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Mindfulness, Zombies & How To Unhook Yourself From Thoughts

Mindfulness, Zombies, And How To Unhook Yourself From Thoughts – Russ Harris

Russ Harris is the author of the international bestselling self-help book entitled The Happiness Trap. Dr. Harris is a globally-renowned trainer for Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). He conducts workshops on ACT around the world and provides ACT training to thousands of health professionals, counselors, coaches, doctors and therapists. He has also authored two ACT textbooks including ACT Made Simple and four ACT-based self help books including Reality Slap.

In this interview Russ reveals why popular ideas about happiness are misleading, inaccurate, and often make us miserable. Discover the counter intuitive truth about lasting happiness and fulfilment. You’ll also learn…

  • How to untangle from unhelpful thoughts.
  • How to handle difficult emotions more skilfully.
  • The difference between cognitive fusion and cognitive defusion.

Plus as a bonus you can also experience an easy mindfulness practice to help you ‘unhook’ from unhelpful thoughts. It’s called ‘leaves on a stream’ and you’ll find this meditation audio below the video.

PS Please enjoy Russ’s epic zombie impersonation!

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Show Notes

Join The Mindfulness Summit Journey here

Come and join the community discussions at any time on our Facebook page

Check out Melli’s blog, events and retreats at MrsMindfulness.com

If you’d like to learn more about Russ’s books and events go and check out his website here for more www.actmindfully.com.au

You can also check out his app here www.actcompanion.com




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Purchase a full access pass to unlock downloads for the full interview transcripts, audio, video and separate audio meditation tracks.

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Purchase a full access pass to unlock downloads for the full interview transcripts, audio, video and separate audio meditation tracks.

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153 Responses

  1. Helena Saray

    Thank you to Russ Harris for a wonderful talk; full of knowledge, wisdom, practical exercises, informative approach and yet deep understanding of the human mind.

    The Zombie analogy was very amusing (I too Melli not a fan of Zombies for similar reasoning. LOL!) however, I appreciate the image to get his point across.

    1. Helena Saray

      …And thank you Russ Harris for the guided meditation…later tonight I did the visualization leaves on the river…and found it very relaxing as I observed a pop-up thought here and there float by,,,

    1. Antje Wagner

      ACT – getting in contact with my values and using the defusion techniques helped me a lot to get grounded and being with me and other persons just in the moment. Thank you for your words and your books.

  2. Jennifer

    Wonderful talk. I loved the defusion exercise. I now have much to think about. What a summit!! Cannot believe Melli kept such a straight face at the zombie impression – had to pause the video myself to stop laughing lol

  3. Tom Stoss

    As a practicing psychiatrist who is not focused on prescribing medications (yes, it is certainly still part of my practice) I am not surprised with the labeling of the profession, but was a little surprised that it was, however briefly, mentioned in such light early in this talk. I would agree that it is unfortunately easy to be a psychiatrist who is only concerned about medications, but that is not at all what the true practice of psychiatry looks like. I fully appreciate the desire to focus on non-medication based approaches and am genuinely happy that Dr Harris has found his niche to the benefit of us all. I suspect he would have made a great psychiatrist if he had decided to go that route. I found his talk today very interesting, particularly on the diverse origins of mindfulness and the zombie metaphor. Thank you, Melli, for making these wonderful talks available.

    1. Russ Harris

      Hey Tom, I’m so sorry for any offense. Two of my best buddies in ACT are psychiatrists!!! Was not intending to be dismissive of the profession. Like any profession we care to name, there are wonderful practitioners and dubious ones.

    2. Niamh Power

      Totally agree. I’m also a psychiatrist, and while diagnosis and medication do clearly feature in my work, they are by no means the be all and end all of it…I frequently refer patients for a wide range of psychological therapies…but am keen to be more proficient at actually delivering some of these therapies myself….and I am drawn towards some of the “third wave” therapies like ACT.

      I really enjoyed the talk by Russ Harris.

  4. Gillian Moon

    Thank you, thank you ….. this session really ‘spoke’ to me and Russ is and entertaining and engaging speaker. I really liked the zombie analogy and will remember this one was from his classic impersonations lol. Will also be practicing the diffusion exercise as I found this very powerful.

