Having a chaotic mind is pretty well normal as far as the human experience is concerned. The Buddhist idea of the “monkey mind” is an apt illustration: you know, thoughts chattering and ricocheting all over the place, a jumble of internal noise that can feel deafening at times.
In addition, at times it adds to the stress and pressure that is undoubtedly fueling the uncontrollable thoughts in the first place; a vicious circle, where you end up feeling ratty and out of control, unhappy and distressed, with stress levels getting higher and higher.
However, there are things you can do about it, and just before you pull your hair out from frustration, here are five of them.
Meditation is an ancient practice spanning history and cultures around the globe. It is a tool to help one experience inner stillness. The goal is not to eliminate thoughts but rather to observe them and increase awareness.
A typical practice is to focus on the breath, and once the practitioner becomes aware that she has lost her attention, the idea is to gently, and without judgment, brings the awareness back to focus on the breath. That is it, in a nutshell.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation practiced in Buddhism, but you do not need to subscribe to any religious or philosophical belief system in order to practice it and gain the benefits.
Essentially, mindfulness is the art of staying in the present moment, without worrying about the future or obsessing over the past. Some aids to helping you stay centered in the present moment include focusing on the breath, the experience and sensation of breathing gently in and out, or using the five senses to keep you rooted in your present moment experience.
There are many breathing techniques you can learn to help you calm the chaotic mind. One is diaphragmatic breathing. When tensed and stressed you may have noticed that your breathing becomes shallow and situated in your upper chest: Your shoulders rise up when you breathe this way.
So consciously lowering your shoulders is a way to signal to your body that you would like to begin to relax…When the body is relaxed, the breathing slows and becomes deep and appears to be situated in the lower belly.
Think of a small baby breathing and how the belly rises up and out on the in breath and sinks on the out breath.
You can try this out by pretending on your in breath that you are inflating a balloon inside your tummy. Place your hands over your belly and feel it push them away from you as you breathe in.
Then as you breathe out, allow your hands to press all the air out of your belly as the balloon deflates. Notice what happens to your mind when you practice this breathing for a couple minutes.
Yoga is very helpful in calming the mind. In fact, one of the main aims of the stretching poses of yoga is to prepare the mind for meditation. Yoga uses rhythmic breathing in synchronization with each movement. This has the effect of slowing the mind down.
Studies have found that those who practice yoga regularly have higher levels of the hormone GABA in their bodies. People with low levels of GABA are more prone to depression and anxiety and the constantly whirling soup of negative thoughts associated with both of these disorders.
Some people picture a palace where they keep all the things they want to remember. They have different rooms for different topics and that way they know where to find what they are looking for when they need to remember facts or retrieve important information from their memory.
These are just some of the ways you can start to organize that crazy “monkey mind” of yours. Experiment and find out which ideas work best for you.