Monday Dose of Mindfulness: Thought Defusion


Have you ever had upsetting thoughts sitting at the forefront of your mind and become stuck going over and over these same upsetting thoughts? When we become preoccupied with distressing thoughts or images that keep repeating, it blocks us from enjoying our lives. In order to decrease our distress we must develop skills that enhance our ability to choose which of our thoughts we want to pay attention to and which of our thoughts we want to allow to float away.

Today's Monday Dose of Mindfulness post describes thought defusion, a technique that helps us to mindfully observe our thoughts without becoming stuck on them. In other words, thought defusion is a technique that calls for accepting whatever thoughts that may come up for you and then practicing letting them go.

thought defusion is a technique that calls for accepting whatever thoughts that may come up for you and then practicing letting them go

Thought defusion involves visualization. Using our imagination, we visualize our thoughts, in the form of words or images, and then visualize gently sending them off or watching as they float away. Here are some examples of how you can visualize this process:

  • Picture a sandy shoreline and visualize your thoughts written in the sand, then watch as waves gently wash them away

  • Imagine yourself sitting in the passenger seat of a car that is driving down a highway and watch your thoughts pass by on billboards

  • Envision yourself standing in front of a conveyor belt as part of an assembly line and see yourself packing your thoughts into the empty boxes that stop in front of you, taping up the boxes, and then sending them off down the conveyor belt

  • Picture yourself holding a flower and see your thoughts on each petal before plucking the petals and watching them float away on a gentle wind

Try any of the above ideas, or create your own way of visualizing your thoughts coming and going. If you catch yourself judging, analyzing, or fighting with your thoughts, remind yourself that the objective of this technique is to acknowledge and accept our thoughts and then let them go. As with all new mental habits, the more you practice this exercise, the more effective it will become.

When you begin using thought defusion, you may want to start out by setting a timer for 2 or 3 minutes. As you continue to practice this technique, you may want to increase the amount of time, eventually building up to devoting 8-10 minutes at a time to using thought defusion. Do whatever works for you, though, and remember to set reasonable goals for yourself.




*Reminder: If your attention begins to wander at any point during this mindfulness exercise, remember that this is completely normal. Simply note it and, without judgment, try to intentionally shift your attention back to the exercise.



Start by sitting it in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath -- observing the inhale, the exhale, and the pause in between -- as you slowly take a few deep breaths.

Now picture yourself in the scenario that you have chosen and begin watching your thoughts arise and disappear.

Accept whatever thoughts are coming up. Try not to judge or criticize, and try not to suppress any of your thoughts. Continue to watch your thoughts arise and then disappear, using whichever scenario you've chosen.

If the thoughts begin to come quickly, try taking a few long, slow breaths, to calm yourself and continue trying to visualize each thought coming and going.

If a thought arises more than once, accept it and watch it disappear again. If more than one thought arises at a time, see them both rise and disappear. No thought is too big or too small; accept each thought and respond in the same way. 

When you are finished, take a few more deep breaths and set an intention for what you would like to focus on following this exercise. Then slowly open your eyes and move forward in your day.


Remember to check back for more mindfulness exercises on Mondays!