Tag Archives: journaling

7 Steps to Help Those who Ruminate.

Sometimes I think I am like a cow. I ruminate over things.

7 Steps to Help Those who Ruminate

 

Much of my life I have spent time working on farms, I even have a University degree in agriculture. I humorously call this my degree in pastoral care.

Cows sit out in the field and chew the cud. With their mouth’s moving from side to side they chew food that has already eaten. Cows and sheep are ruminants and have 4 stomachs, so they eat their fill then they chew it later, colloquially known as ‘Chewing the cud’.

Rumination according to Wiki is defined in this way

Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential bad events in the future. Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.

Do you ruminate?

I know you don’t re chew your food, well at least I hope you don’t, but do you go over and over issues all the time?

What I had been taught all my life was not true: experience is not the best teacher! It’s what you do with that experience that matters. John Maxwell

I think we all have a tendency to do this, some more than others, but if you are always looking back then you are going to stumble in any efforts to going forward.

It’s like we chew over things. Round and around and around. ‘Woulda’, ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’ are echoed self talk sound bites leaving you malnourished of hope.

Why do we ruminate?

  1. To feel like we are doing something about the problem. We want to change a situation, so we keep going over and over and over it, looking for a solution. This feeling of doing something can just be a subtle downward delusional spiral to the depressing reality is that there is nothing you can do. The brain, in trying to resolve its tension, looks for the answer. Any activity, including rumination, feels good. We hate ambiguity, that sense of uncertainty and lacking of clarity. We want to solve the mystery.  So like a good detective on T.V. we hunt out the clues to solve the murder and eliminate the mystery. Know that you will never know everything and chasing the past for purpose is like chasing the clouds for pleasure. It will leave you exhausted and lost.
  2. To Self deprecate. Perhaps it is a way of punishing ourselves. That below the surface of our thinking there is a deeper trail of chewing. ‘I did those things, so now I have to punish myself’… ‘This is the consequence of my actions’ … ‘This is the reaping of what has been sown’. So we stew in this cud as punishment. Any sense of forgiveness, grace or loving fathers embrace (Story of Loving father – Prodigal son) is not allowed to touch our lips.
  3.  To potentially learn. We chew over the situation to glean some wisdom from the situation. We consider experience is the best teacher yet only considered experience teaches us wisdom. Rumination can be helpful, as long as it leads to action and not just stewing and

So what are you going to do with that experience.

Are you just going to keep ruminating on it forever?

7 steps to Help those who Ruminate.

  1. Write it out. Get what you’re ruminating in your mind out of the head and on to some paper. I think writing in a journal is one of the most powerful of all mental health disciplines you can have. Here is a link to some a post I have written on journaling.

    Learning to write is learning to think. You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing. S.I. Hayakawa

  2. Problem solve it. This where writing it down comes in really helpful. Get together with someone you trust and talk about what you have written down.Tease it out to find the problem. Find one concrete solution you can (not should, could or would) do to overcome what you are ruminating about.
  3. Engage in activities that promote the positive. What activities fill your mind with other thoughts preferably positive thoughts. Hobbies, mediation, reading, running, cooking. The main point is to get your mind out of the rumination rut for a while.
  4. Can them.  Get yourself a tin can, and as the questions come up write them down on a piece of paper and prayerfully place them in the can. Imagine yourself placing them in Gods hand to hold them for you. God has big hands! Place the can up on a shelf and leave it there. After a while take that can off the shelf and see if any of your questions have been answered in the intervening time. Add more questions when they come up. see more here
  5. Schedule them. Tell your brain this ‘I do not have time to think about that at this moment. I will think about it tomorrow at 3pm’. Its telling your brain that yes what you are presenting to me is worthy of time and thought so I therefore will make space for it. If you remember to think about at 3 pm so be it, but I have found quite often that this little technique will slowly deflate the rumination balloon of any sense of self-importance
  6. Place them. Do you have a place where rumination is worse? Look for patterns of where your rumination seems to occur more frequently and/ or more powerfully. ‘When I found a place to think my thoughts my thoughts found a place in me.’ John Maxwell
  7. Displace them. I often use truth coaches to get my thinking back on track. These are little powerful insights, quotes, verses that speak truth into my thinking. Find out more here.

Remember this. Whatever you dwell on, it will get you, in the end.

It will create thinking tracks in your brain the size of the grand canyon where every situational event will tumble into.

Quotes to consider and share
  • Monitor your thinking and deliberately dwell on the virtues of your difficult friend, or negative feelings will surely follow. David Riddell
  • What you focus on gets you. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take you down. Focus on the positive/ good things will always give me hope.
  • I choose to ruminate, ponder and toss over in my mind good things.
  • Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips. Dawson Trotman
  • The thoughts I indulge grow stronger. The thoughts I acknowledge and put in their place lose their power to discourage me
  • The tricky thing about rumination is that it feels like it’s helpful, but there’s no action taken, and you don’t move forward to some sort of solution. Carla Grayson
  • He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality. Anwar Sadat
  •  To change your emotions, first get control of your thoughts. Ruts of the mind become moods of the heart. David Riddell
  •  To achieve radical change, I need to call some of my feelings ‘liars’ and choose to side with truth, against my own emotions, until my feelings come around. David Riddell
  • I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

 

Exercises
  1. Use a journal to write out what you’re ruminating on. Share it with a trusted friend, counsellor or pastor and problem solve anything that needs addressing
  2. Find some truth coaches and write them out in an easily accessible place such as a small notebook you can carry at all times. When you feel the ruminations coming on, spend time reading your truth coaches.
  3. Get yourself a tin can and can the questions you are ruminating over.

