Both words describe the act of thinking deeply about something but ruminate also carries the connotation of turning something over in one’s mind again and again, while cogitate implies more active and original thought. Ruminate implies that you are thinking about something over and over again, often because it is causing you worry or stress. Cogitate simply means to think carefully about something, without any negative connotations.

What is rumination?

When you ruminate, you dwell on something to a troubling degree. You can ruminate about the future or about the past. You might ruminate over a decision you made, replaying all of the what-ifs in your mind. Or you might worry obsessively about an upcoming event. It is the act of chewing over something (literally or figuratively). It often involves going over something again and again in your mind, picking it apart and dwelling on it. This can be a destructive process if you dwell on negative things, but it can also be helpful if you’re trying to solve a problem.

What is cogitation?

Cogitation is the act of thinking or meditating on something. It usually involves mulling over something in your mind, considering all the aspects of it and coming to a conclusion. This can be done silently or out loud, but it is usually a solo activity. It is similar to rumination in that it also involves thinking deeply about something. However, cogitation is generally more constructive than rumination. When you cogitate, you’re likely to come up with possible solutions to a problem or different ways to approach a situation

Rumination and cogitation – Key differences

A rumination is a form of repetitive, negative thinking that can become an addictive cycle. It’s often triggered by stressful events or situations and can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Cogitation, on the other hand, is a more constructive form of thinking. It’s a deliberate process of reflection and analysis that can help you solve problems and make better decisions. Unlike rumination, cogitation is not driven by negative emotions—it’s a positive, proactive way of thinking about your life and your choices.

Cogitation is a type of problem-solving; rumination, on the other hand, often leads to feeling trapped and helpless.

Cogitate is the better word to use when you want to describe positive, thoughtful reflection. Ruminate is more appropriate when describing worrying or obsessive thoughts.

How to stop ruminating

First, try to become aware of when you’re ruminating. This can be tricky because rumination can feel automatic and even outside of your control. But with practice, it is possible to catch yourself in the act and make a choice to do something else instead.

Second, once you’ve identified that you’re ruminating, make a conscious effort to stop. This may mean distracting yourself with another activity or simply acknowledging the thoughts and then letting them go. The goal is to interrupt the cycle so that you don’t get pulled back in.

Third, challenge your negative thoughts. This doesn’t mean trying to force yourself to think positive thoughts all the time. Rather, it means examining your beliefs and questioning whether they’re really true. Are you as worthless as you believe? Is this situation as hopeless as it seems? When you start to question your negative thoughts, they lose some of their power over you.

Finally, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and accepting things as they are, without judgment. It takes practice, but it can help break the cycle of rumination by helping you focus on what’s happening right now instead of getting lost in your thoughts.

How to start cogitating

The first step is to identify the problem or issue that you want to think about. Once you have that, start brainstorming possible solutions. Try to come up with as many as you can, no matter how far-fetched they may seem at first. Then, take some time to evaluate each option and narrow down your list to the one or two that seem most promising. Lastly, make a plan for implementing the solution(s) you’ve chosen and put it into action!

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

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