How to Calm the Monkeys in Your Mind

How to Calm the Monkeys in Your Mind

Image by _mequable from Pixabay

"The fruit of mindfulness practice is the realisation that peace and joy
are available within us and around us, right here and right now."

Thich Nhat Hanh - Buddhist Monk & Peace Activist

Have you ever stood at the zoo watching the monkey enclosure, the monkeys can be sitting quietly, then suddenly they leap from branch to branch, and their chattering is incessant. Welcome to what my mind is like! Some days it is calm and collected and then the chattering begins, what do I need to do, did I make that phone call, don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning…

Do you find yourself feeling the same way? In my search to discover a way of managing the monkeys, I came across mindfulness. At first, I thought there is no way I can sit still for 5 minutes let alone half an hour or more. But what I discovered is it isn’t about needing to sit still. What it is about is learning to focus my awareness on the present moment, and non-judgementally accepting any feelings or thoughts that come up. (Kabat-Zinn, 2009).

What I also didn’t realise is taking the time to focus my awareness could positively influence my physical well-being, boosting my immunity, reducing stress, and increasing energy. (American Psychological Association, 2019). But the benefits don’t stop there, it can also impact my positive emotions, helping increase my joy in life. (Brown and Ryan, 2003).

One really big tick for me on the growing list of positives is it can also assist in reducing the risk of early death. That unfocused mind of yours can lead to a loss of purpose, impacting your brain and body, don’t believe me, watch Richard J. Davidson’s TED Talk.

Image by Nawal Escape from Pixabay

If I’ve convinced you that it might be something that could help increase your well-being, here is a simple mindfulness technique, from Psych Central. It is one that will help to begin your practice and has one of my favourite foods, chocolate!

How to mindfully eat chocolate

  1. Select your chocolate – you don’t need a whole block just a few small squares.
  2. Pick a quiet space – where you can sit comfortably and not be disturbed.
  3. Relax your body – working slowly from head to toe, relax your muscles while breathing deeply.
  4. Using your sense of sight and smell take a close look at the chocolate, breathe deeply and take in its aroma.
  5. Now using your sense of taste and feeling – take note of how the chocolate feels, in your hand, and then on your tongue. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth savouring the taste.
  6. Take another bite of chocolate – repeating the process.
  7. Your mind may wander – gently bring your focus back to the chocolate.
  8. Continue to breathe deeply – focusing and thinking about the chocolate and what it felt like, its aroma, and its taste.

Once you have mastered this you may want to try more mindfulness techniques,  here are some free resources from Black Dog Institute and Positive Psychology that include information on mindfulness techniques, books, and apps. 

Happy chocolate savouring!

Sandie

Please Note: While mindfulness can be helpful for most people and their experience is one of relaxation, that is not always the case for everyone and it can cause discomfort for some individuals, and it may be an unpleasant experience. (Creswell, 2017). 

If you aren’t sure if mindfulness is right for you or if you experience any discomfort when practicing, please stop and consult with your doctor. 

References:

American Psychological Association (2019, October 30). Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation

Black Dog Institute. (2022). Mindfulness in Everyday Life Fact Sheet https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Mindfulness-in-everday-life-fact-sheet.pdf

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-848. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822

Creswell. (2017). Mindfulness Interventions. Annual Review of Psychology, 68(1), 491–516. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-042716-051139

Geissler, E.L. (2021, June, 25) Monkey, Animal, Sleep image. [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/monkey-animal-sleep-rest-tree-6363455/

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. Hachette UK.

Nash, S.L. (2022, May 9). How to Practice Mindfulness with Chocolate. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/practicing-mindfulness-with-chocolate

Nawalescape (2016, May, 6) Chocolate, Coconut, Dessert image. [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/chocolate-coconut-dessert-delicious-1370177/

Hanh, T.N. (2012) The Art of Mindfulness, Harper Collins

Nortje, A. (2020, June 5). How to Practice Mindfulness: 11 Practical Steps and Tips. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/how-to-practice-mindfulness/

TEDx Talks. (2019, December 13). How mindfulness changes the emotional life of our brains. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/7CBfCW67xT8

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