How can I unhook from difficult thoughts?

The first step to unhooking from thoughts is to notice them and the emotions that come with them. Try to notice the meaning those thoughts have for you, in that moment.

Practising mindfulness skills can help you learn to do this more easily.


Once you have identified difficult thoughts and feelings, you can unhook by trying some of the defusion strategies below. Some strategies may feel more helpful than others, and you can try them out to find the right ones for you.

  • Try and remind yourself that thoughts are thoughts, not facts, by adding the words “I’m having the thought that…” For example if you had the thought, “Fatigue is dictating my life” you might say to yourself, “I am having the thought that fatigue is dictating my life.”
  • You could try giving your mind a name, like ‘Bob’ or thank your mind for sharing its thoughts with you.
  • You could try singing the thought to a funny tune, for example Happy Birthday.
  • You can try repeating the thought to yourself, again and again. For example, if you say “Milk”, at first you will have an image of milk, a white liquid. After a while, you will likely notice how the images fades away, and the word loses meaning. If you apply this to your thoughts, you can start to rob the thought of its power.

Remember, these strategies may not get rid of the thoughts, or stop them from coming back. However, they can give you space from them, enough to live your life and focus on what is important and your values.

You can read more about the role of emotions here.