How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
In this interview Russ reveals why popular ideas about happiness are misleading, inaccurate, and often make us miserable.
I'm your host, Melli O'Brien and I'm
so delighted to be here right now with
somebody I admire very much, Russ Harris.
Russ is the author of several
really wonderful books, including
the international bestseller,
The Happiness Trap, which is
a personal favorite of mine.
And he's also a world-renowned trainer of
acceptance and commitment therapy, which
we'll learn a little bit about today.
So, Russ, thank you so much for
taking this time out for the Summit.
I really appreciate.
Oh, you're welcome.
It's good to be here.
So Russ, you used to be a GP?
At one time, yeah.
So you've had that.
So you've had quite a career shift.
Could you tell us the story of
what made you change careers?
Well, yeah, as a GP, I just found I was
less and less interested in the physical
side of health and wellbeing, and much
more interested in the psychological side.
I mean, it's really an artificial
distinction to talk about physical versus
psychological when it comes to health,
in the sense that, you know, even the
most deeply physical things like cancer,
or having an arm cut off comes with all
sorts of emotional and psychological you
know, pain and difficulty and stress.
And so I found as a GP, I was just
more and more interested in the
psychological, emotional side.
And I started to lose interest
in writing prescriptions.
And you know, that I'm not denying that
there's obviously a lot of, you know,
genuine physical problems out there.
But for me, the interest was
in the psychological side.
And even if you take something like
the common cold, we're breathing
in those germs all year round.
Why is it that it's certain times of
the year we come down with it, you know?
And it's usually when we're stressed
or run down or not kind of coping
well with the, you know, the
ongoing stressfulness of our life.
So my consultation started getting
longer and longer and longer.
And then I started to find that I was
spending, you know, 20 minutes talking
to people about their feelings and
emotions and five minutes at the end
talking about their physical issues.
And I'm like, I might be in
the wrong profession here.
So it was a gradual realization that I
was in the wrong profession and psychiatry
didn't really interest me as whole.
The psychiatry, really just giving people
a diagnosis of a mental illness and
giving them medication is, it is that
there are some brilliant psychiatrists
out there, but a lot of them, a lot
of psychiatry as it was taught, it
was really this focus on medication
and diagnosis of mental illness.
And that didn't really interest me either.
So I gradually just started exploring
psychotherapy and coaching and
discovered mindfulness fairly early on.
And I was very excited by the concept.
And so now you spend most of
your time as a therapist to coach
and training other teachers in
acceptance and commitment therapy.
So what, why ACT?
What is acceptance and commitment therapy
and why do you, why is it your passion?
Why have you ended up doing that?
Well, Oh, gosh, that's a big question.
The ACT is the official
abbreviation, not ACAT.
So well done, you've got
the abbreviation correct.
And the name reflects a key message.
Accept what is out of your
personal control and commit to
action that improves your life.
And everyone likes that idea.
Oh, accept what's out of your control,
commit to action that improves your life.
It's a nice idea, but
it's not so easy to do.
And we often, are not really very
good at knowing what is in our
control and what's not in our control.
So for example, the vast majority
of thoughts that pop into our head
every day are not in our control.
You know, you don't choose
most of the thoughts.
They just appear.
And, you know, so, I guess I
explored mindfulness via various
processes and pathways before ACT.
And what I really liked about
ACT was a couple of things.
Fisrtly, ACT is not
just about mindfulness.
It's about mindfully living
guided by your values.
So the outcome we're looking for in
ACT is psychological flexibility,
which is the ability to mindfully
act guided by your values.
Mindfulness without values is like
a ship without a rudder, you know.
A serial killer could use
mindfulness to kill more effectively.
So you need to kind of, it's not just
enough to be mindful, you need to be in
touch with your values, how you want
to treat yourself and others and the
world around you deep in your heart.
What sort of person do you want to be?
What do you want to stand
for in life, and so forth?
And so ACT has this really nice
coming together of these elements.
You know, it's about values, it's about
action, goal setting, guided by those
values, living in the present moment.
And I also fell in love with that
because it was very flexible in the
way that it, you know, kind of help
people to develop mindfulness skills.
There was no, many other mindfulness
approaches placed major emphasis
on meditation, and you have
to do your mindful meditation.
