I used to be the poster child for Monkey Mind.
If you aren’t familiar with the expression, Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning unsettled, restless, inconstant, confused, indecisive, or uncontrollable.
My mind was always busy. Not busy doing useful things, but continually churning nonetheless.
I could go into a spin about anything:
Did I say something stupid in that meeting?
Is someone at school being mean to my daughter?
Was it my imagination or did the car engine sound funny
Ugh…I can’t afford a car repair bill right now.
Hours wasted every day ruminating as my monkey mind swung from one worry branch to another.
By the time evening rolled around, I was ready for a glass of wine or three to sedate the monkey. Of course, that had its own consequences, which gave the monkey fresh fodder to run wild with the next day.
It wasn’t sustainable. I had to figure out a way to keep the monkey from going nuts during the day so I didn’t have to escape it every night.
3 things, in particular, helped me get my monkey in check:
- I practiced defining whatever was bothering me in factual terms. No opinion. No drama. If I was upset because of an argument with my son, I broke it down to the exact phrases he said. I didn’t define it as “he yelled at me, and he hates me.”
- I looked at all the thoughts I was having about the facts. I reminded myself that these thoughts weren’t necessarily “the truth” and that I could keep them or replace them. Instead of “he hates me,” it was just as easy to believe that my son was frustrated that he couldn’t play video games when he wanted to. I just needed to redirect my brain to that explanation.
- I allowed myself to feel whatever I was feeling instead of trying to avoid it. If I felt sad because I thought my son was mad at me, I let myself feel sad. I didn’t keep feeding it with dramatic thoughts. I just acknowledged it and noticed what it felt like in my body. Paying attention to the physical sensations of a feeling allows it to pass more freely. While unpleasant, we’re built to feel this stuff; it’s not harmful.
If you have a monkey mind driving you to drink, give these tips a try and let me know how it goes. As ever, if you want some help, click here!