follow one another, with exercise first, then silent meditation. This is the core of your daily practice and the following suggestions are integrated to ensure a comprehensive holistic approach to self healing.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognises rumination as a spleen deficiency triggered by stress and/or trauma. In Giovanni Maciocia’s superb book ‘The Psyche in Chinese Medicine’ (4), it states “The main aspect of the Spleen’s function in the psyche is its housing of the Intellect (Yi); this is responsible for memory, focusing, concentration, mental application, studying and ideas. From the perspective of emotions, the Spleen is affected by pensiveness and worry. In severe cases, it may generate obsessive thinking.” On a physical level, the Spleen is greatly influenced by what and how we eat. From a mental-emotional perspective, the Spleen is frequently affected by lack of nurturing. It can also be affected by lack of, or excessive and suffocating nurturing, from one or more of the parents.
Treatment consists of structuring the diet to support the Spleen and Stomach, individualised herbal treatment and acupuncture treatment that includes SP-3 Taibai (Yi), Ren-12 Zhongwan and BL-20 Pishu to tonify the Spleen and strengthen the intellect, and BL-49 Yishe to treat pensiveness and obsessive thoughts. When seeking an acupuncturist for deep work like this, it is essential to differentiate between those who have undertaken an acupuncture short course and those who have undertaken a comprehensive professional training in Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM professional bodies can guide you towards qualified therapists who will be able to personalise your programme to meet your unique and specific needs.
There are three facets of diet that need to be addressed to support healing of the holistic mind-body nature of Spleen deficiency; what you eat, when you eat and how you eat.
A deficient Spleen leads to poor digestion physically, and poor digestion of thoughts mentally. When digestion is poor, cold foods are harder and slower to digest as our body must first warm them. For this reason warm or cooked foods are recommended. Also, as deficient Spleen is an Earth imbalance, root vegetables and orange foods are particularly helpful and Yang Tonic foods, culinary herbs and spices are also recommended.
If eating cooked food, ensure that some foods are still raw, at room temperature and supported with warming herbs and spices. Oatmeal or brown rice for breakfast, with ginger, cardamon, cloves and/or nutmeg and a touch of sweet raisons or maple syrup, then steamed or baked vegetables with a focus on root vegetables, pumpkin soup and a small room temperature salad is ideal for lunch and dinner. Baked apples or pears with cinnamon and cardamon, baked yams and carrots, grilled courgette, green beans and broccoli and vegetable black bean soup are some meal suggestions to get your started.
If on a raw food diet, then a daily menu plan might look like thermos ‘cooked’ whole oats or rice, warmed to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, with the addition of warming spices, such as ginger, cardamon, cloves and/or nutmeg, with a touch of sweet raisons for breakfast. Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds are an excellent addition too. For lunch, a blended vegetable soup, again warmed to 115 degrees Fahrenheit with dehydrated courgette bread still warm from the dehydrator is an excellent meal foundation. When eating raw foods, never eat them directly out of the fridge. First ensure that they are room temperature, and then add warming herbs and spices to ease digestion. Ginger tea can be enjoyed warm throughout the day.
Ice and cold foods should be avoided completely, as should coffee, black tea and beverages with yeast in them, such a beer. Other foods to avoid include all dairy products, seaweed, tofu, wheat products and foods that contain gluten, oily or fried foods, processed salt (minimal use of Himalayan and Celtic sea salt is acceptable), roasted nuts and undercooked grains. Bananas and oranges should be avoided and grapefruit and lemon used sparingly.
Importantly, beef, game, chicken, lamb, pork, and seafood should also be avoided as animal foods are ‘tamasic’ and feed anxiety and depression.