And that's great if you like meditation.
It's great if meditation
fits in with your life.
But lots of people don't like
it, or don't want it or find that
it's just impractical to keep
meditation going on a regular basis.
And so, you know, if you wanted people to
exercise and you said, you've got to go
to the gym for 40 minutes every day, you
get a lot of negative reactions to that.
If you want people to exercise more and
you say, you know, Dude, go for five
minute walk at lunchtime, or take a
flight of steps instead of the escalator
or park your car a bit further away from
the supermarket and walk a bit further,
then you get a lot more people inonboard.
And so this is the kind of
ACT approach to mindfulness.
There is literally, you know, thousands
and thousands of different ways of
developing mindfulness skills and
meditation is just a small subset of the
many ways that we can develop mindfulness.
So I like the flexibility of the approach.
So it sounds like ACT has not so
much of a strong emphasis on, you
know, you must do formal meditation,
but there's much more opportunity
and scope for the informal practice
and just weaving it into daily life.
I mean, there's no emphasis on meditation.
We use the word skills rather than the
word meditation, because meditation
comes with connotations of, you know,
ohm and Buddhist monks and so forth.
So it's like, if you want, I mean, we've
got some exercises here that you can do
as formal meditation exercises, if that's
what you wanted, that's what fits for you.
And some people love that and like that.
But we know that, you know, for
example, when people have done other
mindfulness-based meditation programs
and you follow them up a year later, most
people aren't meditating a year after
doing say an MBSR program, you know.
But what they're often doing is kind
of doing the little, the little kind
of informal mindfulness things that
you can fit in throughout your day.
So, it's like, and, you know, other
mindfulness based practices that can be
very powerful, you know, like yoga as a
mindfulness practice and Tai-Chi, and most
martial arts have a kind of mindfulness
practices built into them, although they
often don't use the term mindfulness.
So there's lots of these formal
things that you can do that come
out of ancient Eastern pathways.
And that stuff is great if you
like it and you want to do it.
And if it doesn't fit with you, there's
a zillion other things that you can do.
I love that.
And you know, that's something that's been
coming up in this summit a little bit as
well is that, you know, there's a, I think
a lot of people sometimes are actually
practicing mindfulness, but potentially
not realizing they're doing it.
You know, when they're alone in nature
or they're going for a swim or a surf,
and sometimes people are able to just
kind of realize that they can, I guess
accentuate or choose deliberately when
they're in those moments to either
elongate the practice or to just know
what they're doing as they're doing it.
Well, so yeah, I mean,
that's a good point.
Many people spontaneously kind
of get very present in two
kinds of sets of circumstances.
One is when they're in beautiful
environments like nature or another
is where they're doing, you know,
kind of some sort of activity
that they really enjoy, like
their favorite sport, for example.
Some people, you know, when you're
really playing or engaging with your
kids and actually, you know, for a
lot of us, when we go on holiday to
an exotic country, we're very, very
mindfully aware of all the different
sights and smells and shapes.
But probably where mindfulness is
most difficult or most challenging
and highly unlikely to come
naturally to people are in really
challenging, stressful situations.
It's very hard to mindful when
you're all sort of furious or
anxious or upset and so forth.
Or in doing the same old stuff that
we do all the time and we normally
just switch off or try to do stuff.
The mundane stuff.
The mundane stuff, yes.
So I wanted to ask you, cause I
know there's a lot of definitions
about, there's a lot of definitions
out there of what mindfulness is.
Do you have kind of a working
definition that you use?
I know it's a tricky question, but...
There's no consensus,
you know, there are many.
By far, the most widely spread
definition, I think is Jon Kabat-Zinn's
definition, which you've probably
talked about in other presentations.
But I'm kind of, out of all of these
different consensus, out of all of
these different concepts of mindfulness,
there are at least two things that
virtually everybody agrees on.
One is it's an attention process.
It's paying attention
and it's about focusing.
And the other that virtually everyone
agrees on is there is some degree of
acceptance involved as you pay attention.
So the shortest definition of
mindfulness that is out there
is acceptance with awareness.
That's Germer's definition.
I like that.
It's pretty cool.
is also pretty useful.
