My monkey mind has taken over my life! Here’s how to identify it and how to stop it.
Heard or experienced any of these lately? COVID brain, self-diagnosed ADHD, auto-pilot, zoning out, scattered thoughts. These responses, spacey moments or knee jerk reactions are stress responses. They are what happens when our survival instinct kicks in and our monkey mind takes control.
Monkey Mind Defined
Human brains are composed of three sections. They are our lizard brain, our monkey brain and our human brain.
Our lizard brains control the basic instincts, our monkey brain controls our tissue and complex things like emotions and our human brain which allows us to remove emotions from our thoughts and to think things through or practice mindfulness. This article here goes a bit more in depth if you want to dig in (it’s absolutely fascinating)!
Our monkey mind is the part of our brain that runs the inner monologue, the part that runs wild during meditation, and it’s tied to your ego and inner critic. Monkey mind tells you that you will never be good enough, you have too much on your plate, that you need to rush rush rush and go go go. It’s important to learn how to control and quiet our monkey mind if we want to be fully present in our lives.
Before we dig into controlling our monkey mind I want to share that our monkey and lizard brains serve a major purpose! Since our human brain is designed to analyze situations and reactions when we encounter danger or trigger our fight or flight response we rely heavily on our lizard and monkey brains to get us to safety.
How to Spot Your Monkey Mind
A major problem with our well working monkey mind is that when we are overwhelmed, stressed or in an extended state of being busy we default to it. Monkey mind becomes prominent when we multitask causing us to go into auto-pilot and make decisions without thinking them through.
For example, let’s say you are stressed to the max working on a deadline, you aren’t super thrilled with your job to begin with, you’re working from home in a small apartment and your significant other comes in to ask you a question while you’re in the middle of a sentence. You are stressed, overwhelmed, grumpy and a little frustrated with the overwhelming emotions so you may respond with a default answer because you weren’t listening or snap at them for interrupting you. This is your monkey mind and it is a warning sign that you need to stop, take a break and close some of the tabs in your brain to reduce your stress levels.
I’m anti-multitasking on important things because it is impossible for your brain to truly focus on two things at once but I double down on this stance when it comes to the truly important things like human relationships. Make time to clear your mind.
How to Control Your Monkey Mind
So great, you know your monkey mind is running the ship – you are on auto-pilot, not paying attention to where the car is going – now what? Here are a few ideas for you!
Stop, take a break, take a few deep breaths and get present in your body. If you have a meditation practice try doing a mini meditation – even just a minute of meditation can help calm my monkey mind when it’s in overdrive.
Move your body! Get up and move, go on a walk, walk around your apartment or yard, dance for a minute or just shake your arms and legs out. Moving your body helps calm down your monkey mind and helps you get present in your body.
Write! Get the thoughts out of your brain and on paper. I find journaling SO helpful when my brain is in chaos mode. If my brain is so full of thoughts that I can’t decide what to write I’ll throw a gratitude list together and see where that takes me. Sometimes I need to exercise my thoughts, regardless of how true they are, on paper similar to moving my body.
Do less and reduce how busy you are! I know, this is the hard one! If you have the privilege and capacity to work smarter not harder – do it. Reduce the extra work in your life, limit the emotional labor you do for free, protect your energy and take the extra time to fill your own cup with self-care (the real kind not the marketing face mask kind).
Remember: Being Busy Is Not Cool!
Hope this helps! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about your monkey mind and I hope this encourages you to rest your brain and your body.
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Sending you all lot’s of love and rest!
**This blog is not meant to replace mental or physical health advice from your physician. Please work with a licensed professional when it comes to your health.