Small, regular meals assist with grounding and maintaining energy levels. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be at reliable intervals. Your first meal of the day should ideally be 45-60 minutes after awakening, so begin the day with a warm ginger tea followed by bathing, brushing teeth and dressing for the day, then prepare your meal and take time to enjoy it. Lunch and dinner should scheduled to be at the same time each day, and you can also schedule small snacks, but avoid ‘grazing’ throughout the day. Warm ginger tea can be drunk throughout the day, but avoid drinking for at least one hour after eating. Hydration is exceptionally important, but drinking room temperature or cold water is not recommended, so the focus in on drinking the full required amount of daily fluids as warming herbal and ginger teas.
Take time to sit and relax while eating, and thoroughly chew your food to aid digestion. Attention to presentation and beauty brings focus to mealtimes and while eating you should be fully present. Leave the television and telephone off so that you can enjoy the moment.
Sleep is crucial to health and wellness for a wide range of reasons and a minimum of 8 hours each night is essential. However, in relation to rumination, sleep also holds a unique place in the process of self healing as, without a full 8 hours of sleep each night, we are limited in our ability to form new memories.
Why is this important? With rumination, we replay past experiences and every new context in which we are triggered or associate with previous experiences, the groove of rumination becomes deeper. An important way to move on from past experiences is to have new experiences, but if our new experiences wash away without forming new memories, we have fewer positive resources to shift our thoughts from past traumas to new potentials.
I have written two comprehensive posts on the benefits of sleep and how to promote healthy sleep patterns, which I encourage you to read and implement as part of your self healing programme. These can be found at the following links: Power of Sleep – Part 1 and Power of Sleep – Part 2
Herbal Medicine offers superior nutrient alongside specific medicinal benefits that are unique to each herb. Between exercise and meditation, structured meal and sleep times, you will have the core foundation for self healing. Now with the support of acupuncture and herbs, you can provide the body with the nutrient and energetics for deeper shifts and long lasting healing.
First, it is important to understand that TCM, Ayurvedic and Western Herbalism always prescribe herbs within individualised programmes rather than as generalised or ‘disease specific’ protocols, and for this reason it is of tremendous value to consult with a qualified herbalist rather than picking and choosing herbs based on current symptoms. There are dozens of herbal formulas in TCM for Spleen deficiency, and their use depends on each person’s unique elemental balance, information gleaned from the flow of energy through meridians and other influences within the constitution and life of each individual. Likewise, Ayurvedic and Western herbal medicine approach each person individually and holistically.
Bearing this in mind, I will provide an overview of herbs to consider:
Adaptogens are herbs that increase our resilience to stress, have a normalising effect on body functions, increase the flow of energy throughout the day, reduce stress, support mental alertness, increase endurance and promote a deep and restful sleep. There are more than 60 commonly used adaptogens to choose from and the most up to date and definitive resource for learning about adaptogens is ‘Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism’ by Donald Yance (5). I have listed some key adaptogens to support Spleen deficiency below, and note that each herb has a far wider range of benefits and uses than I’ve noted, so if curious do explore each herb further.
Ginger is a gentle but effective culinary adaptogen that is readily available and is a specific in TCM for excessive cold in the Spleen and Stomach, increases circulation and is used to increase the therapeutic activity of other herbs.
Turmeric is another readily available adaptogen that offers tremendous benefits by reducing the inflammatory effects of stress, normalising cellular behaviour and gene expression, and is also well researched for its benefits for those undergoing treatment for cancer. It is an excellent companion to primary adaptogen herbs and is combined with black pepper to activate its therapeutic properties. Turmeric can be included, along with black pepper, in salad dressings, soups, sprinkled on steamed vegetables, and also makes a delicious alternative to tea and coffee.
Astragalus has been used for centuries to increase vitality and, although technically a secondary adaptogen, this is a primary Spleen Qi tonic in TCM. Along with many other benefits, astragalus root is a good heart tonic, strengthens the liver, supports immunity and has a normalising effect on kidney function.
Panax ginseng has traditionally been used to calm the nerves, mind and spirit, improve memory and tonify the base qi, the lungs, the spleen and the stomach. Red Panax ginseng is warming and specifically indicated for qi deficiency, especially of the spleen and lung meridian system. It is also used for debility, exhaustion and yang deficiency. Of note, American ginseng is slightly cooling and is not as effective as Asian ginseng for Spleen deficiency.