My own definition is really just a
way that I've kind of distilled from
all the other stuff that's out there.
I would define mindfulness as
paying attention with openness,
curiosity, and flexibility.
So it's paying attention,
but not in any old way.
There's an attitude of openness
to what is here right now.
I might not like it, I might
not want it, I might not
approve it, but I'm open to it.
I'm not fighting with it.
I'm not running away from it.
I'm open to it.
Curiosity, most models of mindfulness
emphasize this curiosity and attention.
So even if it's something
really unpleasant or difficult,
I'm curious about it.
So curiosity, openness and flexibility.
Flexibility of attention.
Now we have kind of, you know, for
example of a rigid or inflexible
attention, think of a 13 year old
boy playing, you know, PlayStation.
He's glued to the screen.
He's absolutely fixed on the screen.
Burglars could come into
his house, steal everything.
As long as they don't steal
the PlayStation, he won't
even notice they're there.
That kind of rigid, fixed
attention is not mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a flexibility of attention.
I'm chatting to you right now.
I want to be engaged in the conversation
with you, but, you know, I smell
smoke coming from the kitchen.
I want to be able to shift my attention.
So it's kind of sometimes it's
inner directed to my thoughts and
feelings, sometimes externally to
the world out, what I can see and
hear around me, sometimes a very
narrow focus, sometimes a very broad
focus, this flexibility of attention.
So flexible, open, curious attention.
Many definitions include something
about the present moment, but I actually
think that's superfluous because you
can only ever pay attention to what's
happening in the present moment.
You can't pay attention to the past.
You have thoughts about the past, but
you can't pay attention to the past.
You can't pay attention to the future.
You can have thoughts about the future,
but you can't pay attention to them.
You can only pay attention to
what's here in the present moment.
So, even if you were paying attention to
the thoughts about the future or about the
past, you would be doing that attending
to those thoughts in the present moment.
In the present moment.
So I don't really, yeah.
So open, curious, flexible attention.
I like that.
And I came to your conference a couple
of months ago, as you know, and it
was, I really, really enjoyed it
and highly recommend it to others.
One of the things you said in
it stuck with me a little bit.
You said in the beginning of the
presentation, you said, and I
quote, "It kind of bothers me that
mindfulness is often referred to as
being exclusively a Buddhist thing."
Now, Russ, it kind of bothers me too.
But I'm curious to know
why it kind of bothers you?
Well, I think because, you know, almost
every article, every book, every speaker
attributes mindfulness to Buddhism,
but it's much older than Buddhism.
I mean, Buddhism's only 2,600 years old.
Mindfulness practices can be found
in all the world's religions.
And certainly, there are mindful
practices, well, even, look I'm no
expert on Buddhism, but from the little
bit of reading I've done, the Buddhist
scriptures make it very clear that
Buddha learned mindfulness from a Yogi.
That's in the original
Buddhist scriptures here.
So in the yogic tradition, mindfulness
goes back 4,000 years, but there are
also mindfulness practices in Judaism
that are 4,000 years old and in Taoism.
Although the Taoist scriptures
were written about the same time
as the Buddhist scriptures, about
two and a half thousand years ago.
But the Taoist teachings are
thought to be about 7,000 years old.
So, you know, mindfulness is ancient.
And you know, it's, I just, it's
not that it bothers me, it's
just that it's inaccurate to say
mindfulness comes from Buddhism.
And every world religion you can
think has got a contemplative branch
and the contemplative of branch of
Christianity, Islam, Judaism is very,
very similar to what you find in
Buddhism and Hinduism and so forth.
There's this kind of core theme of
mindfulness in the contemplative
branches of all the world's religions,
you know, which is interesting.
Whereas in the literalist branches
at the religions, obviously you
get away from that, you know.
I've found the same thing.
And I was talking to Joseph Goldstein
the other day and he was talking
about a similar thing as well, that
mindfulness, as a practice seems
to be quite well, widely spread.
And I think that, I think, you know,
I think it'd be fair to say that
mindfulness is a human thing, you
know, not exclusively a Buddhist
thing, but very much a part of that
lineage, yeah, which is wonderful.
