Negative thoughts have a way of taking over. In recent months, most of us have a lot fewer distractions and a lot more free time. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are missing many of the fun, positive activities that help to refocus our energies. These days, many people find themselves caught in an endless spiral of negative thinking.
Cognitive defusion* is one strategy for managing negative thinking. Cognitive defusion is the process of distancing ourselves from our thoughts – seeing them as words and passing sensations, rather than as facts. It is important to remember that thoughts are not facts; your thoughts can lie to you.
Some cognitive defusion strategies include seeing your mind as a separate entity. For example, some people tell themselves: “There goes my mind worrying again.” Or: “I notice that my mind is really criticizing me today.” Cognitive defusion can also include visualization techniques, such as picturing negative thoughts as text messages or pop-up ads. To distance yourself from these thoughts, you might say: “I am not reading that message right now.”
It is normal to have negative thoughts sometimes. During a global crisis like COVID-19, they might come around more often. If negative thinking is interfering with your ability to live, work, and function, then it may be time to seek professional support.
Adapted from Hayes and Smith (2005). Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life – The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
- * Adapted from Hayes and Smith (2005). Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life – The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.