    Thank you Melli for organising this summit I am getting so much out of this!

    Love and light

  5. Janet Rampley

    I mean this in the nicest possible way – Russ Harris is complete nutter! And I love listening to him! I am watching this in bed with my husband snoring away next to me and there were times when I had to stop from laughing out loud. What a very engaging and entertaining speaker Russ is. I am certainly going to research his work a little more. I loved the cognitive fusion / delusion exercise – very powerful. He has now helped me to coin a new phrase in my head that will make me smile when I think reach toward something I want mindlessly or try to push something away – it’s now going to be called (in my head) Zombie mode. Thanks Russ , what a thoroughly enjoyable interview.

  6. Pamela Mantione

    Love this interview!! Another of my favorites. Many of his points really hit home. I’m looking forward to doing the exercise later tonight. Thanks Mellie and thank you, Russ!

  7. Elizabeth Hitchman

    The zombie analogy was funny and visually got the message across.
    Enjoyed the talk 🙂

    I found the ‘Leaves on a Stream’ meditation extremely powerful and as a visual person found the stream vision relaxing. It allowed each thought that popped up to “float down stream”…lovely!

  8. Cate Arciuli

    Russ is a great speaker and trainer. I have a lot of interest and respect for ACT therapy. Thanks for a great talk.

    On the topic of why mindfulness is said to originate from buddhism, my understanding is that while many of the eastern (and other) religions/traditions had similar philosophies of non-attachment, transcending the ego, inter-connectedness, impermanence, meditation and calming the mind, and while they had many practices that we would refer to as modern day mindfulness activities to try and achieve these goals, the Buddha’s original contribution was the Vipassana technique of simply observing bodily sensations (including the natural breath) without doing anything with/to them but just allowing them to be as they are and pass.To me this is the essence of mindfulness, and how it differs from techniques like Tai Chi or Pranayama, but then I came to mindfulness from Buddhism, so maybe I’m biased or misinformed. I would love to hear other people’s opinions on this – esp those who have studied this topic in depth.

  9. Aziza Sami

    Thank you for this excellent talk and a very clear elucidation of ideas. Dr.Harris’s acting out of cognitive fusion and defusion has set the seal for me on scores of writings and talks about mindfulness. With a simple acting out of what cognitive fusion is..he has brought home to us in a very powerful manner the true essence of mindfulness …and has delivered a practical lesson showing us how to disengage from our(quite often obstructive)thoughts.
    Thank you once again for a brilliant presentation.

  10. Beth Solomon

    This interview is a lovely addition to the proceedings. But did anyone else hear an animal crying in the background during the entire talk? Just a tad distracting…. Was it intentional? Should I notice and accept it?

  11. laura montalvo

    Very engaging and interesting talk. I liked he said there are many ways to develop mindfulness, but has to be guided by values. -Mindfulness without values is a ship with no radar. A serial killer could use mindfulness to kill more effectively.- 🙂
    Thank you, it’s been very useful.

  12. Gelza barbosa

    I really enjoyed this interview with Russ Harris. His practical clues lead us to a better knowledge of our problems and finding our own solutions.
    I suggest he creates a teen age page about zumbies. It would be very helpful.
    I recommend visiting his website and hearing to the available resourses.
    Thank you Millie for bringing him to our Summit.
    God bless you and Russ.

  13. Beverly

    very helpful and informative session. However, unlike the guided sessions on Day 1, I’ve not been successful in saving the leaves on a stream exercise as an MP3 file. Has the file format changed over the course of the workshop thus far? I’d like to save the file and practice the exercise when my dog isn’t trying to interact with me while I’m visualizing the leaves on the stream.

  14. Fabiana

    This was a great talk! I really enjoyed Russ and how he says it doesn´t matter if your thoughts are true or false,he makes it so easy! I loved the activity of actually doing it with your hands! I was looking for something that involved a certain kind of movement, and when he talks about floating, and he opens his arms, that´s an attitude I want to have when my thoughts are too close to me. Now, I also wonder, what happens when he believe that what we think is true and it is a good thing also? How important is to be aware of what you think works for you?

  15. Amy

    What great skills to use for coping with the judgemental voice in my head and the thoughts that stress me out and get me nowhere. I’ve always known that worrying about things I can’t control wasn’t useful but I could never figure out what to do with the thoughts or how to step back from them. Now I know how to defuse them! Thank you immensely!

  16. Donna

    Again! A wealth of interesting and RELEVANT info, presented in such a wonderful way. And again, by someone I’d not heard of before and might not have been introduced to if not for this summit.

    I’m just so grateful to the organizers and all the guests – and so happy with myself, too – for following through on my impulse to check this out. There are so many times when I’ve second-guessed myself and not done that.

    In this session – just the zombie visuals only – talk about wisdom that will stick with me!

  17. Lora Finnerty

    HI Melli! Thank you, thank you,thank you for this summit! I’ve listened every day and learn something new with each speaker.
    I wasn’t able to listen to Russ’s meditation but I loved his talk.

  18. Teresa Gray

    Another wonderful talk with Russ and Melli. I loved his zombie impersonation ….. very clear and useful… Also enjoyed and found it to be very useful his explanation on the cognitive fusion and defusion. Thank you

  19. Maria T+Calva

    Great session I liked the way he explains. Thank you for such interesting video. Dr Harris congratulations for your decisions, and I am happy knowing you changed paradigm.

  20. carol campbell

    I enjoyed listening to Russ Harris. Ugh…Aah! LOL. Great information. I am enjoying the Summit. Thank you Melli for putting it together. I like the variety and different views about mindfulness

  21. Oriel

    I enjoyed this presentation immensely. Thank you Russ, thank you Melli. One thing that really stood out, as far as I’m concerned is the love that emanated from Russ. Of course this also applies to most of the other speakers but I was particularly touched by Russ. Namaste from Buenos Aires, Argentina

  22. Karina Campbell

    Thanks for very useful tips – I have just noticed one of my zombie habits and will be busting my negative self judgements with “I know I’m having the thought…”!

  23. Rachel Goff

    The psychologist I see uses the ACT framework, and while I find it very useful, I’m still having those ‘ah-ha’ moments… even from this video. Not challenging the thought, but simply noticing that I’m having the thought… and anxiety as quicksand (such a great analogy!)
    Thanks for the insight and wisdom Russ.

  24. Cerys

    I’m grateful for the Summit and all the different perspectives presented. I’m probably in the minority, but this presentation became difficult for me. I wish there was a warning about the exercise of holding a harsh negative thought and really taking it in. The beginning of it was so unsettling that the end – supposed to help – was not impactful. It took me some time to regain my footing. It upset my family to see me like that. Its hard to adequately explain how very “in the moment” PTSD flashbacks can be, not just a cognitive memory, very immersive. I think Paul Gilbert’s explanation of known/unknown was of help to me in understanding why I had that response. I’m glad I had that framework to fall back on and help me regroup. I’m not posting as a criticism just as an alert so people can apply appropriate self-care. Wellness wishes all.

    1. Russ Harris

      Hey, I’m so sorry you had that experience, Cerys. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken a moment to issue such a warning. I wasn’t expecting such a brief exercise of fusing with and defusing from a self-judgment to trigger a flashback. But of course, sometimes the unexpected does happen. So my apologies, and next time I’ll give a warning and ask folks, if in doubt, not to do it.

  25. Girardeau

    Thank you Russ for those funny and so real images of us…I am such a Zombie so often,
    Hope I can see me in a mirror and accept me!!!
    and so beautiful image of the two hands together!
    I’ll help me that way and help my friends too with your exercises.
    So simple and so “talking to me”
    I enjoyed this talk very much, and keep the images like a child, preciously

  26. annette fennell

    Thank you so much i try to practice mindfulness but was getting so hooked up on not veing able to meditate. The excerise with the hands really opened my eyes. Again tganks. I am really enjoying this summit.

  27. Anthony Hurdidge

    Thank you Melli for another great interview, with Russ, funny and entertaing. His comment about the zombie moment and the ahh moment reminded me of the aah haa moments we have from time to time, otherwise known as a lightbulb moment.

    His “leaves in the stream” meditation reminded me of Pooh sticks, we played with our children. My wife and I played Pooh stcks when we were on holiday this summer. The memories, hehe!! Thank you A. A. Milne for inspiring us to meditate without really knowing it.

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