Ashwanganda is a primary Ayurvedic herb for promoting physical and mental health, with particular benefits for anxiety, nervousness, depression and insomnia. It strengthens the nervous system, protects from the effects of stress and is a superb tonic for nervous exhaustion, along with wide ranging benefits to the digestive, endocrine, circulatory and immune systems. It also raises metabolism and is warming, which is of added value for those with Spleen deficiency.
Eleuthero is the most widely studied adaptogenic herb and has remarkable benefits for every body system. In the context of rumination, it has important benefits to the adrenals alongside superb protection from the effects of stress. It improves mental alertness and work output under stressful conditions and has an overall tonic and immune enhancing effect. Using the leaf and root extract combined is more effective than either one used alone.
Aralia enhances resistance to stress and normalises adrenal response, while restoring vitality. It increases stamina, memory and cognitive ability, with particular benefits for depression and mental fatigue. It also protects the liver, enhances central and immune systems, and demonstrates anti-stress effects that protect from environmental influences.
Wild Russian Rhodiola (Chinese Rhodiola is 2/3 less potent) enhances both physical and mental endurance and performance, protects and normalises the heart rate, and offers tremendous protection from the effects of stress. It is considered the most potent anti-depressive adaptogen and, due to its astringent and drying effect, is best used in combined formula with other adaptogens.
Schisandra seed is an interesting adaptogen that is relevant to rumination, although not specifically for Spleen deficiency. It has significant stress-protective effects, promotes cheerfulness and calms the mind. It also normalises sleeping patterns, is beneficial for exhaustion, irritability and depression, and increases vitality, strength and endurance.
Flower essences can be a wonderful support to a holistic programme as, when the right essence is taken, that matches the mental state of the individual, they temporarily lift us out of the mental state so that we have the opportunity to observe our thoughts and behaviours from a fresh perspective. They can provide immediate relief and, combined with healthy reflection, can initiate significant healing. Following are some suggested Bach Flower and FES essences to explore to confirm if they are a right fit for you. Up to 7 essences can be combined together, or you can choose just one or two. Take the flower essence as many times a day as you can remember until you feel an improvement, after which you can take it three to four times daily either directly or in a glass of water.
For those who suffer from repetitive thought patterns, like a broken record that revisits the same experience, the same worry or concern or the same feeling over and over again. White Chestnut promotes mental peace and inner calm, allowing us to process life experience, organise a plan of action…and then let go. The work has been done and we can be centred in a feeling base, freed from the ‘mental field’ of anxiety and worry.
Chamomile: support for anxiety; calming and balancing
Garlic: for those who suffer from chronic worry and anxiety that drains them of vitality
Mountain Pennyroyal: helps to clear the mind of negative thinking
Shasta Daisy: increases holistic thinking; our ability to perceive the connections between things and integrate this understanding into daily life
Nasturtium: for those who have spent an intensive period of time doing ‘mental work’ and need to regain their connection with the physical body
Lavender: an excellent support when suffering from insomnia
Dill: for periods of overwhelm, when too many experiences compete for attention and processing, contributing to circulating scattered thinking
The Mustard situational flower essence is for those who are highly sensitive to life events, experiencing a lack of equilibrium between extremes of joy and sadness. They can be easily overwhelmed by deepest, darkest despair, that consumes all of their mental energy and draws them inward. This depression descends suddenly, without the person being aware of what has caused it, and as the conscious mind struggles to pinpoint the source of these dark feelings, the darkness feels insurmountable.
Careful analysis of the moments preceding the feeling of depression, will usually reveal a trigger, sometimes as simple as a word, a facial expression or image. The trigger establishes a connection between the conscious mind and the unconscious reservoir of suffering that resides within the person, like an energetic groove. Each
time the person lifts themselves from this state, the groove loses some of its resilience, and each time the person wallows in this state, the groove becomes deeper.
