Some Tips To Help You Unwind Your Busy Monkey Mind

Most people believe relaxing activities are only done in the evenings, and should be grouped in categories, scheduled, or put in an evening “routine,” as if it’s simply another item to check off your “to-do” list.

The good news? You don’t have to wait until the evening to unwind and relax. In fact, you shouldn’t. You deserve to feel grounded in your center and a sense of peace all day, not for just a few hours at the end of your day. You shouldn’t have to, and you absolutely do not have to and mustn’t do so. It is time to do away with the philosophy that it is only safe to entertain the idea of relaxation at the very end of your day, after spending the large majority of your waking hours walking through the day scattered, stressed, anxious, drained, ungrounded and thrown about. You deserve more, and there’s a way to get there. There is a way to unwind that busy, chaotic monkey mind which owns most of your waking hours and is not aligned with your true nature, or the place deep within where stillness and serenity reside. 

Understandably, this may seem quite impossible once you’ve trained your body and mind to operate in a “go, go, go” mode without any sense of stillness.

The thing is though, you don’t have to take time off or become a monk … you can rest in stillness while doing the same things you’re currently doing — and an added bonus to the already amazing benefit of not living a frantic life is that everything you do will be of higher quality. I think you’ll find that all other aspects of life outside of work (relationships, health, etc.) will dramatically improve as a result.

So, here are some tips for unwinding that busy “monkey mind” not only in the evenings, but throughout the day too:

  • Start your day with a “mental dump.” Write out all the things you need to do in a notebook. This relieves a lot of stress, and by getting it all down on paper, you typically realize most of it is just mind made and you really only need to make one or two things your priorities. There is zero reason to even stress about the rest.
  • Every so often, ideally once an hour if you can, set aside as little as 3-5 minute blocks of times for stillness and silence throughout your day. Meditate or go outside and sit in nature or take a walk (which, of course, are also forms of meditation). This will help you return to your core and stay more rooted throughout the day. 
  • Engage in creative activity or “play”: Do something purely for the pleasure of doing it, do it just for fun, with no end goal in mind. An aside: unstructured time for “play” (an activity done purely for fun rather than to gain something from it), is said to be crucial to your creative process. So, if you’re an artist of any type and you’re feeling “blocked,” just keep this in mind. You might just need some unstructured time to enjoy whatever you feel like enjoying at any given moment without having to justify it.
  • Almost all articles on anxiety and insomnia suggest putting away all electronic devices or turning them off completely for the night. Though many of us may find this difficult given our heavy reliance on technology, it is crucial to shut your devices off before bed as they can reduce melatonin production.

If you have difficulty shutting your phone off entirely, you could try a few other remedies including using blue light filters on your devices, avoiding news outlets or anything that will get a rise out of you, and avoiding violent movies and shows before bed. 

And if you read at night, there is one thing that has helped me immensely —only read fiction, or less stimulating material. Avoid books and magazines that make you want to be more productive, stimulate new ideas prompting your mind to do anything but unwind, and instead just enjoy some good old fiction. Although it’s important to read and educate ourselves, I’ve found that stimulating my brain with this content before bed can reduce my sleep quality. 

Meditation is, of course, the number one most suggested method for taming the monkey mind. However, sitting still for someone with a scattered brain can be difficult. One method to troubleshoot this and not feel like you have to discipline yourself to ‘meditate for 20 minutes straight in the lotus position’ is to just sit down, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. After all, you can do anything for 10 breaths, right?

The Takeaway

Whatever you do during your free time, savor the pleasure of the process rather than thinking of the end goal. In fact, who cares if you even reach the end goal? Who cares if you even have one? Let’s just go ahead and throw the whole idea of a goal in regards to this topic away … lest we wish to possibly defeat our purpose. 

What are your tips and life hacks for unwinding your monkey mind when it gets the best of you? 

Tai Chi Helps Breast Cancer Survivors Beat Insomnia, Depression

There are few things worse than lying awake in bed, staring at the clock, knowing your alarm is going to go off in a few hours, and you’re still wide awake. Insomnia can be a never-ending cycle of constantly worrying yourself awake, night after night. A lack of sleep can make anyone feel terrible, emotionally and physically, but it’s especially troublesome for breast cancer survivors. Tai chi, a noncompetitive martial art known for its health and relaxation benefits, may help those warriors get more rest, a study finds.

About 30% of breast cancer survivors who have insomnia also wrestle with depression, fatigue, and a greater risk of illness. Researchers from UCLA say tai chi promotes significant improvements in sleep health in breast cancer survivors struggling to get enough shut-eye. It’s so effective, the researchers write in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, that it rivals cognitive behavioral therapy – the “gold standard” of treatment – in that the benefits endure longer than a year. [1]

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the go-to insomnia treatment by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Much like it sounds, CBT involves learning how to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. It works, but it can get pricey; and it can sometimes be difficult to find professionals who are trained in the therapy method.

Tai chi is much more widely available, with libraries, churches, community centers, and other public venues offering free or low-cost classes. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can always look up instructional videos on YouTube.

Of course, there are also some pretty potent sleep aids on the market, but there are good reasons to avoid them: Some of them, including the popular drug Ambien, have been called “as risky as cigarettes,” because they increase the risk of cancer and sudden death so significantly.

Testing Tai Chi’s Impact on Sleeplessness

For the study, researchers recruited 90 breast cancer survivors, ranging in age from 42 to 83, who had insomnia three or more times a week, and who also suffered with depression and drowsiness in the daytime. Each volunteer was randomly assigned to weekly CBT or weekly tai chi instruction, for three months. [2]

The participants were evaluated at intervals for the next year to track their insomnia symptoms, as well as their symptoms of fatigue and depression, and to determine whether there was any improvement.

Fifteen months into the study, 46.7% of those in the tai chi group, and 43.7% of those in the CBT group continued to show robust, clinically significant improvement in their insomnia symptoms. [1]

Dr. Michael Irwin, the study’s lead author, said:

“Breast cancer survivors often don’t just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue and depression. And this intervention, tai chi, impacted all those outcomes in a similar way, with benefits that were as robust as the gold standard treatment for insomnia.” [1]

Many of the participants continued to practice tai chi after the study concluded – a reflection of the motivation Irwin says he’s observed in breast cancer survivors.

“They often are seeking health-promoting activities because they recognize that the mindfulness approach, or health-based lifestyle interventions, may actually protect them.” [2]

Read: Green Tea and Tai Chi Reduce Inflammation, Enhance Bone Health

In previous research, Irwin and his fellow researchers found that tai chi could help reduce inflammation in breast cancer survivors, and may even reduce the likelihood of the disease recurring. [2]

Sources:

[1] UCLA Health Services

[2] Newsmax


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