How to Stop Ruminating on the Past?

Written by: Ankita Kathad MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : January 30, 2023

Have you been thinking about the past non-stop lately? Is it interfering with your work and productivity too? Well, then you have been ruminating about the past. Thinking about the past is completely normal. All of us do it from time to time. But what to do when you just can’t stop thinking about the things that have passed? What to do when those thoughts don’t let you live your life? In this article, we talk about how to stop ruminating on the past.

We will be understanding the difference between rumination and reminiscence. Additionally, we will explore how thinking about the past non-stop affects our present as well as future. Further, we ways in which we can let healthily go of the past. Let’s begin with the definition of ruminate. This is referred to as excessive and repetitive thinking about an event. Usually, this is an event of the past.

Additionally, the focus is usually on the negative content. It can be compared with over-analysis of the past. This can lead to emotional distress.

Reminiscence is a recollection of pleasant events of the past. When we think of fond memories. This does not lead to distress.

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Chapter 1:

Why Do We Ruminate about the Past?

There can be many things one can ruminate about. Additionally, there can be many reasons why we ruminate. We usually ruminate about problematic things or events. Usually, we dwell on some past mistake. We ruminate to correct those mistakes. In a way, our brains attempt to solve a problem. This is because the brain is wired to solve problems.

We are shameful of a situation in the past. Rumination helps us think about ⁣what is it that went wrong. However, we fail to understand that in reality, we are not solving any problem. Ruminating about the past can only depress us sometimes.

Chapter 2:

How Does Rumination Affect Us?

This repetitive thought pattern can affect us in many ways. Apart from wasting our time, here are some ways in which ruminating affects us.

  • It can affect our mental health. It can lead to stress. Moreover, if someone is already suffering from depression or anxiety, rumination makes it worse.
  • It affects our sleep as rumination often leads to sleepless nights.
  • Rumination can lead to a loss of productivity because a person spends a lot of time thinking.
  • It can lead to a sad mood as we feel we made a big mistake in our past.

Chapter 3:

How to Stop Ruminating about the Past

As discussed, thinking about an event or past can impact many aspects of life. It is therefore important that we attempt to control it. There are several ways in which one can stop ruminating about the past. Here are some of them.

Worry Time

Sometimes, it’s not possible to put repetitive thoughts on the back burner. Moreover, it is difficult to get rid of the habit once it if formed. Therefore, assigning worry time in a day can help you get rid of the habit slowly. You can trick your mind into ruminating only during the worry hour. Set aside an hour or less for this worrying time. Additionally, you can maintain a worry journal or note down keywords that you feel are popping in your daytime that you have been ruminating about. Once your work is over, you can think about those words in worry time.


This is effective to stop ruminating about the past. Meditation teaches us to be present in the current moment. There are many proven benefits of meditation. Moreover, it improves our tolerance levels. This helps us in forgiving our past mistakes. It helps us gain a better perspective on problematic situations.

Find a Distraction

If you want to stop ruminating about the past, a distraction can help to break the chain of thoughts. Therefore, when you find yourself ruminating, engage in some distracting activity. Additionally, you can play an interesting game on your phone or try engaging in some coloring activities. Here are some ways you can distract yourself with.

  1. Watch a short documentary.
  2. Try breathing exercises- these help you bring back focus to the present moment.
  3. Try talking to a trusted friend on call.
  4. You can try mandala art.

Engage in Rational Thinking

To stop ruminating about the past, try questioning your thought process. You may realize that you have been overthinking pointless things many times. Moreover, when you engage in rational thought, you will find out that the past cannot be undone. You will then start taking steps to improve your future. You can try to write answers to your questions in a diary for deeper introspection.

Work on Yourself

You may observe that a lot of overthinking happens because you tend to put yourself down. You may self-criticize a past action when you ruminate. Often low self-esteem can force you to ruminate. People who suffer from social anxiety ruminate about a social event. Therefore doing some self-work can help you get rid of rumination. Here are some tips for working on improving yourself to stop ruminating about past mistakes.

  1. Establish a self-love routine. You can do this by saying positive affirmations to yourself daily. You can maintain a gratitude journal to note down the things you are grateful for. Create a vision board to remind you of your goals.
  2. Work for your fitness. It is important to maintain a routine to look after your health. Living a healthy life improves self-esteem. This is because you start valuing your own body.
  3. Spend time doing what you love. Give time to yourself daily. Moreover, you can devote time to your hobbies to make you feel better.

Mindful Rumination

Even after trying all steps, you may find yourself ruminating. Then why not turn rumination into a mindful routine? You can take this opportunity to introspect. Introspection is a positive repetition of thoughts. It involves analyzing the thoughts and feelings about an event or a problem. There are thoughts about ways to improve it in the future. This is less distressing and less damaging to mental health.

Spend Time Outdoors

Spending time outdoors in nature helps us feel good. Fresh air supplies more oxygen to our body which reduces fatigue. Therefore, if you frequently ruminate, try spending at least half an hour at a park or anywhere green. This will help you feel positive and give a better perspective on problematic situations. This will also help you keep fit.


When rumination starts to negatively affect mental health, it is time to seek help. If none of the strategies to control your thoughts are working, it is time to seek professional help. As discussed earlier, rumination can be a result of low self-esteem or other conditions. Many self-help courses can come to your aid. At Epsychonline, there are courses on Low self-esteem. This course can help you improve your self-worth so that you don’t focus on self-criticism now and then. Additionally, there are articles to help you get over past mistakes and let go of them. These resources are curated by experts and help you to stop ruminating and improve your mental well-being. Do check them out.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount