If you read my column regularly, you’ll know I like to debunk many commonly-held myths around mental health, and simplify terminology you might hear. Someone recently asked me to explain the term ‘rumination’.

Have you ever found yourself replaying a conversation in your head, pondering every word and agonising over what you could have done differently? Or maybe you endlessly worry about an upcoming event, picturing all the worst-case scenarios? This repetitive, negative thought pattern is called rumination, and it's something most of us experience from time to time.

Rumination essentially means dwelling on negative emotions and experiences. It's like getting stuck on a mental record player, replaying the same sad song. Unlike simply reflecting on past events, rumination focuses on negative aspects, often without a clear solution in sight.

While occasional rumination is something we all occasionally do, it can become problematic when it dominates our thinking and negatively impacts our mental wellbeing.

There are several reasons why we might ruminate. Often, it stems from a desire to understand and solve problems. We replay past events to learn from them or analyse a situation to find solutions. But in rumination, this focus becomes obsessive, leading to emotional distress rather than solutions.

Rumination can also be a symptom of stress and anxiety. When we're stressed, our fight-or-flight response kicks in, making us hyper-aware of potential threats. This can lead to us dwelling on negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios.

The real danger of rumination lies in its ability to create a vicious cycle. By dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions, we reinforce them. This cycle can worsen existing conditions like anxiety and depression, or even contribute to their development.

So, how do we stop ruminating?

• Meditation can help you become aware of your thoughts and emotions without judgment. By observing them, you can detach from the rumination cycle.

• Rumination often involves distorted thinking. When a negative thought pops up, question its validity. Are you catastrophising? Is there evidence to support this thought?

• Instead of dwelling on the problem, try to identify solutions or positive steps.

• When rumination takes hold, distract yourself with a healthy activity you enjoy.

Many people experience rumination, as with many things which trouble us, by understanding the causes and learning helpful strategies, we can help ourselves to conquer them.

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities. E-mail wellbeing@martinfurber.com