So in your book, The Happiness Trap,
you talk about how our common ideas
about happiness often are not only
misleading, but inaccurate and actually
get us into a bit of trouble where
they end up making us miserable.
So I was wondering if you could
tell us what those common mistaken
ideas are and maybe set the record
straight and tell us what, where
does true happiness really come from?
Well, there's so many of them that
the, I mean, probably the biggest
ones are firstly, the idea that
happiness means feeling good.
You know, the Macquarie dictionary,
which is Australia's number one
dictionary, defines happiness as a
state of pleasure or contentment.
Well, if that's your definition of
happiness, you know, how long does the
state of pleasure or contentment last?
You know, think of the
happiest day of your life.
You know, how long before there was
some frustration, anxiety, irritation.
And so if your definition of
happiness is that it's feeling good.
It's a state of pleasure,
a state of contentment.
Then there's no such thing
as lasting happiness.
And you're going to struggle with
reality because the things that make
life rich, full of meaning, full, do not
just give you pleasant feelings, right?
Like you're married.
Do you have kids?
I don't have kids, but I do have a cat.
So it's kind of, you know, anybody
watching this presentation, just think
of a close relationship you have with a
partner or with your children, you know.
Real close relationships
bring painful feelings, right?
Even a cat.
Like cats are a lot.
He just ripped my pants this morning.
These are some of my favorite pants.
I mean, cats are a lot easier to live
with than a mate, but even cats and
dogs will push your buttons at times.
And so, you know, relationships
are fundamental to building
rich and meaningful lives.
And when relationships go well, there's
lots of lovely, pleasant feelings.
But when relationships come with conflict
or tension or loss or difficulty,
there's lots of painful feelings.
And so the things that make life
rich, full and meaningful, don't
just give you pleasant feelings.
They give, I often say to my clients,
if you're going to live a full
human life, you're going to feel
the full range of human emotions,
not just the ones that feel good.
So in the ACT model, we don't use the word
happiness because it's such a loaded term.
Most people think happiness means
feeling good or a state of pleasure.
We use the term vitality, a sense of
embracing life to the full, whether this
moment is a moment full of pain or a
moment full of joy or a mixture of both.
All we have is this moment.
So let's embrace this moment
of life, live it to the full.
Or the other phrase we use is a
rich, full and meaningful life.
And you know, a rich, full and
meaningful life is one in which there
is the full range of human emotions.
And unfortunately, our culture
doesn't really teach us how to
deal with the painful emotions.
So another one of the big happiness
myths is the way for me to
kind of build on the first one.
If happiness is feeling good, a state of
pleasure and contentment, then the way
for me to have happiness is to eliminate
my painful thoughts and feelings,
to kind of get rid of the unpleasant
ones and accumulate the pleasant ones.
And unfortunately, that, which
comes naturally to all of us, right?
You know, you don't like
I don't either it.
But the more I start to live my life
based on this idea that I need to avoid
and get rid of painful feelings and
accumulate pleasant ones, I have to get
rid of my negative thoughts and replace
them with positive ones, the more tightly
I cling to that agenda for creating a
good life, the more problems it creates.
It gives rise to something that
psychologists call experiential avoidance.
That's a jargon word for you.
saturate that with subtitles.
Sure, we'll edit that in later.
Experiential avoidance basically
is the ongoing attempt to avoid or
get rid of unwanted thoughts and
feelings, usually uncomfortable,
unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
So everybody is experientially
avoidant to some extent.
But the higher your degree of experiential
avoidance, the more you're going through
life trying to avoid pain, trying
to avoid and get rid of unpleasant,
unwanted thoughts and feelings, the
higher your risk of depression, anxiety,
addiction, developing post-traumatic
stress disorder, long-term disability
from illness or injury, reduced
performance at work and so on and so on.
So high levels of experiential
avoidance, going through life trying
to avoid painful thoughts and feelings,
create huge amounts of problems.
So when we do that by, you know,
constantly distracting ourselves, trying
to stuff things down, push them away
or even this kind of a thing that I
think so common in our culture of just
kind of like pepping up and positive,
thinking your way through it and putting
on one of those nice glossy smiles
when underneath, you know, you can see
sometimes that people are miserable.
It's such a funny thing, isn't it?
Because instinctively, it feels like
the thing to do, to try and push away.
But you're saying that in that pushing
away, it's almost like actually you
use the analogy of quicksand in the
conference, which just is, yeah.
Could you kind of give us that analogy?
I think that's a really great
analogy to explain, I think,
the futility of it, I guess.
Well, I guess it's so, it's a fairly
classic metaphor in the ACT approach.
When you fall into quicksand, you know,
every instinct tells you to struggle.
You know, and the more you struggle
in quicksand, the faster you sink.
You've seen those old cowboy films,
you know, the bad guy with a black
hat falls into the quicksand and
struggles and struggles until,
you know, there's just a black hat
left on the top of the quicksand.
But that's not what the good guy does.
The good cowboy, the one with the
white hat, he doesn't struggle.
He lies back and stretches out and floats.
And if you lie back and stretch
out in quicksand and then
you can kind of float on it.
So you you lie back, you stretch out and
you whistle for your horse to rescue you.
And if you don't have a horse, then,
you know, a trained sheep dog or in
Australia, a kind of domesticated...
There you go.
Could be very useful.
So, but that doesn't come naturally.
We only would know that because
we saw those old cowboy films.
Our instincts are to struggle.
And so it is with painful emotions, our
instincts are, when painful emotions
show up, we tend to struggle with them.
And unfortunately the more we
struggle with them, typically the
greater and greater the impact
and influence they have over us.
So anxiety disorders are
not caused by anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are caused
by struggling with anxiety.
The more I live my life trying
to avoid and get rid of anxiety,
the more problems it creates.
If I start avoiding social situations
because I don't like the feelings
of anxiety that show up when I
socialize, my life becomes very narrow.
If I start taking drugs and alcohol
to push away the painful emotions
that life is dealing me right now,
I start to develop an addiction.
If I start avoiding any kind of
challenging issue at work or deadline
because it's bringing up too much
anxiety for me, then the deadlines
and the challenges don't get met
and then I get even more anxiety.
So we kind of, you know, I
often talk about zombies.
Are you a zombie fan?
Do you like zombies?
I don't watch scary movies.
I'm one of those sensitive types,
even the slightest hint of blood
seems to almost make me want to vomit.
So no, no zombies for me.
Well, definitely don't
watch the Walking Dead.
I love zombies.
And the reason I love zombies is because
they're like the opposite of mindfulness.
So zombies are on automatic pilot,
no self-awareness, no consciousness,
no sense of living by their values
or engaging in the present moment.
They're just pushed around by their
most basic primordial instincts.
And well all of us go into
zombie mode throughout the
day, again and again and again.
We go on to automatic mode and
there's kind of two zombie moves
that we make throughout the day.
One is something pleasant shows
up that I really like or want.
And, you know, that might be drugs,
might be alcohol, it might be food,
it might be an attractive person, it
might be, you know, a plasma television,
something that I really want or like
shows up and I go, urggh, urggh.
You know, just kind of urggh,
that's what I want, urggh, you know.
And that underlies so many addictions
and compulsions and when we get
obsessed about things that I have
to have in order to be happy, urggh.
And the other zombie move, something
unpleasant shows up and it could be
a difficult task or a challenge or a
situation or a difficult person, or
it could be unpleasant feelings and
emotions inside my body and the second
zombie move, I don't know if you can
see this on camera, it's kind of all
over that, so that is kind of I'm not
prepared, second zombie move is kind
of this it's like, ugh, ugh, ugh.
Kind of get out of the way.
And we go through our
life like this, ugh, ugh.
Whereas mindfulness mode is different.
Mindfulness mode is kind of
turning towards what's here
with openness and curiosity.
So something I really like or want
shows up in instead of uugh, ah.
And something unpleasant shows
up and instead of ugh, go, ah.
So zombie, ugh, ugh ugh.
And then mindful, ah.
You know, and that's a big difference.
Ah, here's something I don't want.
Here's something I do want.
Kind of make room for them, let
them be there and respond to
them in a way that's flexible.
So you're, so with mindfulness in that
approach, you have this ability to
stand back from the urge is still there
to push or pull, but you have a choice
about whether to play them out or not.
