How Cognitive Diffusion Can Improve Your Quality Of Life

How Cognitive Diffusion Can Improve Your Quality Of Life


If you’re like most people, you probably spend a significant amount of time thinking about whatever happens to automatically pop up in your mind.

These thoughts can vary tremendously from negative (I suck at this…); neutral (I wonder what I should have for dinner?…); to positive (I’m definitely doing to ace this test…). 

Whatever the case may be, these daily thoughts can add up and have a profound impact on our mental health and overall wellbeing.

Unfortunately, however, the thoughts that pop up in our minds are not always accurate or helpful. In these instances, we may end up lost in a cloud of self-criticisms, negative outlooks, and unhelpful thinking patterns.

This trap can negatively affect our moods, in the short term, and diminish quality of life in the long run.

What It Means To Be “Fused” With Thought

When psychologists and therapists talk about being “fused” with thoughts, they are describing a mindset in which:

  • You identify with your thoughts
  • You assume that your thoughts are YOU
  • Thoughts are “True”
  • Actions are the result of thoughts
  • Thoughts are always taken seriously
  • Unpleasant or negative thoughts significantly impact your mood
  • You may avoid certain negative thoughts in ways that aren’t helpful (for example, using drugs or alcohol)

You may have noticed by now a certain theme to cognitive fusion. The basic idea is that, when one is “fused” with their thinking, they are “tangled” in it. To put it another way, being fused with thought is like being held captive by whatever happens to come to mind moment to moment.

Now, let’s explore the antidote to cognitive fusion: Diffusion.


Diffusion is essentially the opposite of cognitive fusion. Here are some of the characteristics of Diffusion:

  • Your self isn’t synonymous with what you think
  • You are keenly aware that thoughts aren’t always “the truth”
  • Your actions aren’t solely guided by automatic thoughts
  • Actions are guided by Values, Goals, and “What Works”
  • Thoughts aren’t taken as seriously
  • Negative thoughts have a lesser impact on mood
  • You are better able to accept negative thoughts, rather than avoid them

As you can see, Diffusion is a much more open and light hearted state of mind than when one is “fused” with thought. While unhelpful and negative thoughts may still be present, diffusion is characterized by taking thoughts less seriously and acting in accordance with life goals, rather than being captivated by passing thoughts.

Cognitive Fusion Vs. Diffusion

Here is a quick reference about the differences between Cognitive Fusion and Diffusion

Fused Vs Diffused
Fused VS Diffused

How Cognitive Diffusion Can Improve Quality Of Life

Clearly, maintaining a mindset of Diffusion isn’t always easy. But by remaining mindful and vigilant, it is a way of approaching the world that can be developed with time.

Here are some ways that maintaining this mindset can improve your overall quality of life:

  • By taking action based on values, goals, and “what works”, rather than being pushed by automatic thoughts, you can start building a life that is more desirable
  • Emotions and subsequent action are less beholden to negative, fleeting thoughts
  • The notion of the “self” is expanded, allowing for more flexibility openness to new experiences
  • Greater calm in the face of difficulty

Save For Later

How Cognitive Diffusion Can Improve Your Quality Of Life

Further Reading

Over To You

How has cognitive “fusion” worked against you in your life? How has cognitive Diffusion worked FOR you?

James Voss, MA, LMHCA

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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