How to Teach Your Monkey Brain to be Quiet

Monkey Brain. I don’t know where I first heard that phrase, but I envision a half dozen monkeys jumping up and down, swinging from tree to tree, and chattering and screaming at each other. 

Sometimes that is just what it feels like in my head. It gets very crowded and very noisy in there, with so much chatter that I cannot follow the thoughts.

  • I sit down to read and 15 minutes later, I realize that I’ve been reading the same paragraph over and over and have no idea what it’s about because my mind was going over a to-do list.
  • I’m driving and suddenly don’t know where I am because my mind was arguing the the driver who cut me off 5 miles back.
  • I walk into a room and cannot remember why I am there. My mind was off arguing with someone I heard make an irrational comment on the news.
  • I am writing an article about one topic but my head is thinking about a trip I want to take next year, dinner plans for tomorrow and the clutter on my desk.

The Monkey Brain Club

Monkeys can swing from tree to tree, effortlessly chattering away to their family. But my brain is not a tree. The monkeys (my thoughts) get in each other’s way and become agitated and their chatter makes no sense. I end up frustrated, with a headache and unable to focus or finish the task at hand.

The good news is that I am not the only one with monkey brain syndrome. Can you relate to three or more of these symptoms? (blog.brainpathways.net)

  • Rarely staying on-task longer than 10 minutes
  • Checking email, social media or texting more than 5 times an hour
  • Can’t remember what you did 30 minutes ago
  • Difficulty solving problems and making decisions
  • Jumping from one task to the next without finishing anything
  • Feeling pulled in too many directions
  • Not enough time to get things done
  • Making frequent mistakes
  • Nearly impossible to quiet your mind when it is time to go to sleep
  • Strained relationships with people you care about

If you answered yes, welcome to the Monkey Brain Club! It is not very exclusive, and we can drop to a low level member. There are ways to quiet the voices and get those monkeys to chill.

Learn The Quiet Monkey Brain Two Step

Anytime that I realize my monkey brain is active, I do this mental dance.

Step 1. I stop and OBSERVE. Where am I? What do I see? What do I hear? Bring out all of the senses and engage them in this moment.

Even though we believe our brain is going in a thousand directions at once, it is not. The brain is a magnificent processor, but it is a serial processor. One thought at a time. Those thoughts are capable of flashing through at unbelievable speeds and making connections in multitudes of directions. But it is still really only one thought at a time. 

If you consciously set that thought on the NOW, it will be there. It will follow you. Not a minute behind. Not a minute ahead.

You may need to close your eyes to shut out the visual stimulation (Please, not while driving!) and push a different part of your brain into activity. This conscious activity will put all of those monkeys to rest.

Step 2. Now take a few slow, deep breaths to refresh the oxygen in your brain, slow your heart rate and continue to slow the brain down to a more efficient processing pattern.

This works every time.

  • Standing in line at the grocery store. (They really did not close all the registers just to make me late for my next appointment. I had no business trying to squeeze this extra stop in at this point in my schedule.) 
  • Going to sleep at night. I am actually learning how to fall asleep without having to read for hours to calm my mind.
  • Driving in traffic. Maybe the guy who cut me off had a major emergency to get to. No harm. No foul.

I’ve been working at the Monkey Brain Two Step for a couple of years (while learning to limit my multi tasking). I try very hard to stay in the moment; think about the task at hand; be NOW. Sometimes the success is fleeting and the monkeys start up quickly. While observing, my brain may latch onto a snippet of conversation and swing away or the movement of a bird on the roof across the way will distract me, but if I swing back into the moment, the monkeys become quiet.

It really is like learning anything else. Practice. Practice. Practice. The Monkey Brain Two Step gets easier and easier to call up. I frequently stop in my day to experience the peace that this little dance brings. My blood pressure is lower. I sleep more soundly at night. I am a long way from professional dance competitions (long periods of meditation), but I am more peaceful knowing that I can quiet all of that chatter in my head.

Would you like to dance with me? I’ll let you lead.

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