Fixation on a Problem

The most basic definition is “A problem is any given situation that differs from a desired goal”.

Let me explain: Your goal is to get to work on time. You’re driving to work and your car stalls…you have a problem.

I have always thought that if you have a problem, you need to do everything to minimize the problem…your biggest task is to minimize it in your head. Your car stalls. What do you need to do to minimize the problem. Call a tow truck…call work to advise them that you will be late due to unforeseen circumstances. Once you do this, your stress levels come down even though your car is still not working.

This is what the experts say about this:

Maybe it was an insult from a friend. The job promotion you didn’t get. Or just a proverbial glass of spilled milk. Whatever the problem, stewing over it could be dragging down your entire day, finds a study out of the University of Miami.

The report, published in the journal Emotion, tracked 157 undergraduate students who kept journals tracking their daily moods, along with unpleasant events and time spent ruminating on those occurrences. Not surprisingly, researchers concluded that when participants mulled over problems for significant periods of time, they also suffered from a poor mood all day long. On the flip side, these same participants reported better moods when they kept the stewing to a minimum—even if more bad stuff happened on that given day.

“Think about the origins of the word ruminate,” says Janis Walker, a Johns Hopkins University clinical therapist, who was not involved in the study. “It’s about a cow chewing its cud. It goes over and over and over it, and doesn’t get anywhere. When we ruminate, we’re not problem-solving.” Consequently, the problem sticks around—as does the associated negativity.

Instead, Walker advises, we’re better off finding a way to let go—although that’s easier said than done. “It can be really hard for people to do,” Walker says. “It’s a process of learning to become more mindful and to let things go and not focus on them all the time.”

“It creates a distorted-lens effect,” says Nolen-Hoeksema. “We see only what our negative mood wants us to see—the events in our past that are negative, the events in our present that are negative, the things that could go wrong in the future.”

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