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Mindfulness for CLL Patients: Thought Defusion
Posted: Mar 11, 2024
Mindfulness for CLL Patients: Thought Defusion image

Practice the mindfulness technique of thought defusion to detach from harmful thought patterns, reducing their impact. This detachment helps you obtain greater mental flexibility and reduced stress.  

“Regularly practicing thought defusion has been shown to decrease an individual’s believability of their negative thoughts, increase their overall comfort and willingness to have the negative thought, and increase their mood overall” Andreas Larsson. 

Are You Overwhelmed by CLL? 

CLL patients and their caregivers may feel overwhelmed by the onset of a CLL diagnosis. From navigating which treatment to choose, managing the side effects of the disease, and finding relief from the cancer’s financial burden, these issues may lead many to feel anxious and depressed. It is our goal at HealthTree to support you with resources that can help alleviate the burden of this disease, including those related to mental health. 

Apart from you speaking with a licensed mental health counselor who is the expert in navigating your personal situation to help you feel better mentally, we are happy to share general techniques that mental health specialists recommend to support you in improving your emotional health. 

What is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness refers to various therapist-recommended techniques that help you observe your own thoughts and feelings in the present moment without being overwhelmed by them. Practicing mindfulness can help you improve your mental well-being and reduce stress

The specific mindfulness technique discussed in this article is called thought defusion. 

What is Thought Defusion? 

“The goal of thought defusion is to create space between ourselves and our thoughts. When we are overly reactive or attached to our negative thoughts, we typically experience mental and/or emotional discomfort and unnecessary suffering” Andreas Larsson

Thought defusion is a core component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that encourages individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling overwhelmed by them. 

Thought defusion involves a shift in how one relates to their thoughts, moving from a stance of literal acceptance to one of detached observation. Instead of identifying with every thought or seeing them as absolute truths, the practice teaches individuals to see thoughts as mere mental events that pass through the mind. This process helps in reducing the impact and influence of negative or unhelpful thoughts on one’s emotional state and behaviors. 

“Creating space between ourselves and our negative thoughts can decrease the emotional discomfort associated with these thoughts as well as increase the willingness to be exposed to these thoughts” Hilary-Anne Healy

The Steps of Thought Defusion

  1. Notice the thought: Begin by becoming aware of your thoughts. Pay attention to when a particular thought arises without immediately reacting to it. 
  2. Acknowledge the thought: Acknowledge that the thought is present. Label it as a thought by saying to yourself, “I’m having the thought that…”  
  3. Create distance: Introduce distance between yourself and the thought. You might visualize the thought as words on a cloud moving away. 
  4. Observe without judgment: Observe the thought without attaching any judgment or emotional weight to it. Recognize that it’s just a thought, nothing more. 
  5. Return to the present moment: Gently bring your focus back to the present moment. 

An Example of Practicing Thought Defusion as a CLL Patient 

  1. Notice the thought: I am waiting for my test results to come back, and I feel anxious about what they will say. 
  2. Acknowledge the thought: I’m having the thought that I feel anxious about upcoming test results. 
  3. Create distance: I’m picturing clouds in my mind. I’m putting the thought “Anxious about test results” onto a cloud far away. I’m picturing the cloud moving farther and farther away until I no longer see that cloud, and it has disappeared. 
  4. Observe without judgment: Although I’m having the thought about being anxious about test results, this is just a thought. I don’t need to let its reactivity ruin me. I don’t need to act on anything. To feel better, I’m going to replace that thought with a new thought that, regardless of what the test results say, I have treatment options available to me and financial supportive measures to help take care of whatever happens. I’m going to focus on what I do have control over and let go of what I don’t. 
  5. Return to the present moment: I’m done focusing on the thought defusion exercise, and I’m bringing my attention to what is going on around me in the present.  

In conclusion, practicing thought defusion can support you by creating a space between you and your negative thoughts. This, in turn, can help reduce emotional discomfort and unnecessary suffering associated with those thoughts.

The author Megan Heaps

about the author
Megan Heaps

Megan joined HealthTree in 2022. As a writer and the daughter of a blood cancer patient, she is dedicated to helping patients and their caregivers understand the various aspects of their disease. This understanding enables them to better advocate for themselves and improve their treatment outcomes. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family. 

Thanks to our HealthTree Community for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Sponsors:


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