IBCCES is the global leader in training and certification for healthcare professionals, educators and corporate partners who work with individuals with autism and other cognitive disorders. Our reach extends to more than 2 million people in all 50 states and over 70 countries around the globe. IBCCES Member Learning Community is provided as a free service to all IBCCES members who have completed one or more of our training and certification programs.

“How I Learned to Quiet My ADHD Ruminations”

May 16, 2024

It’s sunny outside. That means it’s a great day for my signature 5-Mile Rumination Walk.

I pack my things into my mini backpack and out the door I go. This is the beginning of a 4.75-mile rumination out in beautiful nature, with a quarter mile at the end reserved for noticing and enjoying said nature — 112 minutes of rumination and 8 minutes of awe.

Life is good. The weather is clear and welcoming. The trail is all mine. These are perfect conditions to start my dive into a deep, negative, ruminative trance. Soon I’ll be sucked into an intricately engineered inner-dialogue of ADHD angst, despair, and huffy ire — exactly what you’d want to be doing on a walk through the open-air beauty of the outdoors.


My Ruminations: Negative ADHD Thoughts Galore

My ADHD ruminations are usually born from a simple thought that bugs me just enough to spur further thought. Soon this little bug-thought grows into a goliath insect that lumbers like a creepy thing beside me for most of my precious time on the trail. Life is short. Trail walks are even shorter. Ruminations are hungry wasps that will eat up all my time if I let them.

My walking ruminations tend to be hypothetical conversations with people in my life — central or peripheral. I invent their words and my responses to them. None of it is real, it’s negative or positive, and it continues unabated because it feels impossible to halt.

[Read: 9 Calming Strategies for a Racing, Restless Mind]

At times, my ruminations are practice-talk for the future, which can be a good thing. I might practice what I’d say in a personal conversation, an ADHD coaching session with a client, or a presentation. These are helpful. Other times, these imaginary dialogues bring me down because they trash the opportunity to be positive. They invent and reinforce worst-case scenarios. They also trick my brain into thinking that my life really is a negative soup — all based on a complete fabrication.

It’s a Pattern: Putting a Stop to Negative Thoughts

Ruminations take over my mind and it feels as if I have no choice — but I do. But how do I choose if I don’t always realize I have options?

In the book ADHD 2.0, Edward Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey, M.D., explain how our ADHD brains spend more time in the Default Mode Network (DMN) than does a non-ADHD brain. This DMN is where we generate our creative thinking — for better and for worse. My active DMN is what the trees along my walking trail can thank for my loud kvetching as I pass by.

But I knew all this and yet kept walking and fretting. Then, one day, a wave of nostalgia hit me when a song came on my phone during one of my rumination walks. It was a song I listened to during my COVID walks when the world shut down. Just as it did on those pandemic walks, the tune sparked in me a practiced response: teary-eyed sadness.

[Read: How to Stop Overthinking Things — A User’s Manual for Your ADHD Brain]

Then it hit me: Wait a second. There is no sad situation right now. COVID and that challenging time is over. That song was sparking an old, habituated response and it dawned on me that this was akin to what my ruminations do. They spur in me a practiced response to something that isn’t there. It’s a mirage, fake, not true. It showed me how far from reality my mind can stray, and how easily and quickly it gets there.

“Steph,” I said, “you don’t have to practice this response all the time. You don’t have to practice it at all.”

So, on that walk, I didn’t. I let it go. I squelched the beginnings of a new rumination. I quieted my mind because suddenly I saw that my reality was quite peaceful and secure. There were trees and birds. There was sun and a special time I could spend in nature. In that moment, I moved from ruminator extraordinaire to grateful me because, for once, I could just be without the struggle. I can’t describe how freeing that was.

Ruminating Thoughts and ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

Powered by WPeMatico