John Milton said the mind “can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.” In last week’s Wellness Wednesday, we saw how this can happen when our mind shifts from introspection – consciously examining our thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviors – to rumination – a fixation on our fears, shortcomings, or insecurities.

This evil twin of introspection can sabotage our attempts at insight by second-guessing our choices, reminding us of our failings, and sending us down an unproductive spiral of self-criticism and self-doubt. Not only can rumination effectively prevent insight, it can masquerade as productive self-reflection.

Last week we conducted a simple exercise to identify the power the Ruminator is exerting over us. Today we want to again draw upon the research of Tasha Eurich in her book Insight and identify five rumination busters to take back our power and restore our ability to practice healthy introspection.

Rumination Busters:

  1. Ask ourselves the question: Does anyone else care about this as much as I do? If the answer is no, then let it go. Remember that people don’t generally care about our mistakes as much as we think they do.


  1. Hit pause with a distraction that has an immediate and positive reward: Rather than replaying our self-doubt on repeat, we can do something that will take our mind off it. We can work on a project, exercise or visit a friend.

  1. Thought stopping: Although similar to hitting pause, this strategy happens internally. When the ruminator shows up in our thinking, say “Stop” and shift our thinking to something else.

  1. Adopt a learn-well mindset: Originally discovered by child psychologist Carol Dweck, people approach tasks with one of two mindsets. Those with a ‘do-well’ mindset are concerned with their performance. Those with a ‘learn-well’ mindset place more importance on learning and improving. When they fail, ‘do-well’ thinkers become upset and blame their failure on personal shortcomings. On the other hand, ‘learn-well’ thinkers don’t see as failure but an opportunity to learn and grow. Developing a learn-well mindset channels our thinking to focus on learning over performance.

  1. Reality check: When we find ourselves in the grip of rumination, one of the best things we can do is get a reality check from someone we trust. By doing so, we usually get a more impartial perspective and experience an opportunity for hope and learning.

We have a choice to introspect or ruminate. Whichever we repeatedly choose will become a habit. That habit will make heaven of hell or hell of heaven.

From our team…Willow, Kevin, and Tom…who wear halos instead of horns.

Paul Bernabei
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