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7 Tips for Taming Your Monkey Mind and Becoming More Productive

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By Beth Passehl, MSJuly 25, 2017
From the WebMD Archives

Ever feel like you are in an energy slump and can’t get motivated or accomplish anything? Those times when you just cannot focus, no matter what?

You’re probably familiar with the usual slump-inducing culprits – lack of sleep, nutrition that doesn’t nourish, and not enough exercise, among others. But there’s also an underlying player that often goes undetected – it’s what we in yoga call “The Monkey Mind.”

The Monkey Mind refers to the frontal brain, where thoughts basically just spin around. It never stops – ever. Sometimes the thoughts are a bunch of nothing that lead nowhere. Other times, the spinning thoughts are random and take us in ridiculously unproductive directions. And then there are the thoughts that create a host of overwhelming emotions and may wake us at night. Bottom line – an untrained monkey mind does not let us focus. It steals our present moment and drains our best intentions and plans. Let’s face it – all of this is just plain exhausting.

We literally cannot stop thinking, and without something to focus on, our minds will take us all kinds of places we did not intend to go. This is where you come in. There are abundant and successful strategies to help tame those spinning thoughts – and a tame mind is a calm mind…which in turn boosts your energy. (Bye-bye, slump!)

Here are a few ideas to get that monkey under control. What the heck – give a few of these things a try!  Again, in yoga, we believe everything you do matters.

  • Smile. Yup – even that much helps. Not even kidding – there is science to back this up.
  • Roll a tennis ball under each foot for at least 1 minute. If you find a tender-ish spot, roll a bit longer in that area. Might as well breathe consciously while you are at it – see if you can inhale as you roll the ball forward and exhale as you roll the ball backward.
  • Go outside and walk for at least 5 minutes. And, for heaven’s sake – WITHOUT A HANDHELD DEVICE. Just focus on your breathing – see if you can take 5 breaths without losing your focus. The minute your mind starts to wander, just come right back and start counting over again until you get 5 breaths undistracted. When you have mastered 5, move up to 10 breaths, and so on.
  • Stand up and stretch your arms over your head. Keep your arms over your head and lift one foot off the ground. Balance as long as you can and switch sides. Oh yeah – and breathe deep, slow inhalations and faster exhalations while your foot is lifted.
  • Any type of forward-folding stretch is extraordinary for invigorating the brain. And, yes – still breathing – deep, slow inhale and quick exhales.
  • Twisting stretches are also good to refresh the spine (for folks with lower back issues, these should be done with extra care and instruction).
  • One of my favorite things to do is come down on all four’s – pick up your right leg and cross over the left foot. Keeping the right leg straight, turn and look to the left in order to see your right foot. This one is bound to mix up the monkey and help get your mind off of random things.

Take that, Monkey Mind!

Beth Passehl, MS, ERYT-200, RYT-500, YACEP, works on WebMD’s editorial staff and serves as the team’s resident expert in yoga and mindfulness. In addition to her Yoga Alliance certifications, Beth is a Level 1 Usui Reiki Practitioner. She has been teaching yoga for over 15 years and is passionate about creating a balanced life and sharing those lessons with others

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