When I see clients who have racing thoughts, or unwanted thoughts, I remember the children’s rhyme about the monkeys jumping on the bed.
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
So Momma called the doctor and the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
Those thoughts are like monkeys jumping upstairs in your mind. Your monkey mind is talking nonstop at you:
- What will I do about Greta at work?
- I can’t believe Rodney said that to me today..unbelievable…
- What if Jill doesn’t make the soccer team? She’ll be so upset and then what if she can’t get scholarships for college?
- That thing I did today was so stupid. I am so stupid! Why am I so stupid all the time?
Bounce bounce bounce. Those monkeys are making quite the ruckus. How can you quiet them so you can have some peace and quiet in your house?
Before they break something?
Maybe you’ve heard of the Buddhist term: monkey mind
Around 2,600 years ago Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, gave us the term “monkey mind.” He described the human mind as acting like it was full of drunken monkeys!
With all those monkeys screeching for attention, it’s hard to hold one clear thought.
Buddha wanted to help people understand themselves. Among the many benefits of understanding ourselves is quieting our monkey mind.
Unfortunately, there’s no getting rid of the monkeys. We have what’s known as a symbiotic relationship with our monkeys. It’s like peonies in the garden. Peonies are often covered with ants. If you pick off the ants however, the peonies die. The ants are unsightly but the peonies can’t bloom without them.
We have to learn to live with the monkeys jumping on the bed.
Your loud monkey mind can wreak havoc with your sense of peace
If only it weren’t so hard to ignore the loud monkeys in our mind. But it is hard. Just off the top of my head I know that a busy mind can result in:
- Feelings of depression
- A low mood
- Anxiety and anxious thoughts
- Insomnia! It’s like the monkeys are jumping on your actual bed
- Feeling sick in the pit of your stomach
- Racing heart and sweaty palms
- Here’s a full list of symptoms
The loudest monkey becomes the leader of the troop (official word for a group of monkeys).
Usually this monkey’s name is Fear. His best friends are worry, anxiety, and stress. They have loud bouncy demands and they will keep screeching until your nerves are frayed, you feel sick with stress, or just so anxious or blue you can’t get out of bed…
Until you notice and listen and work with them.
Unfortunately again, you can’t notice, listen, and then stuff a sock in their mouths. It just doesn’t work like that. You also can’t stuff earplugs in to sleep through the monkey parade.
Monkeys can only be silenced one way. Luckily managing your monkey mind isn’t rocket science. You probably already know how to do it, you just need some practice.
Silence your monkeys by interrupting them
To feel calmer, you need to separate yourself from the monkey chatter in your mind.
Remember the monkey momma who couldn’t stop her monkeys from jumping on the bed? Imagine if she’d run upstairs and announced “There’s cookies downstairs for a snack!”
Or, “Everybody in the car! We’re going to the beach today!”
Those monkeys would stop what they’re doing and run on downstairs to do something else, don’t you think?
There are other good activities too. I almost always recommend starting with deep, calming breaths.
- Do 1:2 breathing, which is when you exhale twice as long as you inhale, (count to 5 while you inhale and count to 10 as you exhale) OR
- Count backwards as you inhale and exhale (10 in and out, 9 in and out, etc.)
The counting gives your monkeys something to do while you breathe. Deep breaths automatically slow down your heart rate and lower your stress response.
Besides deep breathing, I’ve written about other practices that can immediately lower your stress:
- Conduct a monkey interview and give yourself a present
- Remember to HALT! Ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired
- Download this meditation
- If you scoffed at meditation, have a listen to this podcast. It might change your mind.
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
In the little nursery rhyme about the monkeys, do you know what the doctor says after they’ve all fallen off the bed and bonked their heads?
Put those monkeys back in bed!
If the monkeys can go down for a nap, your feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress will lessen. You may be able to take a nap and get some sleep yourself.