We have around 50,000 separate thoughts each day. Imagine each thought is a banana, and your conscious mind is a monkey, swinging from branch to branch eating one banana after the other— this is your monkey mind. Most of the time, these bananas are unripe and not sweet.

The monkey mind is the part of the brain that is most connected to the ego. It can persuade us that we can’t do anything right, stifle creativity, prevent us from following our passions, and distract us.

Ever catch yourself thinking, “Wow, that couldn’t have been more awkward,” “I can’t remember anything,” or “Why did I say that?”? Hmmm, probably not the most helpful thoughts. This monkey insists on being heard.

Here are some ways to make this monkey work for us rather than against us:

  • Meditate with Focused Attention (FA) or Open Monitoring (OM). FA focuses on one thing, usually the breath, to train attention. When your mind inevitably wanders, you bring it back to the breath, again and again. In OM, you watch your thoughts non-judgmentally, acknowledge them, and then let them go (cue Elsa).
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches you to recognize a negative thought process you tend to fall back on, and then consciously create a new thought more based in reality to replace it.
  • Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment, however cliche that may sound.
  • Color, count, recite, run, talk to a friend to distract yourself, and divert your thoughts to an activity, thought, or emotion that takes away the negative thought.
  • Stop being so self-absorbed! Kidding, but seriously, focusing on something or someone outside of yourself can certainly help.

Next time your monkey mind is swinging from branch to branch hungry for some bananas, remember all of the times your negative thoughts and fears have not actually materialized.