The Mustard flower essence dispels the darkness, allowing the person to shift from their inward focus and open their awareness to the light. Many describe the shift as though they awaken from a dream; the dark clouds roll away and they return to a fuller state of consciousness where they can access feelings of lightness and joy. The positive expression of Mustard is seen in those who are open and friendly to others and experience a childlike joy in living.
Baby Blue Eyes: for those who have lost their faith in the goodness of others and become depressed at the seemingly hopeless ‘state of the world.’
Love-Lies-Bleeding: for those whose suffering brings them intensely inwards. Consumed by their own suffering, they must lift their head and acknowledge the universality of suffering…that suffering is not just their own experience but part of the human experience. In this way they develop compassion for others, bringing their attention out of themselves through service.
Saint John’s Wort: for those whose deeper psychic sensitivity is highly attuned to the balance of light and darkness and, often activated through dreams, bring their fear of darkness into their daily lives. Their depression stems from a lack of connection to their spiritual centre and this essence assists in restoring this connection.
Scotch Broom: for those who sustain a pessimistic view of life and the future of planet Earth. As they dwell on morbid doomsday scenarios, their expectation of impending disaster can lead to depression that permeates all facets of life.
Borage: for depression centred in the heart; a feeling of pervasive sadness and/or grief. Scarlet Monkey%ower: increases courage needed to face negativity, from within or outside of ourselves.
Bleeding Heart: for healing a broken heart and the grief that arises from loss Penstemon: increases strength and courage to face personal adversity
Zinnia: for those whose depression stems from an over-serious, humourless approach to life, this essence connects us with our inner child, our sense of playfulness and joy in living.
The person in a Holly state is disconnected from their ability to give and receive love. They are often resentful of the good fortune of others, feeling that others ‘have it better’ than they do. Strong emotions, such as anger, jealousy and hatred, poison their hearts and minds, and they tend to be argumentative, refuse to apologise, and frequently succumb to outbursts of anger and rage.
When in the Holly state, everything bad that happens is everyone else’s fault and they cannot see the relationship between their own actions and the alienation from others that they feel. They distrust the motivations of others and can put a negative spin on every facet of life experience.
In the positive state, Holly embodies the gifts of love and compassion. They are uplifted by the success and happiness of others and feel a sense of unity and harmony with the world. They have a deep understanding of human emotions and recognise that all people, with all points of view, play a valuable role in the ‘bigger picture’ of human experience. They feel and express gratitude towards others and the gift of life.
Oregon Grape: For those who expect the worst from others and feel resentment towards their perceived negative traits; an expectation of hostility from others. Increases our ability to perceive the genuine intentions of others.
Baby Blue Eyes: For those who are cynical about the intentions of others, thus fail to see the goodness in people or situations. Often this cynicism is rooted in a dysfunctional relationship to the father, either due to abuse or abandonment.
Snapdragon: For those who express anger through verbal abuse; sarcasm, swearing, aggressive language and verbal intimidation
Forget-Me-Not: Support for understanding the deeper ‘karmic’ purpose of relationships and establishing a soul connection with others, whether these relationships are experienced as loving or challenging.
Yellow Star Tulip: This essence increases our capacity for empathy and our sense of connection and responsibility in relation to others. It increases our awareness of the effects our actions and behaviours have on others.
Mariposa Lily: For those whose feelings of anger, isolation and lack of love, arise from deep-seated alienation from a mother &gure, either from childhood neglect and abuse, abandonment or from being orphaned at an early age.
Yerba Santa: For those who suffer a constriction of the heart due to deeply repressed emotions. Increases our ability to own and express our own suffering, so that deep healing can begin. Increases emotional presence.
Sage: For those whose state of anger and resentment is sourced from blaming others, or ‘life destiny,’ for their misfortunes. Assists in developing a higher perspective so that we can perceive the deeper meaning in life experiences, thus developing wisdom, insight and inner peace.
