Are you an overthinker? Then you likely know how getting stuck in a constant loop of negative thoughts can trigger anxiety.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we find ways to ‘relieve’ the burden of overthinking.
In psychological terms, cognitive fusion occurs when you believe what your mind is telling you, and fuse with your internal language – it leads to behaviours that aren’t helpful, according to a September 2023 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today. On the other hand, defusion is a process in which, you step back from your thoughts and see them from a removed perspective. So, for instance, a sentence that keeps repeating in your head (“I’m a failure”, for example) becomes just that – a group of words strung together, rather than a truth to be believed.
According to new studies, one helpful way to defuse this anxiety-building situation is through the Defusion Wheel.
The wheel is grouped into three categories that can guide you in removing unhelpful thoughts and taming overthinking:
1. Observe and notice
The very first step is to shift attention to your thoughts. By just stopping what you’re doing, pausing and noticing what your mind is saying can be helpful. Name the thought – is it a prediction, a worry, a judgment, a criticism or something else? By visualising them through various tools, such as pop-up banners or balloons in the sky, you can recognise unhelpful thoughts and consciously not dwell on them.
2. Play with language
Since the aim of defusion is to see your thoughts as they are, a fun way to do so is by playing with different elements of language. You could take a difficult thought and say it very slowly, sounding out each part of the sentence. Or, you could sing it out, repeat it quickly or say it in a funny or silly voice. The idea is to experience your thoughts as sounds that are generated by your mouth, tongue and lips.
3. Question yourself
Rather than following what your thoughts are telling you, take a curious and if possible, nonjudgmental approach, and see your mind as an organ that simply produces thoughts. Once you’ve identified the thought you’re experiencing, ask if it is helpful to you. You can also ask yourself whether you buy into it, and what effect that would have on you. This way, you’ll immediately recognise unhelpful thoughts and move towards more helpful ones.
If you stop letting your thoughts dominate you, and take control instead, it becomes easier to choose what to do next, and move on to a richer, more meaningful life.