One of the most profound concepts I picked up last year was the “monkey mind”.
It is a Buddhist term coined over 2000 years ago but is still relevant today. The “monkey mind” came from the observation that our minds’ natural state is one that is unsettled, indecisive, and easily distracted. Buddha said that there are dozens of monkeys running around our heads — each one representing a negative feeling or thought.
A restless “monkey mind” leads to poor decisions, anxiety, and depression. We let the monkeys in our head take control more than we would like to admit. The goal however is not to to fight these monkeys. The goal is to tame them. Embracing this concept a prerequisite to a successful and happy life. We will never banish these monkeys. We can only learn how to keep them silent.
Here are the two ways I clear my monkey mind:
1) Morning Meditation
I spend the first minutes of my day getting in the right state of mind. I follow a very simple routine: Awareness. Appreciation. Action.
Close your eyes and take TEN really deep breaths. Hold each inhale for a second or two and slowly exhale. The goal is to get to a point where you are completely aware of your physical surroundings. You should be able to feel even the smallest of sensations — the cool of your AC, the softness of your bed, any body aches or pains you may have. At this stage, you should also almost internally hear your heart beating.
Mention THREE things you are grateful for and why. You have to hear yourself saying it so say it out loud. Trust me on this. It is way more powerful than just thinking it. The three things could be about anything. Personally, I mention something “shallow”, someone I love, and something about work. You must give a short reason why you’re thankful.
-I am thankful that I get to gym in the morning. Most people have to beat the traffic.
-I am thankful for my mother. She still watches over my grown up ass.
-I am thankful to be doing work I love. Most people are stuck in dead-end jobs.
Find something different to be thankful for everyday. You’re more #blessed than you realize.
Mention out loud again THREE things you need to achieve today whether it’s for work or for home. I know that you probably have dozens of things to do but just name the most important things. Be as specific as possible. I like visualizing myself actually doing the work and imagining the finished output. I find that it helps to have a picture in my head of what “success” will look like. Again, the key here is to hear yourself say it.
The whole exercise takes me 10-15 minutes only. It’s a small investment but the return on my productivity is huge. If you don’t have that much time to spare, you are horrible at managing your priorities.
Starting a journal is one of the most important things I’ve ever done for myself. I never used to understand why people did it until I saw the positive effects in my personal and professional life. Now it’s an integral part of my success. I keep two journals — one for daily entries and another for monthly “personal reports”.
I keep a flexible daily journal. I don’t follow a specific format or keep a certain topic. When I started, I journaled about something that happened during my day that I was thankful for. I wrote about anything, from winning a client pitch to getting to eat my favorite meal. Any sort of gratitude, whether big or small, should be welcome and celebrated in your life.
Recently, I started writing about things that made me anxious: work, paying the bills, the frailty of human existence. You know, normal things people worry about. I have found myself often paralyzed by these thoughts so I decided to “trap” them. By writing about my problems, I feel like I regain power over them. Having my fears and insecurities on paper really allows me to see them with more perspective. They aren’t as intimidating as I imagined in my mind.
And while my journal won’t solve these problems, creating a sense of control definitely will.
All About Mindfulness
You’re never going to rid yourself of negative feelings or thoughts and that’s okay. These things are part of being human. Your objective should be to control the negativity and tame the monkeys in your head.
Your mental health is similar to your physical health. You won’t see progress overnight. Clearing your monkey mind is something you will have to do every single day in order to see results. While there are many techniques, the best one is definitely the one that works for you. Personalizing the routine will make it easier for you to do it. Also, once you choose a routine you have to stick with it. Aim to be consistent with your actions.
Try out my routines and iterate as much as you want! I’m hoping this will spark your own journey towards clearing your own monkey mind. The mindfulness I’ve introduced in my day has allowed me to make better decisions and to usher in more productivity and happiness in my life.