Barry Pearman
Photo Credit: bogers via Compfight cc

p.s. what did you think about this post! Leave me a comment or tweet me at @barrypearman 

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journaling

Too much Traffic in your Mind? Try Journaling

Sometimes my thinking feels like its in a traffic jam. An impatient traffic jam.

 

Horns tooting, temperatures rising, gridlock. Just too many neurons firing off!

One of favorite artists, Bruce Cockburn, captures it well in his song Five Fifty-One

Knots in my muscles, too much traffic in my mind
traffic in my mind, traffic in my mind
knots in my muscles, too much traffic in my mind
it was five fifty-one, gray light creeping through the blind

Somehow, you’ve got to get those tooting horns under control and regain composure in your mind.

One of the most effective ways of doing this I have found is to write. To pick up a pen and let the words flow. Sometimes its just a pouring out of an alphabet soup in a cathartic deluge. Rage, sadness, joy, anger, fear all flow and free the mind.

Is that all journaling can be?

Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through your finger tips. Dawson Trotman

 

I look at the psalms of David, the songs of Moses, the prophecies of Jeremiah and others, the Revelation of John and wonder it they too were in some way journaling. God using the situation they were in to express his journaled heart to his people.

In my journaling journey I have at times used the ‘Pour it all out’ method but I have also used three other techniques to help me bring some peace to the ‘traffic in my mind’.

3 Journaling Methods

 

1. Exploring your beliefs

I found this process in a course I took from Wisdom for Life. It is C.B.T. based and helps you to trace out core beliefs.

  1. The emotion or reaction or event I am exploring is …
  2. The self talk producing it is … (make sure you write down as much as self talk as you can here)
  3. The belief supporting that must be …
  4. God’s view/ the reality is …
  5. The challenge I face is …

This type of journaling not only helps us find out what we believe, but challenges us to identify reality – what is rational and logical and can be supported by evidence. Then we are invited to dispute our belief with new and superior insights.

2. The P.A.P.A prayer.

This journaling option comes from Dr. Larry Crabbs book The Papa Prayer: The Prayer You’ve Never Prayed

In this method we are invited to write a prayer along these lines

  • Present yourself – Present authentically to God whatever you discover in yourself, whether good or bad. Don’t hold anything back.
  •  Attend to attend to how you are thinking of God –  Attend to who God really is (as revealed in the Bible) versus who you think God is (based on life experience) or who you want Him to be (based on your felt desires).
  • Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God – Purge whatever is blocking your intimacy with God by acknowledging without excuse or explanation the self-obsession staining your motives that the Spirit chooses to reveal.
  • Approach God as the “first thing” in your life – Approach God with confidence that what He loves to give you is what you want the most. Stand before God as a loved child. Rest in His love as a prelude to receiving His best.

Read more about this. Click here …

3. The Cup

I discovered this method from a counselor called Ruth Penny. Cancer took her life a few years back now but this gift lives on. In this journaling method you imagine your life as a cup, you may even like to hold a cup whilst doing the exercise.

You prayerfully explore two questions.

  1. What has filled your cup this last day/ week?
  2. What has drained your cup this last day/ week?

After doing this for a period of time, say a month, you might be able to see trends, themes, areas to explore further.

Read more about this. Click here …

Some quotes to consider …

To change your emotions, first get control of your thoughts. Ruts of the mind become moods of the heart. David Riddell Click to Tweet

Improvement of our lives begins with the renewing of our minds, which is begun in turn by challenging old beliefs and childhood conclusions. David Riddell

Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through your finger tips. Dawson Trotman Click to Tweet

