Your mind is a powerful gift. It can also be a total pain in the rear.
How do I know this? Because my mind can be a huge pain, too. So is the mind of every client I’ve ever had.
And so is just about every single person’s- It’s one of our common human experiences.
But this is ok, because leading a happy and fulfilling life does not mean having a perfectly calm, peaceful mind.
It’s about whether you allow your “monkey mind” to run the show or whether you use your freedom of choice.
Your “monkey mind” is the constant, often unsettled thoughts that run through your mind on a daily basis.
“I have to schedule that hair appointment.” “Did I order school supplies yet?” “I have to check my phone notifications.” “What’s that weird smell in the pantry?”
Sound familiar? (Well- hopefully not that last one)
“Monkey mind” can also rear its ugly head with trouble letting things go or as overthinking a situation.
“I can’t believe I did that. I’ll never live it down. I’m so embarassed!” “What a jerk! How dare he say that to me. I’ll never forgive him for this.” “Things will not be okay unless they are perfect.” “I MUST do this or that.” or “What’s wrong with them/me?”
You see our mind is almost always playing ‘background music’ and this keeps us trapped in misery, anxiety, and distraction from actually accomplishing the things we want to do.
Our society today doesn’t help these matters at all.
Being ‘connected’ often means that we are constantly on call and bombarded with a steady stream of social media updates, real-time news and emails to return. We have access to virtually unlimited information and entertainment. Walk into any public place and you’ll see kids and adults alike on some sort of screen.
This is not how humans were designed to interact.
We are physical and social beings. Technology is a wonderful tool. But as with anything, too much of a good thing can become harmful.
Technology addiction is becoming an increasing problem.
Social media updates, phone notifications, and video games train our minds to have shorter attention spans. Technology raises dopamine levels, a ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter in the brain. This excessive ‘noise’ literally wires our brain to become addicted, more distracted and less resistant to the “monkey mind”.
Many people feel trapped by their anxiety or victims of their excessive thoughts or distractions.
You are not alone. And you are not a victim.
Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. In his masterpiece Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl teaches us:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way.
Frankl teaches us that as humans, we have the gifts of self-awareness and imagination and that we have the free will to use these gifts in any circumstance.
Your monkey mind does not have to be such a pain in the rear.
There are 3 simple shifts you can make.
1. Go on Airplane Mode
Setting limits on our technology is an important mental health habit. Going on ‘airplane mode’ simply means to designate some boundaries around when you will be on and offline. As we adults practice this life skill, it also models for our children what we should also be expecting- screen time limits. Modeling is the most powerful way we teach.
Set designated times of the day to ‘unplug’. Check and respond to emails in a couple of ‘batches’ rather than throughout the day. Turn social media notifications off or take them off of your phone. Use extensions like Chrome’s “newsfeed eradicator” to help you from falling into the trap of endless hours of reading social media updates.
2. Stop Believing Everything You Think
Anxious thoughts come with implied demands. Your mind says, “If you do as I say, I will shut up and leave you alone. I’ll stop giving you this thought, and then you’ll feel ok.”
This is a lie.
It might be an hour from now, or it might be five seconds from now. But it’s a guarantee, your mind WILL come up with something to bug you about. It will not leave you alone as it promised. So if you obey, your mind wins.
Become self-aware. Notice and realize the thought you’re having. Don’t try to stop them- that only makes them worse. Ask yourself “Is this true?” “Is this helpful?” “Is this what I want?”. Then make a choice based on what YOU want to do.
3. Focus on One Thing
If you feel like you stay busy all day and barely accomplish anything, chances are you’re focusing on too many things at once.
Multitasking is overrated, impossible for our brains to actually do and a huge time waster. There are certainly exceptions, but it often occurs because of procrastination or avoidance or because of poor decisiveness or boundary setting.
It’s perfectly fine to have a list of things to do or ‘big rocks’ for your day. But when it comes to the actual act of doing, you need to set aside time for doing just ONE thing at a time.
To train yourself in this new habit, write down the one thing you’d like to accomplish. For example “Finish folding the laundry”. Start with 20 or 30 minutes for the task at hand with no distractions. You’ll be amazed at the quantity of what can be accomplished when you focus on just one thing rather than 10.
Even though you can’t stop your monkey mind, practicing these three things will eventually lead to a decrease in anxiety and more of what you actually want.
If you do these things consistently, for a long enough period of time, you will see huge shifts in your life as your patterns change. Freedom from the “monkey mind” allows you to enjoy life more fully and live with greater intent.
In the words of Victor Frankl.
It’s this spiritual freedom, which cannot be taken away which makes life meaningful and purposeful.
One of the kindest things you can do for your family and for yourself is to practice presence.
And it is hands-down the best parenting tool I can suggest.
Change comes from action- not just insight.
What one thing can you do to set some boundaries around your ‘monkey mind’?
Write that down and commit to doing this with complete integrity. Keeping promises to ourselves is one of the best ways we can increase our self-confidence.
I believe in you!
The salvation of man is through love and in love. – Victor Frankl
Sending you love and peace of mind,
Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX. She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.