The Gentian flower essence is for those who find pleasure in negative thinking, feel let down by life and believe that they can never be happy. They cannot rise after the loss of a loved one and doubt that they will ever get well. Even when there is a positive outcome, they dwell on the flaws and tend to share their negative view of life with others.
In a positive state, Gentian understands that all life experience, whether good or bad, provides the raw material for learning, growth and evolution. They have a knack for perceiving the opportunities that lay at the heart of all circumstances. They remain hopeful that great things can be accomplished through steady, resourceful effort, yet keep their goals grounded in the here and now, content with each success and ever watchful for the opportunities that spring from their failures.
For those who have become resigned to fate; who have suffered a long illness or chronic life condition and have simply given up trying to get well or improve their lives. They may seem like Gentian types, but the hopelessness is more extreme. Gentian types when they reach an extreme state can take both Gentian and Gorse.
In the positive state, Gorse is able to regain hope and use illness or other hardships as an opportunity for learning and personal growth.
Essential oils have an immediate harmonising influence on mood and emotional imbalances. Following I have compiled a list of key essential oils that are used for a range of moods and emotions that can be part of a pattern of rumination. I’ve provided a relatively long list of options in each category so that you can hone in on ones that will support you in several meaningful ways at once or choose ones that you may already have on hand.
When purchasing essential oils, quality is essential as there are many companies that sell essential oils that are not therapeutic quality. In the UK I recommend Oshadhi, NHR Organics and Fragrant Earth. In the US, I recommend Young Living Oils and Rocky Mountain Oils. Of note, only use organic essential oils for therapeutic purposes.
Methods of use include diluting with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond or sunflower oil, and applying directly to the skin. A guideline for massage oil is 10-30 drops of essential oils to 30ml of carrier oil (ratio 1:1 for chronic pain and reduce to 4-8 drops to 30ml for children). I like to apply the oil on my chest and shoulders, then gently cup my hands to my face and breathe in the delightful and uplifting scents before applying the remaining oil on my hands to the soles of my feet. Apply essential oils in small quantities several times a day for maximum benefit.
Another wonderful method for enjoying the benefits of essential oils is to use a diffuser. Here are some options for diffusers and if within your budget, this is an excellent option as it doesn’t use heat or ultrasound. Oils can also be combined with carrier oils and added to the bath for a truly relaxing and uplifting experience. A standard dilution for bath oil is 2-8 drops to 5 ml carrier oil.
Safety notes: Avoid getting essential oils in your eyes and if it happens, don’t panic! Use any edible oil on hand, like Olive or Sunflower oil to rinse your eyes and it will have an immediate effect. Rinsing your eyes with milk is another option, but do not use water as it doesn’t help and it can worsen your symptoms. Also, a handful of citrus essential oils have photosensitive effects, including Bergamot and Grapefruit, as do Angelica, Tagets and some Lemon Verbena. Apply photosensitive oils where your clothing will protect your skin from the sun when going outside and don’t use a sun booth if you are using essential oils.
Bergamot, Chamomile Roman, Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage, Valerian, Linden Blossom, Vetiver, Frankincense, Rose Otto, Yarrow, Marjoram
Melissa, Neroli, Mandarin, Lemon, Sandalwood, Hyacinth, Ylang Ylang, Grapefruit
Melissa, Bergamot, Chamomile Roman, Marjoram, Valerian, Lemon, Orange, Lavender, Cedarwood
Spruce, Myrrh, Narcissus, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Clary Sage
Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, Cinnamon Bark, Lemon, Orange, Eucalyptus citriodora
Chamomile Roman, Chamomile German, Vetiver, Lavender, Tuberose, Rose, Bergamot, Linden Blossom
Sage, Neroli, Valerian, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Carnation, Clary Sage, Geranium, Cedarwood
Frankincense, Carnation, Juniper, Neroli, Chamomile Roman, Hyacinth, Melissa, Lavender, Jasmine, Rose Otto, Geranium
Rose, Neroli and Melissa blended.
