Your mind is constantly racing with thoughts. Whatever you do, your thoughts follow you everywhere, commenting on your next move. Take a moment by yourself, or take a short walk around the block and notice how your thoughts constantly have something to say. Making judgements about yourself and others, informing you, telling you what to do next, among other things. When you’re greatly affected by your thoughts or always take them as ‘truth’, they can become overwhelming and can even impact your mental health. For example, it can contribute to anxiety or depression. By defusing our thoughts we can reduce the impact they have on us. In this blog, I will talk about what thought defusion is and how you can practise it.
Fusing with your thoughts is when you’re not able to see the difference between you and your thoughts. We take our thoughts for reality and find it difficult to see another perspective.
Defusing from our thoughts is a concept from ACT. It means creating a distance between yourself and your thoughts and learning to detach from thoughts, memories and ideas. Instead of always seeing the world through or from your thoughts, you look at your thoughts. Instead of letting them push you around and taking ‘hold’ of you, you see them for what they are; nothing more than words or pictures in our mind.
Often our thoughts are useful and help us to solve problems, or protect us from danger. It is no wonder they have become such an important and influential function. Nonetheless, sometimes they are not helpful and cause undue stress. For example, think about anxious thoughts you might have in anticipation of something that makes you feel nervous, like “I am going to embarrass myself”. Or thoughts you might have after making a mistake, such as “I am such a stupid person”. By recognizing thoughts for what they are and distancing yourself from them, you can respond to them accordingly. You can identify whether these thoughts are helpful or even realistic.
Think of yourself as the sky and your thoughts as clouds passing by, or of changes in the weather or climate. Notice how your thoughts also float by just like clouds, some move faster than others and may take different sizes and forms, but the sky always remains the same in the background.
Right now, you may think this is easier said than done! Nevertheless, there are a few small exercises you can put into practise each day to help you defuse your thoughts. Remember it may be difficult at first, but practise will help it to come more naturally and easier to apply in your daily life.
- Regularly take a moment to step back. Notice your thoughts, and ask yourself if the thought you are having is helpful. Does this thought help the situation? How is this thought making me feel?
- Try saying a thought that is causing you distress out loud. You can practise this by saying it in a silly voice, or impersonating someone famous. You can even try singing it! How does it feel hearing your thoughts like this? What impact does it have?
- Practise mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to being in the present moment and observing non-judgmentally. Practising mindfulness regularly can help to foster defusion. You can read more about mindfulness here and find an exercise that best suits you. Headspace also has a lot of useful exercises.
Still a little confused how defusing your thoughts can help? This video explains the concept of defusion with the help of a Sushi train!