And the more you develop that
capacity, I mean, that's how you are
able to break self-defeating habits.
Whatever the self-defeating habit is,
it's likely to be some combination
of uggh this or uggh that or both.
And so you need to be aware
that you're doing that.
And notice, there's an urge to do these
things and let the urges be there and
let the thoughts and feelings be there,
come to this kind of open curious,
ah, this is what's going on here.
And then make a choice.
And that's where the values come in.
You know, if I just let my values guide
what I do here, what would I choose to do?
How can I act in a way that supports me in
being the person that I really want to be?
What do I really want here
instead of just reflexive action?
What do I want to be about, you know?
So often when we, you know, lose
our temper, you know, we're not, you
know, we lose touch with our values.
We just get so caught up in our...
The, I think, you know, building on what
we're talking about in ACT, you talk about
cognitive fusion and cognitive diffusion,
which I think in some, Spiritual texts
or some religious traditions or spiritual
traditions is sometimes referred to as
identification or non identification.
I think we're talking
about the same thing.
So I was just wondering if you could,
we just kind of touched on that ability
to stand back from feelings and thoughts
and be a bit, have a bit more choice.
Could you explain what cognitive
fusion is and also how mindfulness
helps with cognitive diffusion?
I think the best thing is I'll
take you for a little exercise now.
I'll get you to do it with me.
Oh, I'd love to.
And anybody watching the,
anybody watching the video, I'll
get them to do it with me too.
So if you just kind of turn so that
you can kind of, particularly viewers,
you know, you can kind of see the,
everything in front of you right now.
I want you to imagine that in front
of you is everything that makes your
life rich, full, and meaningful.
The people you love, the activities
you love, your favorite, you know, food
and music and all that kind of stuff.
Also what's in front of you right now
is all the real problems and challenges
in your life that you have to face up to
and deal with, all the difficult stuff.
And also what's in front of you right
now are all the tasks you have to do on
an ongoing basis to make your life work.
And I want you to imagine that your
hands are your thoughts and feelings.
And just kind of put them
together like pages in a book.
I might just kind of step back
a bit from the camera again.
So, if you're watching this at
home or wherever you're watching
this, I want you to kind of do a
lot of imagining that everything
you care about is in front of you.
Your hands are your thoughts and feelings.
And now copy me.
See what happens is you get hooked by
your thoughts and feelings, caught up,
entangled in your thoughts and feelings.
And so kind of bring your hands right
up till they're covering your eyes.
The technical name for this is fusion.
So your now fused with
your thoughts and feelings.
Or if you don't like the term fused, you
could say hooked, entangled, caught up.
And so notice three things
keeping your hands over your eyes.
Notice three things.
Firstly, how much are you
missing out on right now?
You know, if the people you love and the
activities you love or in front of you,
how disconnected and disengaged are you?
How much are you missing out on?
Secondly, notice how hard it
is to focus your attention?
If, you know, if you keep your hands over
your eyes and look back at the computer
screen and the video of me, just imagine
that I am the person you need to focus on.
How hard is it to focus on me like this?
How hard for you to focus on the
task that you need to do or to
engage fully in what you're doing?
And the third thing to notice is
how difficult is it to take action?
How difficult is it like this to do the
tasks that make your life work to drive
a car or type on a computer or cuddle
a baby or hug the person you love?
You know, it's very difficult.
Ever so slowly, again copy me here.
Ever so slowly, bring your hands
away, kind of, this is diffusion,
starting to diffuse, to unhook,
detach, disentangle, diffuse.
And now look around and
notice the difference.
How much richer and
fuller your experience is?
How much more you can see and take in?
How much easier, excuse me,
how much easier to engage and
connect to the person you love?
How much easier to give me your full
attention, keep your arms around?
How much easier is it now to take action,
to type on a computer or drive a car or
hug the person you love or cook dinner?
So notice you haven't gotten rid of
these things, they're still there.
You haven't chopped them
off and gotten rid of them.
They're still there.
If there's something useful you
can do with them, then use them.
You know, even the most painful
thoughts and feelings often
have some useful information.
They alert you to things in your life that
you need to take action on or, you know,
important values connected to this pain.
But if there's nothing useful
you can do with them, then
you just let them sit there.
