We all find ourselves ruminating from time to time. Rumination helps us to remember things and solve problems. It can be described as obsessive or deep thinking. If we have a project to complete for work, then rumination helps us to keep it at the forefront of our minds. It enables us to think about the subject and come up with a variety of ways to solve our problems. In this instance, rumination had a positive effect on our life.

However, not all rumination is welcome. Anxiety is created by negative thoughts. It’s not the events in our life that create anxiety but our thoughts around them. The more we think negatively about ourselves, or the situation that we find ourselves in then the more anxious we become.

Negative thinking becomes an unwelcome habit that has unfavourable effects on both our mental and physical well-being. It causes our brain to think that we are under threat and therefore it releases stress hormones into our bodies. Elevated levels of stress hormones are linked to fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure and insomnia amongst other things.

Why do we think negatively?

We are born with brains that are negatively biased. Evolution has meant that we view things as being threatening in order to keep us safe from them.

Once we start thinking negatively then our mindset changes. Instead of looking out for the things that are going well in our life, it will only focus on all the things that are going badly.

There’s a part of our brains called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It’s like a filter for your brain. You can think of it like a security guard. If you have adopted a negative mindset, then your security guard will only let negative thoughts enter your brain.

Our RAS in action

You can try this experiment to discover your RAS in operation. For the next few days when you’re driving look out for yellow cars. Yellows cars only make up approximately 1-2% of cars on the road. You’ve probably paid no attention to them before but when you start to look out for them your RAS will alert you to them.

You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Try to remember 1 or 2 little things that have gone well each day. By thinking about the little things that are going well in your life, you train your Security Guard to start focusing on the positive aspects of your life and in a matter of weeks you can change positively your mind set.

When you’ve adopted a more positive mindset then you won’t be troubled with anxious thoughts and you’ll stop negative rumination.

Perhaps you may be interested in reading other articles from my mini-blog series;

Help! How can I overcome my performance anxiety?

Nutrition for mental health