Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monkey Minds

The Arizona Republic on December 16 had an interesting article by Joelle Hadley titled: Amygdala Will Make Monkey Out Of You. Joelle describes monkey mind as “the inability to focus on a certain thought for very long. It’s been estimated that most humans have about 60,000-70,000 thoughts each day.”
She goes on to breakdown these thoughts:
40 percent are thoughts about the future.
30 percent are thoughts about the past. 

12 percent are thoughts of doubt and negativity.
13 percent are thoughts about our health. 

Only 5 percent of our time is spent on the present moment.
Joelle writes, “Our heads aren’t where they should be most of the time.”
At Leadersearch Executive Coaching Group we do team sessions and individual coaching centered around the neuroscience of the brain including using assessments like the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). This assessment identifies the dominant quadrants of the brain for each of us. This work really helps our clients take a serious look at their thinking patterns and the impact it has on their leadership and relationships. Not sure I would use Joelle’s Monkey Mind to describe the leaders we work with even if it is quite appropriate. When we are not present with the people we engage with it is obvious to them and negatively impacts the connection. The article goes on to explain: “Not being in the moment certainly affects how we communicate, how we listen and how we connect with others.”
The article suggests that, “We are in monkey mind 70 percent of the day, swinging back and forth from the future branch to the past branch… When we spend time in the past or future, we are usually dwelling on some type of unfairness or ruminating about a relationship or setback. This type of reflection engages a part of our brain called the amygdala ( uhmigd uhl uh), where our flight-or-fight survival response lives. The amygdala doesn’t know the difference between perception and reality: It will fire up and do its job whether something negative is actually happening in real time or is in the past. Unfortunately, when it does its job of protection, it uses precious fuel from our brain, draining up to 75 percent of our cognitive ability. Using only 25 percent of our complex thinking doesn’t make us show our best selves, to say the least. 

In our modern world, we engage our amygdala too often, which is also a health issue. Every time our amygdala engages, it releases cortisol. Cortisol is one of the biggest producers of heart plaque.”
With this it seems that we will lead not only more fruitful relationship lives but healthier ones as well when we increase the percentage of time we spent in the present. Joelle finishes her article writing, “When we stay in the present more than 5 percent, we use the best part of our brain, the neocortex. The neocortex is where perspective, rationale, creativity and problem-solving live. It’s where all the life lessons are stored. I like to call it the captain of our ship. 

But it needs fuel to work. In this case the gas for the brain is blood, oxygen and hormones. They will stay there fueling the best part of your brain as long as you don’t engage your amygdala. Remember that the amygdala is activated with any negative emotions, especially fear and anger. And those often live in our monkey mind of past, future and doubt. 

So make a commitment to be more present in your life. Paying attention is a valuable skill that impacts the quality of your life immensely.”