Sometimes we can have difficulty keeping our attention focused. But did you know that our attention is actually resource limited? That’s why it can be hard to do two things at once, like driving and talking. Attention being focused away from goals can sometimes be so disruptive, we enter what is called a ‘ruminative cycle’.
The Ruminative Cycle occurs when we fixate our attention towards thoughts which are often negative, and cause us distress. This can get us “stuck in a rut”, where we find ourselves trapped in these daunting thoughts, which in turn causes low mood. This may cause us to withdraw from others, which thus reinforces the negative thoughts.
Common examples include: thinking about items on an upcoming exam, a job interview, thinking about an argument in your head, thinking about someone who cut you off in traffic, thinking about a comment someone made towards you, etc. The list goes on!
How to ‘Break the Cycle’
Now that we know our capacity to hold attention is limited, we can look at how to better focus our attention towards goals, and away from internal negative thoughts.
It’s important that we direct our attention selectively towards goals, and away from distressing stimuli by engaging with something else. For example, when distressing thoughts begin, quickly moving our attention away from this and engaging in another behaviour such as picking up the phone and calling a friend can be helpful! Another tip is to try and engage in behaviours that are highly sensory, meaning activities you can see, smell, hear, see, etc. Examples of this could include mindfulness tasks!