It’s quite common to think about and reflect on situations that don’t go well. It can help us learn and identify areas for improvement. But sometimes, our minds can become stuck on distressing and uncomfortable thoughts about our past or future. That’s when it becomes rumination. If left unchecked, rumination can become a vicious cycle, leading to a lot of uncomfortable emotions or unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, one can overcome rumination using some effective tools from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

Understanding Rumination:

Rumination involves a persistent focus and repetition of negative thoughts, often revolving around past mistakes, anxieties about the future, or perceived shortcomings. This pattern of thinking can contribute to heightened stress, anxiety, and even depression. Rumination is typically triggered by a difficult situation, such as losing a job or arguing with a loved one. Additionally, rumination can also be caused by unresolved trauma from the past, low self-esteem or mental health conditions such as anxiety or OCD.

CBT Based Techniques To Overcome Rumination

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a widely recommended and evidence-based approach to dealing with rumination. CBT usually uses the following strategies for rumination:

  • Identifying Negative Thought Patterns

The first step in cognitive therapy is to identify the negative thoughts or unhealthy behaviours that might be contributing to the rumination. This requires individuals to observe themselves for some time and become aware of the thought patterns and triggers behind rumination. Individuals can become more aware of their thoughts and triggers by recording their thoughts in a journal, which makes it a commonly recommended tool in CBT.

  • Challenging Negative Thoughts

The second and one of the most important steps involves challenging negative thoughts that are the focus of rumination. This can be done by asking yourself reflective questions and considering alternative, healthier ways of thinking. Some examples of reflective questions are:

  • Is it a fact or just a thought?
  • Is there any other way to think about the situation?
  • How is this thought helping me?
  • What changes will I see if I can let go of this thought?

  • Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves replacing negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones. By consciously shifting focus to alternative perspectives, individuals can gradually rewire their thinking patterns. Thus, even though one cannot stop thinking, one can reduce rumination by replacing negative thoughts with realistic ones.

  • Schedule Your Worry Time

CBT often encourages people to keep a slot in their day designated for their worries or ruminating thoughts. This can be done by setting 10-15 minutes aside to write ruminating thoughts before going to bed. Individuals are also encouraged to postpone their worries if they occur outside the scheduled ‘worry time’.

  • Consider Costs and Benefits

Sometimes people might feel that rumination helps with reflection and problem-solving, but in reality, it only leads to frustration and stuckness. By recognizing the negative impact and limited benefits, individuals can encourage themselves to reduce rumination, leading to increased mental and physical well-being.

  • Distraction

Sometimes, distracting yourself from ruminating thoughts can help break the cycle, allowing you to refocus on more important tasks. Distraction can be anything healthy that helps you cope, like talking to a friend, listening to music, or engaging in a hobby.


CBT offers a comprehensive and empowering approach to stop rumination. It also allows individuals to target specific thinking and behaviour patterns that might be contributing to rumination. Thus, using this evidence-based technique, individuals can feel more empowered and break free from the cycle of rumination.


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  3. Stop Ruminating – Simple Steps You Can Take to Short-Circuit the Cycle of Depression. (2014, July 25). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles.
  4. Ways to Stop Ruminating | Stop Rumination | Repetitive Thoughts. (n.d.). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin