6 tips to help you tame your monkey mind
Monkey mind is easily explained as the constant chatter in your head. I don't deserve this; I can’t do this; It won’t work; They will say no; Do not even try it; Give up; etc. This is just a few examples of what you occasionally hear in that head of yours. We do not even know when these thoughts come from. I often hear people say “I’m sorry I overreacted”, “It wasn’t me, I was just so frustrated” – immediately regretting their reaction to something that they reacted to very quickly.
In this blog post I will focus on management of your monkey mind and talk about the main principles and tips on how to control it. If you want to be happier, increase your sense of overall well-being, sense of calm and be more focused, see below:
1. Know that you are in control.
You can learn to control your monkey mind so realise that it can be tamed. Imagine your body is a car: who is driving it - you or the mind? Every time I speak about this principle I bring up the simple equation of E+R=O, EVENT + REACTION = OUTCOME. You can’t change the event but you can change your response to it, which will change the outcome. The Car (your body), when driven by the mind is prone to outbursts, immediate reactions based on emotions and surroundings. When it is driven by you, you have the full control. Your mind is also lazy and will always take the path of least resistance unless you start guiding it and taking ownership of your reactions.
2. Your monkey mind is like a puppy, you have to train it the same way. If you ever had a puppy, you know what it’s like to constantly have to take it out. It does its business in the house and you take it outside, 2 hours later it tries it in the house again, you take it out again and the story continues for days until the puppy remembers that the toilet is outside. Your mind works in the same way, it’s not going to miraculously stop thinking, however you can train it to the point where you are aware of your thoughts, know they are there, appreciate them and if they are in any way negative or damaging, you move them to that opposite spectrum. I do a very simple exercise every time a negative thought enters my mind, I think of the most opposite outcome to it. Yes, everything has an opposite side and that is where I choose my thoughts to go. It is so much more beneficial for my mind to switch my thoughts to the amazing ones instead of drowning in the negativity. I was doing it so much when I was going through a bit of a rough patch that it is now a habit and my subconscious mind does it automatically. It’s like in the stages of learning, as an example let’s think about driving:
a) Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetent - you basically have no idea what to do on your first lesson, everything needs to be pointed out b) Sage 2: Conscious competent – you know what to do however you’re not yet ready to do it by yourself c) Stage 3: Conscious competent – you’re ready to do it by yourself, but still think of when to turn on the indicators or other controls d) Stage 4: Unconscious competent – you no longer need to think of your next step, it becomes embedded within you.
Meditation is the best way to train your monkey mind.
The peace, quiet and tranquility of meditation allows you to appreciate and acknowledge that the thoughts are there in the first place. If you are a beginner to meditation, when you close your eyes and start your breaths, it is normal for the thoughts to appear, it is not about stopping them coming, it's about knowing they are there but not letting them control you. See them as clouds just passing through, some are white and beautiful, some are a little darker. Then switch to the blue sky behind it, that's you, you are the observer of your thoughts, appreciate them, let them come and let them go. If you need some help guiding you through meditation try apps such as Headspace which has a fantastic 10 day 10 minute process of introductory meditation.
4. Distract your mind. It’s not something I would recommend to do every time as acknowledging your thoughts is important, however if you find yourself in a situation when your monkey brain chit chats and just does not want to stop, try different distraction techniques. Occupying yourself with a task can be a good way for a distraction – read a book, write or go for a walk or a jog. Physical activity releases endorphin which are proved to reduce stress and feelings of pain. My personal favourite to distract my monkey mind is counting my breaths 1 to 10 – 1 for the inhale, 2 for the exhale, count to 10 and repeat until you feel that it’s enough. If your mind wonders off, just bring yourself back and begin where you left off or start again.
5. Relax and trust the process. Buddha compared the brain to a tree with drunk monkeys swinging off of it, jumping, swinging and screaming constantly. By allowing ourselves to release certain emotions and learning how to control them we can slowly learn to live in peace with our monkey brain which in turn will let you live a much happier life. It will also allow you to focus on the present moment, help you be more focused and in general will increase your sense of well-being.
Yes, breathe. When you feel overwhelmed, when it is all becoming too much, just take a second and breathe. Return to the here and now and realise that now is all that we truly have. As Randy Armstrong said “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”
This is all the tips that I have for you today on how to tame your monkey mind. I will wrap it up with a great quote by Steve Peters, author of The Chimp Paradox:
“Remember: you can’t use your Chimp as an excuse. If you had a dog and it bit someone, you couldn’t just say, ‘Sorry but it was the dog, not me.’ You are responsible for the dog and its actions. Likewise, you are totally responsible for your Chimp and its actions. So no excuses!”
Hope you enjoyed this post, let me know your comments by dropping me an email.
With good vibes and grattitude,