With Dr. Olga Filippa Nel, Clinical Psychologist
The Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys flinging themselves from branch to branch, jumping around and chattering nonstop. What he meant by this analogy is that our minds are in constant motion. Typically, however, the chatter is not healthy, as it is principally made up of stress-producing thoughts. Fears, catastrophic “what-if” scenarios, to-do lists, resentments and self-doubts are what the monkeys love most.
If you recognise this mindset, you are all too aware that it is not a good place to be, as all the negativity affects our mood, causing us to feel stressed, unhappy, angry, unsettled, restless, confused and anxious. The “monkey mind” also affects our behaviour, making it difficult to concentrate and interact positively with others. It is, therefore, vital to learn to tame it in order to regain clarity, focus, motivation and direction. A calm mind also results in improved moods, reduces anxiety and restores overall wellbeing.
There are many ways you can tame the “monkey mind”, the trick is to find what works best for you. Begin by bringing your attention back to the present moment. You can do this by really focussing on where you are and what is around you, using all your senses to do so. Paying attention to your breathing also helps. Then listen to the chatter and decide what is causing it. Do you need to write things down, prioritise or confront irrational thoughts? Perhaps you need to let go of negative emotions or past events. The more you can distract the monkeys from their chatter, the easier it will be to return to a healthy mindset.
Remember it takes time to train a monkey, so keep practicing what you find helpful until the chatter is under control.
Dr. Olga Filippa Nel