Present yourself – Present authentically to God whatever you discover in yourself, whether good or bad. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t pretend that what’s going on inside you (e.g. hatred) really isn’t happening. Don’t trivialize what’s happening as unimportant, petty, not worth mentioning. Don’t spin whatever you discover that’s disagreeable into something more pleasant. Be who you are, where you are.
Attend to attend to how you are thinking of God –  Attend to who God really is (as revealed in the Bible) versus who you think God is (based on life experience) or who you want Him to be (based on your felt desires). Don’t assume your view of God is correct. Don’t project your experience with authority figures, especially your
father, onto God. Don’t sugar-coat the word God to satisfy your desire for a pleasant experience with Him. Don’t believe everything you hear, except from God Himself in the Bible. Stand before the God of the Bible. You’ll fall to your knees, but you’ll get up a new person.
Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God – Purge whatever is blocking your intimacy with God by acknowledging without excuse or explanation the self-obsession staining your motives that the Spirit chooses to reveal. Don’t simply try hard to be good; don’t merely promise to do better. Don’t criticize others’ faults without first seeing your own equally serious faults. Don’t redefine your self-obsession into understandable mistakes. Don’t assume that your strong passion for what you believe is right is necessarily holy. Stand naked before holiness. The more you see your sin, the more you’ll be amazed by grace.
Approach God as the “first thing” in your life – Approach God with confidence that what He loves to give you is what you want the most. Don’t retreat from God when He seems unresponsive. Don’t negotiate with God. You have no leverage other than His relentless, tender love and your longing to get what He’s giving. Don’t demand anything from God; expect the gift of relationship. Don’t let the desires that you feel dictate your expectations of what He’ll give you. Stand before God as a loved child. Rest in His love as a prelude to receiving His best. – See more at: http://turningthepage.info/subjecting-your-thoughts-to-the-presence-of-p-a-p-a/#sthash.Mq7g5RHM.dpuf
Present yourself – Present authentically to God whatever you discover in yourself, whether good or bad. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t pretend that what’s going on inside you (e.g. hatred) really isn’t happening. Don’t trivialize what’s happening as unimportant, petty, not worth mentioning. Don’t spin whatever you discover that’s disagreeable into something more pleasant. Be who you are, where you are.
Attend to attend to how you are thinking of God –  Attend to who God really is (as revealed in the Bible) versus who you think God is (based on life experience) or who you want Him to be (based on your felt desires). Don’t assume your view of God is correct. Don’t project your experience with authority figures, especially your
father, onto God. Don’t sugar-coat the word God to satisfy your desire for a pleasant experience with Him. Don’t believe everything you hear, except from God Himself in the Bible. Stand before the God of the Bible. You’ll fall to your knees, but you’ll get up a new person.
Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God – Purge whatever is blocking your intimacy with God by acknowledging without excuse or explanation the self-obsession staining your motives that the Spirit chooses to reveal. Don’t simply try hard to be good; don’t merely promise to do better. Don’t criticize others’ faults without first seeing your own equally serious faults. Don’t redefine your self-obsession into understandable mistakes. Don’t assume that your strong passion for what you believe is right is necessarily holy. Stand naked before holiness. The more you see your sin, the more you’ll be amazed by grace.
Approach God as the “first thing” in your life – Approach God with confidence that what He loves to give you is what you want the most. Don’t retreat from God when He seems unresponsive. Don’t negotiate with God. You have no leverage other than His relentless, tender love and your longing to get what He’s giving. Don’t demand anything from God; expect the gift of relationship. Don’t let the desires that you feel dictate your expectations of what He’ll give you. Stand before God as a loved child. Rest in His love as a prelude to receiving His best. – See more at: http://turningthepage.info/subjecting-your-thoughts-to-the-presence-of-p-a-p-a/#sthash.Mq7g5RHM.dpuf
Present yourself – Present authentically to God whatever you discover in yourself, whether good or bad. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t pretend that what’s going on inside you (e.g. hatred) really isn’t happening. Don’t trivialize what’s happening as unimportant, petty, not worth mentioning. Don’t spin whatever you discover that’s disagreeable into something more pleasant. Be who you are, where you are.
Attend to attend to how you are thinking of God –  Attend to who God really is (as revealed in the Bible) versus who you think God is (based on life experience) or who you want Him to be (based on your felt desires). Don’t assume your view of God is correct. Don’t project your experience with authority figures, especially your
father, onto God. Don’t sugar-coat the word God to satisfy your desire for a pleasant experience with Him. Don’t believe everything you hear, except from God Himself in the Bible. Stand before the God of the Bible. You’ll fall to your knees, but you’ll get up a new person.
Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God – Purge whatever is blocking your intimacy with God by acknowledging without excuse or explanation the self-obsession staining your motives that the Spirit chooses to reveal. Don’t simply try hard to be good; don’t merely promise to do better. Don’t criticize others’ faults without first seeing your own equally serious faults. Don’t redefine your self-obsession into understandable mistakes. Don’t assume that your strong passion for what you believe is right is necessarily holy. Stand naked before holiness. The more you see your sin, the more you’ll be amazed by grace.
Approach God as the “first thing” in your life – Approach God with confidence that what He loves to give you is what you want the most. Don’t retreat from God when He seems unresponsive. Don’t negotiate with God. You have no leverage other than His relentless, tender love and your longing to get what He’s giving. Don’t demand anything from God; expect the gift of relationship. Don’t let the desires that you feel dictate your expectations of what He’ll give you. Stand before God as a loved child. Rest in His love as a prelude to receiving His best. – See more at: http://turningthepage.info/subjecting-your-thoughts-to-the-presence-of-p-a-p-a/#sthash.Mq7g5RHM.dpuf
Present yourself

Questions to consider and leave a comment …

  1. Why do you think writing helps to disentangle the traffic in your mind?
  2. What other journaling methods have your used?

Barry Pearman

Photo Credit: Tony Fischer Photography via Compfight cc

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