Have you heard of the ‘monkey mind’? Here are 5 scientifically-backed methods will help you calm your mind and quiet mental chatter.
Buddha believed that the human mind was filled with drunken monkeys – monkeys that would chatter, screech, and clamor for attention endlessly.
That was 2,500 years ago.
In the modern world, we’re now absolutely bombarded by information — from phone calls to 24-hour news cycles to highway billboards and social media posts.
With the information overload and our busy lives, is it any wonder that our mind constantly plays a soundtrack of anxious and intrusive thoughts?
While Buddha and his students used meditation as the main way to tame their monkey minds, there are other methods that have been scientifically proven to calm your mind and quiet mental chatter.
How Do You Stop Your Mind From Racing?
Before you address your mental chatter, you must first address any racing thoughts you experience.
Racing thoughts are the swift, cyclical thoughts often associated with states of panic and anxiety. If you suffer from racing thoughts regularly, it can be a real problem.
One of the best ways to tackle racing thoughts is to slow down and be present with them. Recognize that the mind is simply doing what it does best: thinking.
Pay attention to your thoughts, and if it helps, label the type of thoughts you’re having. Perhaps you’re planning for the future, worrying about tomorrow, or ruminating on a past event.
Label the thoughts as best you can. This can help soothe the racing thoughts as you give each idea space to breathe and settle.
How to Calm Your Mind and Quiet Mental Chatter
Here are five steps to calm your mind and quiet mental chatter:
#1: Watch your mental chatter
You don’t have to meditate to be mindful. A global leader in mindfulness training for clinical problems, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines the practice as “paying attention in a particular way, in the present moment and non-judgementally.”
Have you ever berated yourself over the worries that keep you up at night?
When we judge ourselves for having thoughts, we begin to obsess over them… but when you act as a witness to your own mental chatter — consciously bringing your attention to your thoughts without engaging — you naturally calm your mind.
By strengthening your non-judgemental awareness of your own mental patterns, you weaken any control your thoughts have over you.
#2: Consciously and deliberately create counter thoughts
Psychologists often teach this effective tool in Cognitive Behavioral Theory to help people with depression and anxiety. Knowing that humans have an innate negativity bias, with our mental chatter skewed to the negative, means that you can offset this by countering or reframing your thoughts.
Here are three ways you can quickly shift your thinking:
Test Reality: Ask yourself, What is the evidence for and against my thinking? Am I jumping to negative conclusions or interpretations?
Find The Positive: What’s the best part about this situation or person? Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the single aspect I don’t like?
Goal-Directed Thinking: Do these negative thoughts serve me? Do they get me closer to my goals and remove my fears… or do they keep me in the same place?
#3: Focus on slow and deep breaths
When you don’t have a meditation cushion nearby, you can always practice one of the most essential parts of mindfulness and meditation: breath.
First, close your eyes or soften your gaze. Next, bring your awareness to the sensation of breath entering your body through the inhale and leaving your body through exhale. Feel your breath go in and out of your nose or mouth, and the rise and fall of your chest. When your mind wanders, release any judgments you have with your exhale. Lastly, slowly come back to focus.
As our minds become agitated, our breath shallows and quickens. When we slow down our breathing, we bring our body and mind back to equilibrium.
#4: Play music that calms you and elevates you
If you want to calm your mind and quiet mental chatter, then music can be one of your most powerful sidekicks.
Researchers have wondered about the positive effects of music for centuries… and it turns out they were right about its healing and mood-elevating effects.
The Journal of Positive Psychology published a study in 2013 that certain kinds of music can improve mood, productivity, and happiness. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) writes that people can use music to manage stress, strengthen memory and ease pain.
Some examples of calming music include Vedic hymns, classical music, Gregorian chants, ambient sounds, electronic “chill” music, and Buddhist hymns.
#5: Engage in vigorous, rhythmic exercise
Lastly, exercise is a great way to get you out of your thoughts and into your body.
Exercises like jumping rope, swinging dumbells, and jumping jacks are effective even after just a few minutes. It’s well-recorded that physical activity releases mood-boosting hormones like endorphins, but there’s more to it than that.
The truth is, it’s a lot easier to indulge in your worries and anxieties when you’re not doing anything else. By exercising, you move from a state of stagnant negativity to a positive and healthy movement.
The next time you find yourself dwelling in your thoughts, try choosing any of these five methods to tame your monkey mind and quiet your mental chatter.
How Do You Clear Your Mind?
In addition to the above suggestions, you can also opt for any of the following:
- Talk to a friend or family member
- Read a book
- Write down your thoughts
- Go for a walk or a run
- Sing or dance