Mind Wandering Versus Rumination

How do I get a bit of shush from my inner dialogue?

Julie Kenny
5 min readSep 12


Photo by JJ Jordan (http://see2believe.co.uk) on Unsplash

What do I do when my inner voice won't be quiet?

I’m one of those people who has an inner voice. You hear this voice in your head, internally speaking your thoughts, ideas, commentary, and narrative. Not everyone has this inner voice; even those of us who experience it do so differently.

I have a thunderous inner voice. Honestly, it just never shuts up unless I'm sleeping deeply. I have genuinely woken up at three in the morning delivering a presentation or working on an Excel table. Our minds can wander or ruminate depending on our mental state, influencing our path.

On the one hand, I like my meandering inner voice. I'm never bored because I can look out the window and tell myself a story. I disappear into another world where I get to shape and direct the world.

That said, when I'm depressed or anxious, that inner voice can be very dangerous. It lashes at me like a storm at sea, and I've sometimes felt I might drown.

Mind wandering

When reading Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention by Johan Hari, I came across mind wandering as a concept. Mind wandering happens when you have the space to think about or process your world.

I've always described it as percolating. If I'm stuck in a story or with a problem, I tuck the issue or idea into my mind, and I go for a walk, swim or nap and give myself space to think about it. More often than not, the solution often comes to me. I also use this technique to write stories in my head. I wrote most of this whilst out on my evening constitutional.


Rumination, on the other hand, is a negative thought spiral. It's when you have a lot of anxiety and frustration and keep thinking about it, blaming yourself for the situation. It can be those thoughts that assail you as you try to go to sleep or wake you in the middle of the night and prevent you from going back to sleep.

I also have a lot of chaotic thoughts. I have a lot to do, and my brain rapidly shifts from one idea to the next, and I often feel overwhelmed, leading to anxiety and…



Julie Kenny

Writer | Executive Coach and Trainer | Triathlete | Mother | visit me at https://www.garnettrainingandconsultancy.com/