Neroli, Pine, Frankincense, Myrrh, Spikenard, Juniper, Cypress
Rose Otto, Rose Maroc, Neroli and Melissa blend.
Melissa, Neroli, Jasmine, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot
Helichrysum, Bergamot, Narcissus, Chamomile Roman, Neroli, Linden Blossom, Rose Otto, Rose Maroc, Cyprus, Melissa, Hyacinth
Cedarwood, Cardamon, Frankincense, Benzoin, Hyacinth, Marjoram, Ginger, Thyme, Ormenis Flower
Sage, Oregano, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Eucalyptus
When we lack emotional equilibrium, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Frankincense and Chamomile Roman can assist in stabilising emotions. Peppermint, Grapefruit and Lemon uplift emotions.
Jasmine, Carnation, Bay, Cinnamon, Rose Maroc, Tuberose, Cedarwood, Rose Otto, Sage
New positive experiences are essential to support healing of rumination, however one of the significant drawbacks of rumination is disassociation, so it is not uncommon to have neglected personal relationships while under the influence of recurring thoughts. Anger is often another unfortunate side-effect of rumination, so it is possible that irritability, blame and/or angry outbursts have alienated your support group. Take the initiative and call a friend, connect with a family member or have a date night with your partner purely for fun. Although talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive friend or therapist is so important, sometimes what we really need is to create new experiences, rather than dwelling on what has happened in the past. Social interaction can be a wonderful way to step out of repetitive thinking…so just make sure that you spend your dedicated social time connecting with people and having fun, rather than talking about the same negative thoughts that you’ve been ruminating on.
Another tremendously healing way to connect with others and lift your mind away from negative thinking is kindness. Extensive studies have shown that random acts of kindness reduce depression, anxiety and cortisol levels, release oxytocin and improve overall health, with significant benefits in less than a month! Here is an inspiring list of ideas for random acts of kindness, compiled by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, to get you started. Make a pact with yourself to perform one act of kindness every day and experience your ‘compassion muscle’ grow. As you begin to step out of negative thinking, work your way up to three acts of kindness a day.
Procrastination is another side effects of rumination, so it is likely that the list of things to do around the house has grown since you last took notice. Redecorating or organising a room, weeding the garden, sorting out the closet, your kitchen cupboards or your filing cabinet, are all ways to engage with the here and now and can be wonderfully satisfying.
Creativity puts you into a state of flow in the present moment. Drawing or painting can be wonderfully therapeutic and you don’t have to be an ‘artist’ to benefit. There are excellent online short courses in botanical drawing, colour theory, life drawing, manga drawing…and every other approach to drawing and painting imaginable. Better still, join an in-person class and socialise with new people.
Perhaps you enjoy working in 3D, in which case, with minimal investment, you can purchase the supplies for carving wax to cast jewellery or whittling wood to make spoons or small sculptures.
Preparing food can also be an inspiring and joyful creative process, and with attention to presentation, the results can be beautiful.
Another possibility is to explore a topic that interests you. Reading a book, even on a topic that fascinates you, can be challenging to someone who suffers from rumination as, one paragraph in, the mind can slip back into negative thoughts. For this reason, enrolling in a class or workshop can be a more effective way of engaging with new knowledge, experiences and people.
It is my hope that this article has inspired you to take meaningful steps towards healing, or to support a friend or family member in doing so. There is so much that we can do to improve the quality of our lives and, as mentioned, the first step is to acknowledge that change is necessary. As rumination is often found alongside depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, the topics and suggestions in the article should not be considered or accepted as medical advice. In-person support can make all the difference, and indeed we each deserve caring support. Although reading articles can provide inspiration and education, they cannot replace in-person care by a qualified therapist, thus all modalities and/or suggestions in this article are intended as a support to primary care and not as an alternative to primary care. If access to a therapist isn’t possible, then reach out to a mental health hotline, friend or family member to discuss the challenges that you are facing and ask for the support that you need as you take life affirming, joyful steps towards your self healing. I wish you increasing peace, positivity and happiness at every step of the journey.