So this is kind of the, fusion means
we get entangled, caught up in our
thoughts and feelings, and they have
a huge impact and influence on us.
And as we start to diffuse from our
thoughts and feelings, it enables us to
be present and engage and take action,
guided by our values to do the things
that make life rich, full, and meaningful
and engage fully in what we're doing.
And this is what we aim to do in ACT.
And so mindfulness helps us to
build that capacity to experience,
if you will, cognitive diffusion.
Would you say that mindfulness
is the means by which we're
able to kind of do this?
Well, what we would say in the
ACT model is this kind of three
basic mindfulness processes.
And you can see them all
in this little exercise.
So one process is contacting
the present moment.
So noticing right here, right
now, engaging in what is
happening in the present moment,
outside me or inside me or both.
Then the second process is what we
call diffusion, short for cognitive
diffusion, which is very specifically
around starting to recognize the
thoughts, images, memories, what we
call cognitions that are linked into.
I use the phrase, thoughts and feelings,
and what we're talking about is all
the kind of words and images from,
from some little pop-up thoughts
to deep interpretations of meaning.
All the stuff that shows up when you're
feeling sad or angry or anxious, you know.
That's all cognition.
So we start to become aware
of our cognitions and start to
separate and detach from them.
And then the third element is, you know,
at the end of this exercise, your hands...
Well, if I was sitting down,
you know, they'd be resting in
my lap and that's acceptance.
So allowing it to be there.
So you've got contacting
the present moment.
You've got diffusing from
your cognitions and you've got
acceptance, allowing it to be there.
And all of that is mindfulness.
a practice that you led during the
conference which I think really is
a wonderful experiential practice of
knowing what it is to have that diffusion.
So I was wondering if you would
care to just guide us through even
just a short practice for a couple
of minutes to experience that.
I'm just going ask our viewers to
pick a nasty, negative self judgment.
You know, in ACT, we talk a lot about
how your mind is like a judgment machine.
It just conjures up judgements
all the time about yourself and
others and the world around you.
And virtually everyone's walking
around with multiple versions of
the I'm not good enough story.
Have you got some I'm not good at story?
Of course, I do.
And they usually start young.
My first versions of the I'm
not goodness story started when
I was about four years old.
What about you?
When did you start?
Oh, for as long as I can remember.
I think that's my oldest record, I think.
So it's kind of, and no one's
found a way to get rid of,
I'm not good enough stories.
All the positive thinking courses in the
world and self-affirmations don't stop
your mind from saying this, you know.
So,I'll get people just to give them a
taste of diffusion, bring to mind a nasty
version of the I'm not good enough story.
Something your mind says when it beats
you up or brings you down, put it into
a short sentence, like: I am X or I am
not Y enough, I am fat, I am stupid, I
am not smart enough, I'm a lousy mother.
I'm a, you know, I'm too judgmental.
You know, you get the idea.
So keep it short and sweet.
And I will say to the viewers, you know,
make sure you pick something that is
having an impact in your life today,
that in some way, when your mind judges
you this way, it pulls you back or
brings you down, something like that.
And first of all, I'm going to ask
the viewers to, for 10 seconds, to buy
into the nasty negative self judgment.
So do not challenge it.
Do not dispute it.
Don't try to push it away.
Don't try to replace it
with a positive thought.
I want them to experience fusion.
I want to, so for about 10 seconds,
and in fact it's more powerful if you
can close your eyes for this so that
you could cut off from the outside
world and really fuse with the thought.
So everybody watching the
video, please do this now.
Close your eyes and fuse with that
nasty I'm not good enough story.
I'm not smart enough.
I don't measure up.
Just stay with it for a few more seconds.
Buy into it.
Believe it as much as you can.
Now silently, again keeping your
eyes closed, silently replay that
thought with these words in front,
I am having the thought of that.
So I'm having the thought
that I'm incompetent.
Now, finally replay it one more time.
The phrase is a bit longer.
I notice I'm having the thought that.
So I notice I'm having the
thought that I am boring.
And coming back.
And so, Melli, you can come back now.
And so can the viewers.
You have to tell me to open my eyes,
otherwise I'll just stay there.
