Being Kind To My Mind

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Do I ruminate when I resist getting out of bed? I was listening to a well-known mental health personality the other day and she recommended the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown to get out yourself out of bed in the morning and prevent rumination. Being retired now, and having the time to think and write, I started to wonder. When am I being self-reflective and when am I ruminating? Am I ruminating by thinking about this? Oh, the rabbit hole!

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Dreaded 3:00 AM

I recognize that my prime rumination time is 3:00 AM.  When I wake up in the wee hours, ruminating about all the bad stuff that could or did happen is a foregone conclusion. Being a woman in my later 50’s, the years of being woken up at 3:00 by hot flashes, regularly lead to a sink hole of negative thoughts. However, after trying different strategies over the years, I find that simply focussing on my breathing will finally get me back to calm and sleep. Breathing always seems like an answer that is too simple to work. But it does work.

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How are rumination and self-reflection different?

Rumination and self-reflection require looking at things that have happened and making assessments about them. For rumination, the thoughts are negative and don’t lead to understandings about myself: not kind. Self-reflection, seems to move me forward and urge me to learn more about myself and what makes me tick. It’s kind. Neuroscientist, Dr Daniel Siegel describes positive introspection as curious, open, accepting and loving (COAL).* Self-reflection is meaningful and devoid of that 3:00am inner critical voice.

My Strategies To Avoid Rumination

I feel like the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy is part of the “keep so busy with life that you don’t have time to ruminate” strategy. It seems like avoidance rather than a true strategy. For me, I need to first acknowledge that I am ruminating and then apply a solution. Breathing is a big one for me during my waking hours also. Focused breathing during Hatha yoga, helps me to stay in the calm present connecting my body as it is today with my breath. Even though my mind fights against meditating, I find that my thoughts are clearer on weeks when I’ve meditated daily. 

The jury is still out on movement

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I do like to go for walks but I’m not sure if the pace of walking or sitting in nature is sufficient to avoid ruminating. I do know that I cannot ruminate and dance. Maybe that’s why I love Zumba so much? There is no way to keep up and think at the same time. (Is this just another “keep busy” strategy but to music?)

Blog Vs Journal

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Writing this blog helps me to be selective about what I’m focusing on. I’m more likely to be self-reflective and less likely to ruminate when I know others will be reading my words. I think that journal writing would be less effective for me because I’m the only reader and I would be more likely to be unkind to myself in private. Oh, the irony of being kinder to myself when others are watching! 

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