Students will learn about rumination and the effective steps we can take to distract ourselves from this cycle that can keep us from our hope.
Hand out of the television outline and story page
Last week, we looked at failure and now we know the reasons we fail have little to do with who we are or how smart we are, but how we go about reaching our goal. Sometimes we hold on to the feeling of failure or disappointment. We go over and over them in our head and it interferes with our hope tools. By letting the problem replay over and over in your mind you are engaging in a process which is called “rumination.”
Imagine the following scenario: Julie is at school, the day seems to be going smoothly, and Julie is looking forward to a relaxing evening at home. Then, with 15 minutes left, Julie’s teacher approaches her and informs her that she have done badly on the test. Julie apologizes and tries to explain what happened, but all her teacher tells her is that she needs to get her act together.
Everyone has to deal with situations like this from time to time and it would put most people in a bad mood. Julie has two options in how to deal with the situation, try to guess what the hope response is:
1. Go home and spend 15 minutes problem solving about what she needs to change in how she studies and what she will tell the teacher the next day, and then put it aside and enjoy the evening.
2. Let the problem eat away at her all evening and think about how unfair the world is.
Rumination, or dwelling repeatedly on negative thoughts about the past, can make things worse.
Basically, rumination means that you continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting. Think about what you do. When something upsets you, do you tend to keep going over the problem again and again? If so, then you are probably a ruminator.
Sometimes people will ruminate or have unhealthy thinking about the problem; they never even develop a solution to the problem. This is where rumination becomes a big problem.
If the situation has you in a bad mood, rumination keeps that bad mood alive, and you feel upset for as long as you ruminate. If you ruminate on the problem for days, chances are you’ll remain upset for days.
Rumination is also connected to many different forms of self-sabotage. For example, if you ruminate on something upsetting a friend did, it’s going to take longer to forgive that friend and get back to enjoying time spent with him or her. If you hold a grudge and constantly ruminate on what that friend did you may lose their friendship completely.
The key to if you are upset, is to notice your feelings. Accept your feelings and what they are telling you. And then take positive action to change the situation.
In rumination, what you do is go over and over the feelings without feeling how the situation made you feel, and letting them go.
If you are having a tough time getting the thoughts stopped from cycling, even after you’ve acknowledged your feelings and come up with a positive solution, there are healthy behaviors that can take you off the thoughts and rumination. The key is to do something positive and healthy for your brain, and not destructive, and you will need to find the one that works for you.
For example, some good activities include reading a book, playing a game, exercising, talking to a friend or watching a movie. Of course, you are only limited by your creativity and access to different activities. Importantly, you have to enjoy what you are doing for it to work. If you hate watching a movie you will get bored and start thinking about the problem again – so watching a movie that you don’t like may not be the best choice. If you talk to a friend you can talk about your feelings, and positive actions, yet you want to be sure you aren’t talking poorly about others or cycling the problem over again and again. You want to focus on solutions, not rumination. Rumination is a bad habit, so you will need to work on positive replacement activities on a regular basis if you want to break that habit.
To help us understand how negative thinking can affect us and hold us back and lead us to believe we have lost our HOPE,
- Let’s see if can use your hope tools to design a new programme. Have you ever heard the phrase, “get your mind off the problem?” We’re going to change the channel and create a new programme.
Ask the child to draw on/around the picture of the television. Or, children can be encouraged to draw their own screen. (See example at bottom of page.) If we could change a channel in your life, so that things were better for you, what channel would you switch to?
2. Draw or create the name of your new programme and come up with a story that will tell us what it is about. Include the following:
• What might other people see happening in your new programme?
• If there was one small thing that would be different about you, what would that be?
GW: Suggestion: This would be more effective if they were shown two screens or had to draw two screens. On the first, the teacher should ask each student to draw an upsetting thing they ruminated about recently. It can be something that happened at school or an argument with a friend or anything they spent a long time going over and over in their head.
1. The teacher should then explain that when we ruminate, the only programme on our screen is the one that upset us. The teacher can then ask the class if they would ever go home and watch only the same upsetting programme over and over again? The idea is to elicit that they would never do that because that would not be fun. The teacher would then make the point that this is what they are doing when they are ruminating about something upsetting that happened.
2. The teacher then reminds the students they can change the channel because there are many other programmes they can watch (i.e., think about) that would make them feel better and more hopeful. Then the teacher should ask them to draw in the second screen, an example of a thought (show) they could change the channel to when they find themselves stuck on the rumination channel. What could they think about instead that would make them feel more hopeful? The teacher should try to elicit either distraction options or problem-solving options.
Give children time to work on their project and leave time for feedback. Invite them to share what they have learned during this exercise. Reinforce the message about the upstairs and downstairs brain. Ask what tools they are using most in changing their channel and creating their new programme.
Remind them that they have the tools now to catch those unhelpful thoughts that cause us to ruminate and get stuck. By using their hope tools, they now can catch them, pause them, challenge them and then change them. Remember, practice make it easier and the more you practice the better you will get at achieving your goals.
Berg and de Shazer, 1993, p.9. Solution-Focused Practice Tool Kit.
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/01/20/why-ruminating-is-unhealthy-and-how-to-stop
Chapter on rumination in Guy Winch, Ph.D. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts (Plume, 2014)
CHANGING THE CHANNEL
Change the channel in your life to make it better for you.
Write your story that will tell us what programme is about and include the following:
- What might other people see happening in your new programme?
- What Hope tools are you using?