Monkey Mind



I have had a lot of trouble sleeping the last couple of months, first I can’t seem to settle my mind and fall asleep and when I finally do fall asleep, I wake up 3 or 4 hours later wide awake mind racing again.

I found this article on the Caring Bridge Uplift Blog:

It’s been a long day and I’m tired. I get into bed ready for eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. As soon as my head hits the pillow my mind seems to come alive. And not just alive, but racing like I just had a triple shot of espresso. I begin rehashing the day, the year, my life. I go over the day’s interactions, reworking what I should have said or what I should have done. I worry about the stuff I have to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and…wait! I’m trying to get some sleep—remember?

A Mind That Doesn’t Quiet

If this happens to you too, you have a bad case of Monkey Mind. It’s when your mind jumps from thought to thought, and as much as you want it to stop, it just won’t settle. It seems to be worse at night, getting between you and a good night’s sleep. It’s frustrating because the harder you try to make it stop, the worse it seems.

A mind that doesn’t quiet comes from over-activating the fight or flight response in your body from stress, anxiety, and endless worry. And when you try to slow down at the end of the day, your body is still in overdrive—it just won’t turn off.

Tips to Calm Your Mind

If your mind is jumping around like a monkey from tree to tree, what can you do to calm it down? First, realize that resisting the racing mind only makes it worse. The more you let it frustrate you, the more it will race. So, start by letting go and accepting what is. The awareness that you’re distracted or stressed is a good starting place in calming yourself. Beyond self-awareness, here are a few things that might help:

Anchor yourself to something physical. For example, concentrate on how your head feels on the pillow, or focus on how the covers feel against your toes. Try to focus on the physical sensations for as long and as deeply as you can.

Pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing. This is also moving from the cerebral to the physical, but the pattern of your breathing is both hypnotic and relaxing.

Meditate. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal. You can just choose a word such as “calm” or “relax” and slowly repeat it in your mind.

Empty your mind. This one works really well for me. Think to yourself, “What’s my next thought?” Given the pressure to stop for a second and come up with an important and coherent thought, your mind will empty like a wastebasket on trash day. Try it and see how long you can keep your mind empty.

Get some help. A few sessions with an acupuncturist, an hour on the massage table, a yoga class, or a brisk walk with a sympathetic friend all are effective ways to relive stress and calm your jumpy mind.

About the Author:
Lynn Jaffee is a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture in the Park near Minneapolis, MN. Lynn is also the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health. For more articles on staying well, check out her blog at Acupuncture Health Insights.