We’ve all been there before; a minor upset occurs, and suddenly we can’t stop thinking about it. Whether it’s a fight with a friend, a disappointing work performance, or something else entirely, our thoughts begin to spin, and it feels like we’re trapped in a never-ending loop. If you find yourself in this situation frequently, you’re not alone. You may be caught in a common psychological phenomenon known as rumination.



  1. a deep or considered thought about something:
  2. “philosophical ruminations about life and humanity”
  • The action or process of thinking deeply about something:
  • “this film stuck out, demanding attention and rumination”

Rumination is the process of “compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions'” (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998). This process has been studied by the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksma, who was a professor in psychology at Yale University.

It’s also ruminating or brooding when we keep thinking about our problems repeatedly while doing nothing to resolve them.

Rumination has been tied to several negative consequences, like depression, anxiety, restless sleep, decreased productivity, and weakened immune systems. Most importantly, for this article, poor Leadership of your team.

What can you do to break out of a cycle of negative thinking?

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The first step is to become aware of your rumination tendencies. When and how often do your thoughts start to spin out of control? Once you understand your triggers better, you can begin to develop strategies for breaking the cycle.

You can improve your focus by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of present-moment awareness. You are mindful means staying present without any judgment of the current moment. Breaking the rumination cycle can help you step out of your thoughts and observe them as if from a distance. Other helpful strategies include exercise, journaling, and spending time with loved ones.

If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, don’t despair—there are things you can do to break free. The first step is to become aware of your rumination habits and the situations that cause them. After establishing that, you can begin cultivating strategies for breaking the cycle, like mindfulness or exercise. With a bit of work, you can start exerting more control over your thoughts, live a happier life, and produce better results as a leader.