Rumination is a core component of depression. The act of focusing on negative feelings borne of a negative event rather than shifting attention away from the feelings or engaging adaptive coping strategies is the act of ruminating. This behavior has been shown to be especially prevalent in the onset and maintenance of depressive symptoms. For instance, people with depression tend to focus on the negative emotions they experience after an event more than people who are not depressed. Research on depression and other mood problems such as anxiety have provided evidence of the influence of rumination. But few studies have looked at how rumination affects mood under normal daily conditions.
To get a clearer picture of the effects of rumination during daily life, Jessica J. Genet of the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami recently led a study that evaluated rumination and mood in 157 college students. The students recorded their daily moods and any negative events that occurred in a diary over the course of 6 days. When Genet assessed the diaries, she found that those with the lowest moods and the most negative emotional states had engaged in the highest levels of rumination. In particular, events that were similar in nature were seen as more negative by the ruminating participants and resulted in poorer moods than in those who did not ruminate.
The use of daily diaries provides a novel view into the real-time impact of rumination. In clinical settings, rumination has been shown to significantly exacerbate the negative symptoms of depression. Now, with the findings of this study, it can also be suggested that daily rumination can set the stage for negative mood outcomes in nondepressed individuals as well. Genet hopes that these results provide further evidence that negative situations and events do not themselves create negative moods. “Rather, the degree to which people respond to these events with non-effective or dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies, like rumination, appears to be the critical factor which determines affective outcomes,” said Genet.
Genet, J. J., Siemer, M. (2012). Rumination moderates the effects of daily events on negative mood: Results from a diary study. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028070
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