A study just published in the Springer journal Mindfulness by Raes and Williams, explores the relationship between rumination and mindfulness. From the abstract: “when controlling for current depressive symptoms and prior history of depression, mindfulness was significantly negatively correlated with rumination, but it was only associated with the extent to which rumination was experienced as uncontrollable, not with global levels of rumination. Furthermore, mindfulness moderated the relationship between global levels of rumination and uncontrollability of rumination, consistent with the suggestion that high dispositional mindfulness reduces the extent to which ruminative reactions tend to escalate into self-perpetuating and uncontrollable ruminative cycles.”
The authors note that “The specific hypothesis we examined was based on MBCT’s underlying rationale; that rumination occurs to some extent as a common human experience, but becomes particularly dysfunctional when it is excessive and uncontrollable. The idea is that greater skill in mindful awareness, either naturally occurring or cultivated in meditation practices, does not mean that people do not ruminate, but that they are better at noticing it when it occurs, so that they subsequently can disengage from it.”
These findings highlight that it’s not the presence of rumination itself that is the primary issue, but instead it is the person’s relationship with the ruminative thoughts (i.e. seeing them as uncontrollable) that is key. Therefore, one would assume that through formally and systematically cultivating mindfulness (through MBCT or other mindfulness-based interventions), one can cultivate a different (more harmonious and accepting) relationship with rumination and, ultimately, reduce suffering.