woman brooding

I’m a brooder or over thinker. I hang on to emotions, memories, failures and perceived injustices for a long time. I know it doesn’t do any good and only keeps me stuck in a bad mood and/or a bad situation.

Brooders tend to be women. It’s a statistical fact. Men are more likely to bottle their emotions and/or gloss over difficult situations and ‘carry on’.

Neither are healthy and wreak havoc on our mood, body and relationships. According to Susan David in her book Emotional Agility:Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, brooders are more in touch with their emotions which is good (unlike bottlers) but there is a possibility they drown in them.  Ms. David says we circle and hover over our worries and pain and as we do, the emotions pick up more energy with each pass.

We have good intentions. We feel our worrying is at least an effort to address the situation. Maybe when we ruminate on the subject for the 100th time we will figure out a solution? No. This rarely happens and our brooding exhausts us. It takes copious amounts of energy to rehash and rehash.

Does venting help?

Ms. David said venting to our friends doesn’t help either. If we only vent and don’t create any resolution, we are merely co-brooding. This constant need to air emotions and dump heaviness on others wears our loved ones out too.

I want to believe when I approach my loved ones with my worries, that I do so with the intention that we’ll talk it through to a solution. I don’t want to just complain and gripe. I want to figure things out. Empathy is great and appreciated but ultimately, I want action and resolution.

How to stop brooding

When we brood, we lose presence and engagement with the real world. Dour thoughts hijack our minds.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite personal mantras is, “Action dissolves fear.” This mantra usually propels me out of my brooding funk, albeit after an extended period of suffering.

As I mentioned in the last post, Dr. Claire Weekes (Hope and Help for Your Nerves) says to avoid nervous illness we need to be with others in light occupation. This, to me, means we need to get present and engaged with the world around us. Instead of living in our heads, we need to ground ourselves with our senses and relationships. We are not running from our fears, we are engaging our human qualities.

Introverts and highly sensitive people tend to hunker down with thoughts in our heads and minimize interactions with people. Both feed rumination.

Pay attention and relax

I recommend resisting the urge to time travel in your head to the past or the future. Notice your breathing, your environment, how your feet or butt touch a surface. Get out where people are. You don’t have to have a companion or group of friends to go out with. Just get out in the circulation of life. A coffee shop or library will do. Pay attention to nature, your body, something you hear on the radio. Interrupt the circling of injustices and pain. Stopping the over thinking, leads to an openness where possibilities and answers slip in. Possibilities and answers halt brooding.

Are you a brooder? If yes, what helps you stop ruminating? If no, what do you do instead? 

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash



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