Health & Wellness

Strategies I use to tame my ‘monkey mind’

May 9, 2022

May is Mental health month in the USA but really, the focus on our mental health and well-being should be every day and part of a healthy lifestyle, don’t you agree?

Sometimes life can be a struggle can’t it, especially when our ‘monkey mind’ is in full throttle. Have you heard of the term ‘monkey mind’? I know I have one. ‘Monkey mind’ is a Buddhist term meaning ‘unsettled, restless, confused, indecisive, ‘ A mind that refuses to be quiet and concentrated. A mind that has a thousand thoughts racing through. The Buddha used the following analogy to describe ‘‘kapacitta’ to describe this restless, agitated, incessant movement of the mind.

‘Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night.’

My monkey mind has been in overdrive lately coping with life which has recently been a roller coaster ride. There are many things happening in our life at the moment – some good, some not-so-good but all needing focus and attention.

Strategies I use to bring calm to a ‘monkey mind’

Please note: I am not an expert or professional in the area of mental health. I am sharing what works for me, however, if you are struggling please reach out for a professional help. Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

When we are feeling overwhelmed and the monkey is swinging from branch to branch it can be almost impossible to function and think clearly. We start to feel anxious, it is difficult to complete tasks and that is our mind telling us that we need to STOP.

If we ignore the messages our mind is sending, we will start receiving messages from our bodies as signs manifest themselves and can lead to illness.

But what can you do when you feel too tired to fight the monkey mind? I could say it was easy but from personal experience it is not. However, there are some short term strategies that may help – I know they work for me – which I’d like to share. I say short-term because sometimes we have to work at practicing to become a habit but in the moment these will bring some calm when you need it.

You probably know them and can add to my list but a gentle reminder is always good. You could be reading this post and think ‘Oh I needed to read this today’.

Give yourself permission to be less than perfect

We set the bar higher for ourselves than we do for others – I know I do. We expect more from ourselves or feel guilty if we say ‘no’ or feel ‘less’ if we aren’t juggling six balls at once whilst hopping on one leg. Accept the reality that we aren’t perfect and our mental health is more important than trying to please others or aiming to be the ‘multi-tasker’ of the year. I used to pride myself on being able to do several things at once – but why? Multi-tasking is over-rated.

Prioritise and make a list

Too much going on? Ask yourself this question: Is it all really necessary? Write a list of all you need or ‘think you need’ to do. Then mark each task out of 10. 10 being most important and must be done or more importantly brings you joy and 1 being ‘the world won’t end if I don’t get this done’. In many cases, you can let go of the ones you have graded as ‘1’ although sometimes it is the ‘letting go’ that is the most difficult part of the task.

Unplug for a day or two or more

Whilst social media certainly has it’s place it can also be a trigger for stress and also at times an unhealthy habit. If you are reaching for your phone to scroll through your social media feeds as soon as you wake or you’ve lost an hour scrolling and seeing ‘the perfect lives’ of others or news that is distressing, then it is time for a social media detox. Could you do that? Unplug from social media (and emails) for at least 24 – 48 hours?

Take time out for mindfulness and meditation

Saturday morning I looked at this view and it reminded me that although life can feel grey and overwhelming there is always light just waiting for the clouds to pass. Taking a moment to focus on a view or a favourite painting can help settle the monkey mind.

I’ve recently found these cute pocket sized books on mindfulness and meditation. Bite-sized pieces to help you learn and practice meditation and mindfulness through fun and efficient exercises you can fit into your day.

Taking a walk in nature

It’s good for the soul as well as our mental and physical well-being

Moving our body lifts our mood

Whether it is a traditional form of exercise, dancing, playing with children or just moving from one part of your home to another room. Harvard Health Publishing’s ‘How Simply Moving Benefits our Mental Health‘ suggests that

recent studies show that the connection between your brain and your body is a “two-way street” and that means movement can change your brain, too!

Harvard Health Publishing Article ‘How Simply Moving Benefits our Mental Health’

Tapping EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)

You can read more detail on this technique What is EFT?. Basically it is a technique where you focus on your current feelings or negative emotions whilst using your fingertips to tap 5 – 7 times on 9 specific meridian points in the body. There is an easy Butterfly method where you cross your arms and tap each shoulder R then L in a soothing rhythm. You can also just tap your knees or even your feet, depending where you are. You may want to do it before sleep to relax your mind.

Focus on the Breath

There are many breathing techniques to help calm our mind and feelings of anxiety. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is easy to do and is known as the ‘relaxing breath’. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Breathe is a free app which can help you with this breathing method and may help relax you for sleep.

Binge your favourite series, movie or book

Sometimes watching your favourite TV series ( even if it is a reality show where you don’t need to use your brain), getting lost in a favourite book or movie for a couple of hours can have a calming influence on your mind. You’ve stepped out of the world for a while.

