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What You Need To Know About “Monkey Brain”

Written byDesiree Smith

Just like the ceaseless swinging of a monkey from branch to branch, our minds, too, can jump from one thought to another. This phenomenon is often referred to as "Monkey Brain" – a metaphorical description of how our minds can flit between different thoughts, emotions, and impulses, often leading to anxiety and stress. Understanding and managing the Monkey Brain is an essential part of mental health awareness and personal growth.

What Is Monkey Brain?

The term "Monkey Brain" is rooted in Buddhist teachings and describes a state where one's mind is restless, capricious, whimsical, and uncontrollable. It mirrors the erratic behavior of monkeys and their ceaseless movement, reflecting how our minds can whirl with ideas, concerns, and thoughts, often unbidden and unrelated. While a certain level of mental activity is healthy and normal, the Monkey Brain represents a state of excess, which can prove problematic.

How Does It Impact You?

At Home:

At home, the Monkey Brain can manifest as a constant state of distraction, impacting our ability to focus on tasks or maintain meaningful relationships. It can interfere with daily activities and tasks, lead to forgetfulness, and cause an inability to relax or unwind. A scattered mind can also affect our emotional well-being, causing feelings of overwhelm, stress, and even leading to insomnia.

In The Workplace:

In the workplace, the Monkey Brain can hamper productivity. Our minds may drift away from the task at hand to unrelated thoughts or worries, making it difficult to concentrate and complete tasks efficiently. It may also lead to difficulty in decision-making, problem-solving, and in maintaining professional relationships. Workplace stress can aggravate the Monkey Brain, creating a cycle that can be hard to break without intervention.

In Personal Relationships:

When it comes to personal relationships, the Monkey Brain can create challenges by hindering our ability to be present and engaged with our partners, friends, or family. We might find ourselves mentally preoccupied during conversations or unable to fully enjoy shared activities. This lack of presence can lead to misunderstandings, feelings of isolation, and strained relationships.

Taming the Monkey Brain

Though it can be challenging, it is possible to tame the Monkey Brain. Techniques such as mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be particularly effective in calming a restless mind, improving attention span, and reducing stress. Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet can also contribute to a more stable mental state.

Another helpful method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves working with a mental health professional to recognize and change patterns of negative thinking and behavior. Finally, ensuring adequate sleep can help maintain a calm and focused mind.

The Takeaway

Understanding and managing our Monkey Brain is an integral part of maintaining mental well-being and enhancing the quality of our lives. It's essential to remember that a wandering mind is natural – it's when these wanderings become excessive and disruptive that they can lead to issues. By employing strategies like mindfulness, regular physical activity, and CBT, we can learn to tame our Monkey Brain and find peace and productivity in our daily lives.


Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4), 482–500.

Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., van Dulmen, M. H., Segal, Z. V., Ma, S. H., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. (2007). Initial psychometric properties of the experiences questionnaire: Validation of a self-report measure of decentering. Behavior Therapy, 38(3), 234-246.

Hanley, A. W., Abell, N., Osborn, D. S., Roehrig, A. D., & Canto, A. I. (2016). Mind the Gaps: Are Conclusions About Mindfulness Entirely Conclusive?. Journal of Counseling & Development, 94(1), 103-113.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present, and future. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 10(2), 144-156.

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