Mental chatter is the inner voice that doesn’t stop – constantly racing from one thing to the next, struggling to focus on just one thing. Mental chatter, also known by Buddhists as the “Monkey Mind”, is normal – everyone thinks about multiple things throughout the day. Daydreaming about the future can be even be positive, as it helps us mentally prepare for what’s to come.
However, mental chatter (or brain chatter), more often has a negative impact, as excessive thoughts interrupt our focus, and make it hard to enjoy the present moment.
While it’s almost impossible to control all the random thoughts that enter our mind, there are several strategies that can help manage “overthinking” and the negative impact it can sometimes have on our lives.
8 things that can help you manage the mental chatter
A recent study from Harvard found that people are happiest when they are focussed on just one thing. However simply ‘willing’ our brains to stay focussed, without some external strategies, can be difficult.
Below are some ideas for controlling mental chatter:
- Write it down: writing a list of things on our mind, or things we need to do in the future, can help assure our mind that things are taken care of (or will be), so you can focus more on the present.
- Be mindful: There are many mindfulness strategies that can help you stay in the present moment. Simple techniques, such as focussing on the sights and sounds around you, can help develop your ability to focus and improve your memory, attention and concentration. It’s also important to ‘observe’ your thoughts, rather than engaging with each one. It’s not possible to stop thoughts from entering the mind, so just aim to acknowledge them as they come to you, but then turn your focus back to the present.
- Exercise: Exercise can help reduce brain chatter. Just one hour a week can have a range of benefits. Try doing a little to start with, then steadily build up.
- Do something you love: Doing something you enjoy means you are more likely to focus on that activity, and less on your thoughts. Try singing, art, or reading – divert your focus to something positive and interesting. Try to combine doing something you enjoy with personal contact through social networks, such as a book club or drawing class, for even more benefits.
- Catch up in person: Spending time with other people takes us out of our own head, and helps us focus on others. Have a coffee with a friend, or try reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Actively listening to others is the perfect distraction to getting stuck in your own thoughts.
- Cut back on social media: Social media has many pros and cons. However, constantly checking sites, and engaging with rapidly changing content can limit our ability to focus, and add to our mental chatter. Try to have set times during the day when you check social media platforms, rather than constantly accessing them through your phone.
- Help others: Volunteer your time doing something for others. This could be a group activity like cleaning up a local beach, or simply reaching out to help a mate. Not only does helping others distract from mental chatter, it also helps reduce stress and increase happiness.
- Talk it out: Often your best first step for changing any behaviour that is troubling you is to reach out for support. You can contact your local GP or a trusted friend, or call NQ Connect.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.