How to stop ruminating like a cow

In three simple steps

Cows ruminate. It helps them break down their food and extract all the nutrients they need.

Humans ruminate.

It’s the process of continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which tend to be sad or dark, is called rumination. It’s unhelpful.

A habit of rumination can be dangerous to your mental health, as it can prolong or intensify depression as well as impair your ability to think and process emotions.

You are not a cow.

Here is how to stop ruminating in three simple steps.

The Three Cs


The first thing to do is to become self-aware that you are having negative, ruminating thoughts. This can be the hardest bit because it is a habit and many of our habits are unconscious.

We are often more aware of our emotions. If you find yourself having a negative emotion then that’s the opportunity to take a step back and ask yourself why might that be? Have you been ruminating on the run up to feeling that way?

Are you worrying more about ‘what IF’ rather than ‘what IS’?

Unlike cows who live only in the present, we spend most of our time either reflecting on the past or imagining the future. This is where the seeds for rumination are sown.


Now we have caught ourselves ruminating, it’s time to challenge the evidence for those thoughts. One of the best ways I’ve found to remember this sentence:

Thoughts aren’t true and feelings aren’t facts

Contrary to popular belief it’s impossible to completely control your thoughts. The most random thoughts will always pop into your mind, often at the least helpful time. Now it’s time to ask yourself, what evidence do I have for this thought?

Not opinion, because opinions are like @ssholes, everyone has one but it doesn’t mean they should be shown in public. I mean real evidence, the kind of evidence Sherlock Holmes would use.

It is doesn’t pass the Sherlock Holmes test then why should you take any notice of it?

I find writing my thoughts down as I go though this process makes it even more effective. Go on, give it a whirl. That simple action might surprise you.


Now the good bit. Changing those damn, pesky negative thoughts to something more positive.

I find the best way is to ask myself questions. When you give your brain something to do in the form of a question, it’s much happier.

Yo can read an excellent article by Neil Cooper on what happens to the brain when you ask a question.

Here are some questions I like to ask myself:

What assumptions am I making?

What do I actually want?

How could I think about this differently?

What would be the 180 opposite thoughts from what I was thinking?

What’s one small thing I can do to improve the situation or how I think about it?

What would Sherlock Holmes say?

And that my friends, is it. Three simple steps to changing your thoughts and stop behaving like a cow.

This process is from cognitive behavioural therapy. As with all mental tools, it works, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. It also means you have to practice it. Put it to work. Develop the habit of using it.

If you want to know how to create habits that will change your life then follow and read James Clear.

Go be amazing!

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Helping people use mental fitness for a great life. Author of Mental Toughness Metaphors — Stories to inspire resilience

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