5 Techniques to Free Your Monkey Mind

“The bargain was this: Admit the anxiety as an essential part of yourself and in exchange that anxiety will be converted into energy, unstable but manageable. Stop with the self-flagellating and become yourself, with scars and tics.”

We all have Monkey Mind at times. Busy schedules, difficult relationships, lack of vision, loneliness bring anxiety and mood swings. The Monkey Mind is an unsettled, agitated mind that can be difficult to tame. We all crave some peace in our mind and there are proven techniques to gain clarity. These are some of my favourite 0nes, what are yours?

1. Rest the body:

Before you attempt to free your mind, you have to take care of your body. This means that you must get some sleep first. Sleep is beneficial in so many ways, this is the primary process to repair your body, and we are only starting to understand its impact on the brain. Scientists believe that sleep reinforces memory and creativity. When you have an agitated mind, sleep will only help you to identify solutions to your problems. 8hrs of sleep is a good goal if you are in a stressful situation. Taking naps (if you can), is also a great way to feel energized after the post lunch dip in performance. 20–30 mins is all you need to feel refreshed again.

2. Declutter your House

Removing unnecessary clutter in your physical space is freeing in so many ways. If you read a great book by Marie Kondo, you will learn that objects surrounding us are constantly taking some of our mental energy. She recommends to keep objects that “bring you joy” in sight. Remove those old coins from your shelf, the photos from the past, the useless piece of furniture gathering dust, or these clothes that you never wear. Decluttering your house calls for new things to come, and brings energy back.

3. Solve easy problems first

When feeling overwhelmed, it is easy to try to “boil the ocean” and focus on the big bad problems that got us in a bad mental state in the first place. When tackling large challenges (like a sick family member, a difficult job situation, a hard exam etc.), it is better to break down the problem into smaller chunks or otherwise called “decomposition”. The sum of smaller problems make for a bigger one. With every challenge, there is always a way to decompose it into smaller steps. For example: if someone loses a job, what will you do next? i.e. you can update your resume, discuss with a coach / friend about what you would like to do next, identify all the job search websites, discuss with friends and former colleagues about other job opportunities, enroll into a training course, apply for social welfare etc. It is the sum of these smaller steps that will help you get out of a bad situation. And remember, for every “bad” situation, there is most likely someone who already faced the same problem, ask around and re-use the techniques from others! If you feel shy about asking about it, seek professional help. It is always better to talk to someone rather than finding solutions online.

4. Confront your fears

Often, our monkey mind, our constant mental jitter is triggered by a fear that we are not identifying or tackling directly. It is probably one of the hardest thing to do but confronting your fears will most likely provide a strong sense of relief after you have done it. In an inspiring Ted Talk, Tim Ferriss discusses how we can identify our fears and find ways to prevent or repair worse case scenarios. Our fears are sometimes rooted in the past from bad experiences. Confronting them means confronting the past and getting a new chance to change the course of history i.e. “I proved that I could face this problem now”. Now, it is good to surround yourself with the right people before you attempt to face a fear that may result in a failure. Failing is possible i.e. “I tried that exam again and failed” or “I tried to connect with that family member and this resulted in a disaster”. The outcome may not be that important. The key is to observe the fear and learn from a new experience again in a calm state. Take your time and be gentle with yourself regardless of the outcome.

5. Play (i.e. getting in a state of “flow”)

The theories behind the state of flow (i.e. the feeling of “total abandonment” or “total focus” on an activity) have been well documented. Flow applies to any activity including work but I believe that playing is the easiest way to achieve a sense of flow for most people. The main reason is that there are no constraints when we play, we typically engage willingly in an activity that we consider fun. Playing is probably one of the easiest, cheapest ways to disengage from our monkey mind. The only condition is that the activity should be “active” versus a “passive” activity like watching a movie or reading a book (not that we can not “switch off” in those activities either..”). When we enter an active game, we pay attention to our surroundings, we engage with others (if you are into team sports or board / card games), we immerse ourselves into a reality and stay connected to the present. For a period of time, we forget our problems and activate different parts of our brain associated with well being. There are no downsides to it. Just try not to compete with yourself or others too much.

I hope that these few tips are helpful, what your ways to free your monkey mind?