Creative pursuits

If you enjoy cooking and baking – being in the kitchen can help soothe your mind. Kneading dough, can have a therapeutic affect. I have a couple of friends who turn to baking when they are stressed. Knitting, crochet, art or any creative hobby can be wonderful for calming your monkey mind.

Crank up the music

Put the headphones on and listen to your favourite music or dance around the room. For me ABBA is a great mood lifter and singing the lyrics makes my monkey settle down!

Self Care

Slot in time each day to nurture yourself and do things that bring joy. 10 – 15 minutes might be all you need.

Spend time with children

When I spend time with my grandsons I’m filled with joy and there is certainly no time for my monkey mind. Re-discovering how to have fun and be curious and of course cuddles certainly helps. Children a constantly in the moment. Sure they might flit from one activity to the next but they are always in the moment, not worrying about yesterday, tomorrow or a long list of things ‘to do’.

So here are some suggestions for you to try and as I said, you may have more to share with me.

What will you do for your mental health and well-being today? Share with me things that bring the light from behind the grey.
Have a beautiful day and take care of you

Behind the grey there is always light.

Sue Loncaric, Women Living Well After 50
Sue Loncaric

Women Living Well After 50

Living Life Your Way

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32 Comments

  • Reply leannelc May 9, 2022 at 10:54

    Hi Sue – my mind used to be full on all the time. I was constantly planning, worrying, thinking, over-thinking etc. I’ve been working a lot on being “in the moment” and reminding myself that worry doesn’t actually achieve anything (other than stressing me out even more!) Your suggestions were all great and there was a lot of variety – something for everyone! And I hope you life settles down again soon. x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:07

      Hi Leanne, it isn’t easy to stay in the moment, is it? I don’t always succeed to tame the monkey but I do most of the time. x

  • Reply Melissa Willings May 9, 2022 at 12:21

    Singing and clapping also work. I have started to do this tile game on my phone but sometimes that kicks in an addictive focus so then I have to stop for a day or two. But usually, it just makes me focus on the patterns so I shut out all other thoughts….#LifeStories

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:07

      Oh I love the idea of singing and clapping, thanks Melissa. x

  • Reply Retirement Reflections May 9, 2022 at 12:37

    Hi, Sue – These are great strategies for calming Monkey Mind as well as anxiety and restlessness. For me, it helps to know that I am not alone and others that I admire sometimes feel this way too. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:08

      You are definitely not on your own, Donna. We live in such a hectic world don’t we? Even when we try to switch off there is always something or someone wanting or needing our attention. x

  • Reply Debbie May 9, 2022 at 15:04

    I’m with Donna here Sue, the fact that you admit to this shows that we all have things going on in our lives rom time to time and struggle as a result. I like all of your ideas and sometimes just stopping and taking notice of what we are trying to do as opposed to what we really want to do can make a difference. Thanks for this insightful post, I certainly needed to read it today!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:12

      Hi Deb, I nearly didn’t write this post but from the comments I’ve received I’m very glad that I did. It is important for us all to remember we aren’t alone in the feelings we experience and by sharing how we are feeling, it can sometimes help not only ourselves but others as well. x

  • Reply Toni Pike May 9, 2022 at 18:55

    Hi Sue, I really like these strategies, Sue – a fantastic post. Toni x

  • Reply Yvonne May 10, 2022 at 02:45

    Hi Sue – I have a Monkey Mind especially now that I live with Chronic Pain. I practice Meditation, Mindfulness, Breath Work, Tapping, walks in Nature (when I am able), read, feed birds , reach out to others through telephone calls, etc.
    Your post was helpful as I don’t feel alone. Thanks for sharing ! Hope everything goes well for you.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:14

      Hello Yvonne, I am so sorry you are in chronic pain but impressed with all that you do to try to overcome what life throws at you. I love your idea of feeding the birds as a way to try and relax. You are definitely not alone and I’m so pleased I wrote and shared my thoughts. I wasn’t going to publish it but I’ve had a few comments similar to yours from readers who now feel that they aren’t alone. Take care and thank you for visiting. x

  • Reply Min Write of the Middle May 10, 2022 at 10:38

    Hi Sue – I’m very familiar with the term monkey mind and have probably written about it on the blog in the past. I certainly have one! I find my yoga and pilates practice helps and also keeping myself occupied. My art is the best therapy as it takes my focus away from my monkey mind. A lovely walk out in nature helps too. Wishing you a happy week!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 11, 2022 at 16:15

      Hi Min, I know you have a Monkey Mind but your art must surely help. You have created some beautiful artwork and used your creativity to the max. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Take care xx

  • Reply Denyse Whelan Blogs May 11, 2022 at 17:09

    What a great post about vulnerability and imperfection…and being HUMAN, Sue. Sharing this helps others feel less alone and more connected with you because we all have times like these. One thing that I have learned through my study of meditation and mindfulness, is that “nothing stays the same” and “everything is temporary”…we can want to grasp onto those good feeling and keep them but just like those waves you see on your beach, they arrive, and then they go. I am glad you are finding those little books a help. I have the entire library I think and they formed part of my going out each day for coffee (before covid) and I would use my alone time to read a page or two and reflect on the learning. Thank you for joining in this Monday’s #LifesStories on Denyse Whelan Blogs. The community of bloggers here connects us wherever we are in the world. Looking forward to seeing you in two week’s time on Monday 23 May. Denyse.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 13, 2022 at 08:18

      Hi Denyse, I wasn’t going to publish this post, just needed to get it down on paper and out of my system. However, I’ve had a few positive comments that have suggested others feel this way and after reading my post don’t seem so alone. Thanks for hosting #LifesStories and also for your supportive and kind comment. x

  • Reply Jo May 14, 2022 at 07:15

    Some excellent suggestions. Sarah introduced me to tapping – she uses it with some of her clients I believe as a way of self regulation. I read an interview yesterday on Robbie Williams where he’s given his inner monkey voice a name – Radio Rob. I sometimes feel that the only way is mindlessness rather than mindfulness, but only puts it to sleep – until it’s time for me to go to sleep, that is.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 14, 2022 at 07:58

      I thought Mike would be ‘bah humbug’ about tapping but he swears by it. I learn something new about this man every day! Mindlessness is actually the perfect term isn’t it? Something where we don’t have to think – like watching a mindless reality show! xx

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee May 14, 2022 at 07:31

    These are great tips! I think focusing on whatever you are doing – bringing all your attention in (like taking photos on a walk of insects and flowers) roots you in the moment. Great post!! #Weekendcoffeeshare

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 14, 2022 at 07:56

      I find I need something that doesn’t require extra thought and yes, taking photos on a walk through nature really helps you to focus (and not just on the camera setting). x

      • Reply Janine May 15, 2022 at 08:28

        Thanks for sharing Sue. I feel like I’ve had a roller coaster April and it looks like it’s continuing into May. It does help to know I’m not alone in these feelings. Your tips are all very useful and a good reminder that we can take steps to try and control our monkey minds.

        • Reply Sue Loncaric May 17, 2022 at 08:43

          Hi Janine, life for us has been a roller coaster ride so I can understand completely what you are going through. I’m here if you ever need to chat or catch up for a coffee as we are neighbours I believe. Take care xx

  • Reply Natalie May 14, 2022 at 08:39

    Hi Sue, Thank you for sharing these great strategies to calm a ‘monkey mind’ with us at #weekendcoffeeshare. I hope your life settles down soon. I agree that the focus on our mental health and well-being should be every day and part of a healthy lifestyle. If there is anything I can do to help, feel free to let me know. Sending you warm thoughts and strength.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 14, 2022 at 13:15

      Thanks for hosting, Natalie. I don’t think you have a ‘monkey mind’, I find you to always present a feeling of ‘calmness’. Enjoy your weekend x

  • Reply rawsonjl May 15, 2022 at 06:25

    Oh yes, I have one of these too! I find getting out in nature definitely helps. I also like to sit with paper and pen and just dump all those random thoughts out.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 17, 2022 at 08:42

      I know I’m not alone Joanne, from several comments that I’ve had. Nature helps me, getting out for a walk or a run or getting lost in a good book. Have a great week and thanks for visiting. x

  • Reply Inspiring Max May 15, 2022 at 16:12

    Never heard of the term monkey mind before but it describes it well. Worked in mental health for over 40 years.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 17, 2022 at 08:44

      I think it describes a busy mind perfectly, don’t you? xx

  • Reply OnceUponaTimeHappilyEverAfter.com May 17, 2022 at 07:14

    My word of the year is FLOW. And I have been trying very hard to calm my monkey mind…glad to have a name for it…and just go with the flow. Easier said than done some days. But I have done better about letting things go, about channeling the energy it takes to think and worry about all the things into more productive activities. Walking helps me think things out and set them aside, and we have begun doing a virtual reality workout called Supernatural that has some mood buster workouts that really work to return a smile to my face.

    Hope you are able to slow down your monkey mind by baking, reading, exercising but not maniacally!! And most of all by being with those you love most.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 17, 2022 at 08:41

      Hi Leslie, I know you’ve been struggling of late, stepping back from social media and of course the constant concern for your Mum. Supernatural sounds great so I will check into that. Life will get back to normal for us soon and I have been working on my ‘monkey mind’ – part of which is acceptance of who I am and how I think. Sending love and hugs to you. xx

  • Reply Kirstin May 17, 2022 at 12:20

    So so good Sue!!!! I need to remind myself of this. I don’t struggle with “Monkey brain” but I do at times forget to take time for me.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 17, 2022 at 16:46

      Thank you so much Kirstin for your lovely comment. Yes, we don’t need a ‘monkey mind’ to forget to take time for ourselves do we? I’m happy that my post has prompted you to think about some time out. Enjoy your week. xx

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