The simple mental habit mentioned below has been shown to create the following stress symptoms:
• Chronic stress
• Reactive responses (as opposed to proactive responses)
• Low quality relationships
• Feelings of depression, isolation and despondence
• Lack of sleep
Recent research has pegged a mental habit – rumination – that guarantees low satisfaction, depressed mood and low productivity in people who do it consistently. The context of the study was a work environment, although it certainly applies in other areas of life.
To ruminate means:
1: to go over in the mind repeatedly
2: to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed : chew the cud
If you’re ruminating, you’re chewing the cud of thoughts that you have chewed on before.
Yet, there are individuals who somehow seem to glide right through turmoil, without any lingering anxiety or negativity. A study into workplace behaviors has indicated that these people make up about 40 percent of the daily workforce.
Others remained burdened over time by inevitable conflicts with colleagues, unfair treatment by a supervisors or workplace errors.
In fact, some people are consistently burdened by the stress of past problems, to the point where it interferes with job performance and stiffens relations among co-workers and supervisors.
In the study, implemented by Wayne Hochwarter, with the assistance of Jim Moran, Professor of Business Administration at the Florida State University College of Business and Christopher Rosen of the University of Arkansas, researchers surveyed over 600 employees in both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
The 40 percent that seemed to shake off work troubles were classed as ‘forward thinkers’ due to their inherent ability to move past problems and focus on the future. However, 20 percent of the participants proved to be ruminators, dwelling on past problems and remaining disgruntled about transgressions. The remaining 40 percent of those interviewed did not fully fall into either category. These people had various levels of both tendencies.
The study, published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, indicated that the ruminators, those unable or unwilling to let go of problems, had dramatically higher work related issues and stress symptoms.
• 30% of ruminators had more job stress
• 40% experienced poor quality of sleep (the sleep issue is interesting, as ruminating is a primary cause of sleeplessness, which is dealt with in Sleep Switch).
• 25% indicated they were less proactive in the workplace.
• 35% admitted having difficulty maintaining good relationships with their peers and a startling 50% reported feeling depressed, isolated or despondent in the workplace.
The findings allowed researchers to understand the self-inflicted nature of rumination and its detrimental effects on employees. They recommended strategies to help alleviate the negativity of past problems.
Since ruminators have difficulty just letting things go, researchers made several suggestions to assist in dealing with and moving on from problems. Among the suggestions, the first was setting a time limit on how long a person would dwell on a particular event.
They also advised that ruminators build a rapport with the forward thinkers. This would likely influence their own mood and help pull them out of the past. They would also learn to look forward, rather than backward.
Furthermore, researchers felt that ruminators would benefit from looking for something positive to think about. Each experience or event is sprinkled with the odd bright spot or silver lining, and converting their thoughts to focus on the good, will help push past the bad.
If all else fails, it is time to break out secret weapon against rumination. Here we go!
1. Allow your mind to ruminate – don’t resist it.
2. Identify a mundane, background noise. It could be the hum of your computer, the sound of a fan, the refrigerator or distant traffic. Choose any consistent background noise that is humming along.
3. Now for the 10-second test: Tune in exclusively to this background noise. Listen to it actively. Let it fill your mind and awareness as if it were the only thing going on in your world right now. Keep listening for about 10 seconds, or until you feel a certain settling inside you.
If you felt the settling feel after a few seconds, there is HUGE hope for you. At any time, anywhere, you can repeat this simple pattern to clear your head, reset and move on. This works because tuning into external white noise actually creates a shift in your brain. The Default Mode Network (DMN), which runs your autopilot thoughts, actually switches off in favor of Executive Functioning. These results have been validated by fMRI scans and reported in the March 2010 issue of Scientific American magazine.
Resource: The iNLP Center’s Tame the DMN stress relief program is a simple yet comprehensive protocol that eliminates stress and busy-mindedness.
If you’d like help with applying the principles in this article, consider personal coaching. Click here to learn more and inquire.
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