Our choices are sometimes a result of our ruminating cycles. Have you ever had a thought that led to another thought, and then another, and so on until your thoughts are snowballing out of control? If so, you’ve experienced a ruminating cycle. When we make choices after engaging in ruminating cycles like this, our choices aren’t usually the type of decisions that yield positive consequences.

Sometimes we make choices in an effort to quell such ruminations. When that happens, those choices may not produce the optimal outcome.

This is because our beliefs are a result of our thoughts and feelings. If our beliefs and choices are leading us to experience consequences that we don’t want, we can learn consciously change those thoughts and beliefs to create consequences that we do want. Poor choices are the result of negative cycles. Stress and anxiety are also usually the results of negative ruminating cycles.

Ruminating Cycle Exercise

Think about a time when you had a negative cycle and acted on it. How did the choices you made lead to consequences you didn’t want? It may help to write down that cycle on a piece of paper, using as much detail as possible. Feel free to get as personal as necessary to complete the exercise.

Here are the instructions for writing down your negative snowballing cycle:

  1. In the circle in the center of the page, write down the trigger that began the negative cycle. What happened that started the negative thought process? What did you think about what happened?
  2. Next, look at the trigger in the center circle, and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Write it next to the circle, and draw a circle around that thought and connect it back to the center circle.
  3. Now write down the next thing that comes to mind when you think about your trigger statement, and write it down as well. Draw a circle around it and connect it back to the center circle as well.
  4. Continue this process until you can’t think of anything else, or until the center circle is surrounded by other circled thoughts.
  5. Next, pick one of those circled thoughts and think about the first thing that comes to mind in response to that thought. Write it in a circle and connect it back to the thought that originated it.
  6. Go on in a similar fashion, listing all the thoughts in your ruminating cycle and linking them back to the thoughts that spawned them. Work outward in concentric ‘circles of circles’ until complete.

Choices and Ruminations

Triggers can lead to ruminating cycles if we choose to let them. Negative ruminating cycles can lead to poor choices, and poor choices can lead to adverse consequences. The more steps in a ruminating cycle we can identify, the more opportunities we have to change them or to stop them completely!
Refer to the Ruminating Cycle Graph you just completed in the previous exercise, and answer the following questions:

  • What are the triggers that activate your ruminating cycle?
  • What assumptions are sustaining your snowballing?
  • What perceptions are sustaining your cycle?
  • What feelings are sustaining your ruminating cycle?
  • What thoughts are sustaining your snowballing?
  • What beliefs are sustaining your cycle?
  • What physiological cues are sustaining your ruminating cycle?
  • What choices are sustaining your negative cycles?
  • What are the consequences of sustaining your snowballing?
  • What is your intention in engaging in this negative cycle?

Look at your answers to the questions above. Which of these answers would help you to either stop your negative ruminating cycle or to change it to a positive ruminating cycle? Why?