“I am burdened with ‘the monkey mind’ — the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
It is basically a big brain dump first thing in the morning where you write about everything that’s on your mind. You can buy a specific journal like this one or just use blank pages. By capturing your confusing, uncontrollable and restless thoughts on paper you are able to to face the day with clearer eyes. Highly recommended — not just in the morning, but whenever you are monkey mind is on over-drive.
Starting your day with a morning ritual is a great way to calm your thoughts and get energised and fully focused on what is most important in your day ahead. You can build your own custom ritual by combining one or more of the following elements:
Chris Winfield wrote an extremely comprehensive, step-by-step guide to creating your own morning routine. He walks you through his own morning routine, gives insights into the routine of successful people like Richard Branson and Tony Robbins and offers tips and tricks on how to make your new habits stick. You can read it here. Zdravko Cvijetic also wrote a great piece about morning routines with some nice ideas to get started.
Meditation is probably the most effective technique to calm your monkey mind. When you sit down in a quiet space — even if it is just for 5 minutes — you get a first row seat to your monkey mind. Especially if you are new to meditation, you might experience the monkeys at their most whimsical and uncontrollable, jumping from your to-do list to random memories to worries to problems and back. But the goal of meditation is not to control your thoughts but to just witness them without judgement and let them pass. This will help you train your brain to stop over-identifying with your thoughts and getting lost in pointless mental loops.
There is countless options to practice meditation but I highly recommend getting an app like Headspace or Calm that offers guided introductions for beginners. If you are not convinced yet how powerful meditation can be, check out the science here and read about successful people that swear by meditation here.
Connecting with your breath is a powerful way to relax your nervous system and calm down. Breathing exercises are particularly relieving if your monkey mind is causing you anxiety and excessive worrying.
The monkey mind loves repetitive negative self talk that creates a never-ending loop of self-doubt and worry. Identifying the patterns in your negative self-talk and consciously reframing them into empowering affirmations can be a powerful way to break out of these self-destructive thought loops.
For a quick introduction to using affirmations, check out Stefan’s guide including a list of powerful affirmations. If you need more guidance to identify your negative mind loops and transform them into empowering affirmations, check out my Self-Coaching Workbook. The book guides you through a step-by-step process to understand, identify and transform your self-limiting beliefs.
“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe”
— Mark Twain
Worrying about something often gets you stuck in a negative thought spiral that you can’t get out of. It takes away the focus of the present moment and makes you anxious of the future. This is your monkey mind on steroids! You most likely won’t be able to stop worrying thoughts entering your mind, but you CAN decide to zap out of them as soon as they appear.
Whenever a worry enters your mind, use this 3-step process to zap out of it instantly:
Shifting your perspective is the secret to escaping the negative spiral of over-identifying with a problem or situation in your life and seeing no way out of it. It transforms your thinking from seeing everything black and white and kicks you out of the self-loathing “poor me” state.
Take a problem or situation in your life where you feel stuck and do this 2-step process based on the mantra “Change your mind to change your world”.
Your monkey mind is particularly skilled at obsessing about the past or the future. But true happiness can only be found in the present moment. Mastering the art of living in the moment is a powerful way to interrupt your monkey mind and find some peace in the here and now.
Whenever you notice that you are lost in thoughts instead of focusing on what is right in front of you, try this powerful exercise that works like magic: Focus on all your 5 senses to pull yourself into the present moment. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you smelling? What are you tasting? Who is with you? How does your body feel?
Your mind is a lot more likely to wander if you are doing low key activities like walking, working on boring tasks, running errands or attending tiring meetings. But by engaging your brain in activities that require its full attention, you train your mind to shut off the constant chatter and focus on the task at hand.
Make it a point to regularly seek out activities that require your mind’s attention for a couple of hours without distractions. This could mean getting into the flow state while working (you can learn more about it here), doing an intense workout that challenges your coordination skills or immersing yourself into an activity you love — like reading a single book, playing with a child or expressing yourself creatively with painting, making music, writing or cooking.
Would love to hear about them in the comments 🙂
Originally published at medium.com