In Psychology Today, Dr. Barbara Markway discusses 7 ways to defuse negative thoughts.
You can read the whole thing here, but here are some snippets:
In the book, The Happiness Trap, author Russ Harris says 80% of everyone’s thoughts contain some sort of negative content. So it’s normal to have negative thoughts. It’s part of our evolutionary heritage. We’re constantly scanning our environment (generating negative thoughts all the while) looking for problems to fix.
The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true.
Label your thoughts.
Instead of saying “I’m a loser,” say, “I’m having the thought that I’m a loser.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to blow this test,” say “I’m having the thought that I’m going to blow this test.” The difference may seem subtle, but it can help you gain the perspective that you are not your thoughts.
Name your stories. Many times our thoughts are repetitive and involve the same stories. My story frequently is, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” When thoughts come up along that storyline, I can say, “Oh, here’s my I’m Incompetent story, and just let it go.
Do it anyway.
Perhaps the most important tip is to remember that you can have a thought and perform any kind of behavior at the same time. If it’s something you care about, it’s worth it to let the thoughts simply be. You don’t have to do anything about them. When I work with clients on their anxiety using exposure therapy (face-your-fear therapy) the most important thing they report learning is, “I can function even when I’m anxious.”
All of these ideas involve the idea of defusion, used within ACT.