With your hands, kind of, if this is
totally, you know, hooked or fused, and
this is totally defused, just show me what
happened during that exercise for you.
So you felt that kind of
unhooking and that diffusion.
So notice we didn't challenge the thought.
We didn't look at it, whether it was
true or false or try to get rid of it.
We just acknowledged
it's a thought, you know.
I am having the thought that I am X.
And then we added another stage, I
notice I'm having the thought that I'm X.
And that little simple mindfulness
technique, the diffusion technique
is something that I would encourage
all your viewers to take away
and practice throughout the day.
Anytime you realize you've been hooked,
you know, is my favorite term for fused,
every time that you've been hooked
by some unhelpful thought, just kind
of push your feet into the floor, you
know, ground yourself, center yourself.
Try replaying that little phrase, I'm
having the thought that, and if you're
still hooked, then go a stage further,
,I notice I'm having the thought that.
What I find is about 50% of
the time when I do this with
clients, they object initially.
They say, but it's true.
I really am, you know, X, Y, and Z.
So my response is, you know, in
this approach, in the ACT approach,
we're not interested in whether your
thoughts are true or false 99.9% of
the time, only, very, very rarely.
Most of the time, we're not interested in
whether your thoughts are true or false.
What we're interested in is when
these thoughts pop into your head,
when your mind starts telling you
this stuff, if you get all caught
up in those thoughts, does it help
you to be the person you want to be?
Does it help you to do
the things you want to do?
If it does, then obviously
use those thoughts.
But a lot of the time, most of the
time, nasty, negative self judgements
don't have that effect, you know.
So true or false, doesn't usually matter.
It's just does it help
me to hold onto this?
That's really helpful.
And especially in times of, especially
in the times when those negative nasty
thoughts are really starting to pile
up, just to have a moment of grounding
and noticing that they're thoughts.
They're just thoughts.
So, you know, the, and they may be
true and they may be false, you know?
It's like, I'll finish up with
an anecdote about this guy was
referred to me with depression.
He was a hugely obese
truck driver, massive guy.
And he was having lots of a really
self judgmental thoughts, you know.
I'm, you know, killing myself
with all this junk food.
Those were the milder ones.
There were really kind of he was really,
his mind was really tough on him.
It was basically just calling
him a fat slob all the time.
And we started to do a bit of
diffusion and he said, but it's true.
I really am fat.
And he pulled his shirt up.
Thanks for sharing.
So I had this little chat with him.
I said, you know, tell me
a bit about your values.
If I could wave a magic wand so that
all of these thoughts and feelings
were like water off a duck's back, they
weren't pushing you around anymore,
how would you like to treat your body?
Well, you know, I wouldn't
eat so much shit, mate.
So you might eat some more healthy food.
What else would you do?
Well, wouldn't sit around all
day watching crap on the teli.
Okay, you might exercise more.
So it sounds like there's a really
important value here, which is
about self care, kind of caring for
yourself, taking care of the body.
And if you were really in touch with
that value, you'd be doing things like
eating healthy food and exercising.
Now when your mind starts speaking
to you and saying I'm a fat slob.
I've got no willpower.
I've got no discipline.
I'm killing myself.
If you get all caught up in those
thoughts, does it help you to live
that value of self care and taking
care of your body and eating well?
What happens when you get
caught up in those thoughts?
Well, I get depressed.
Then what you do?
I eat shit, man.
So I was like, okay.
So, I don't know how to stop your
mind speaking to you that way.
We're certainly not going to waste
your time and my time debating
whether these thoughts are true
or false, it's not relevant.
Would you like to learn a new way
of responding to those thoughts
so that next time your mind starts
telling you the I'm a fat slob story,
instead of this, you can learn to
do this so that you can then start
treating your body in a different way.
So it's a big paradigm
shift for most people.
Here of just seeing thoughts as thoughts
and not getting into judging whether
they're true or false or positive or
negative, optimistic or pessimistic.
That doesn't matter.
The big question is, if I let these
thoughts guide what I do, does it
help me to be the person I want to be?
Yeah, that's powerful.
That's a powerful story.
Thank you so much for your time, Russ.
I really appreciate it.
And I wish you all the best.
Thanks for having me.
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