The Three Rs: Rumination* Regret * Refocus

noregrets-movingonRumination, or dwelling persistently on distressing situations from the recent or distant path, saps our energy, confidence, and ability to solve problems. We all know someone like this, and it could even be YOU. When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he was probably not referring to an endless and counterproductive focus on the past.

Get over, over thinking. It’s a trap, a habit that can be changed. Are we primed to ruminate? According to psychology professor, Stephen Ilardi, memories are linked to powerful emotional associations. Common themes may be familiar to you like: “I can’t believe I said that or replaying what might have been a better or faster response in a personal or professional setting.” When an unpleasant event puts us in a despondent mood, it’s easier to recall other times when we’ve felt terrible, which can set the stage for a downward spiral. If events in the past were negative, then present and even future events will also go wrong. We think we can “fix” the problem by playing it over and over. On the contrary, the more we do this, the more it ramps up activity in the brain’s stress-response which can eventually sap motivation. No winners here.

Yes, this is much more typical in women than men. In a series of studies, women were more likely to accept undue responsibility for other’s well being. They also were less likely than men to believe they had control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

Ruminators are not worriers, who tend to live in the future and are concerned about what could happen. Their anxiety is forward focused on what has yet to happen. The ruminator already has a scenario and replays it. Not only does this send you into the past without a time-machine and an eraser, but it takes your attention away from the present and the opportunity to refocus on what you have learned and how you can change.

We have all had unpleasant memories or regrets about things we said or did. You cannot change history, but if you cannot let it go, call Jane/John/Jasper, apologize and move on. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but it will put an end to at least one cycle of personal discomfort and afford you some closure and even relief. It’s also important to recognize that some behaviors are habits that you have the power to short circuit and change the outcome before it becomes another “thing” to focus on looking backward.

The “Fitness Cliff”

Two Women Exercising With WeightsWhen I first read the term, fitness cliff I assumed that the reference was to another cutting edge training program. After all, it is spring and time to think about getting in shape, preparing to shed layers of clothing and improved conditioning for outdoor activities. Naïve on my part. Gold’s Gym graphed member check-ins from January 2010-January 2013. On February 18th, 48 days after most of us vow to eat less and exercise more, attendance nose-dives and continues on a downward spiral with a few positive spikes near bathing suit season. Surprised?

So, what happened and why does it continue to be an ongoing pattern? Similar to the New Year’s resolutions that many of us have been wont to make with certainty, over 50% never get beyond January 31st in changing some behavior. Fewer than 20% of us follow through on a resolution to its conclusion and actually make the proposed change.

Reassess your goal:
A closer look might help. According to fitness trainers, if you fixate on changing a specific body part and you don’t immediately see results like flat abs or thin thighs, your commitment is likely to wane. Instead, look at the bigger picture.

What’s important about being healthy?
• Greater endurance/more energy
• Improved mood
• Increased strength
• Sleep better
• Participate in more activities
• Develop greater discipline
• Gain confidence
• Clothing fit better
• Diet changes
• Exposure to more people/exercise buddy

Focus on why exercise is a positive activity that has both long and short term benefits. It’s energizing and de-stressing and can also add a social component. When the “pay-off” is not necessarily immediate, your goals need to be approached in small steps with built-in rewards, like a massage or another spa treatment.

©Mweisner 2014