MEDITATION AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT TOOLS

Are Food Choices Causing Your Monkey Mind?

Do you have difficulty experiencing a calm, fully-present experience of life? When you try to meditate or stay in the moment, do you feel as if you are constantly pulled into the future, or do traumatic events from the past flood your brain? While this is fairly normal when you first attempt becoming more conscious, it is possible that the food and beverages you choose are over-stimulating your brain, making it nearly impossible to experience the peace inherent in the now moment.

In many traditions we’re taught about the Monkey Mind. You have around 50,000 thoughts each day, but if you’re like most people, your mind is like a monkey, swinging from tree to tree, unable to be composed, present, and still.

Many of those thoughts are redundant, pessimistic, scattered or chaotic. Instead of having a calm stream of thought that allows you to make decisions based on what is happening in the present moment you are stuck in a trap. You fret about the future and make anxious decisions about what “might” happen, or you react to the past. You are completely unable to respond to lie with creativity and conscious alignment with the divine Intelligence. You are simply too busy anticipating some future outcome or running from a past memory.

While some of that Monkey Mind is caused by stuck emotions that need to be consciously processed, it may also be your food choices contributing to your state of mind.

The following foods are known to cause brain impulses, and incite neurochemical reactions which can make staying present very difficult:

  • Sugar
  • Animal Products
  • Chocolate
  • Gluten
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Teas that contain caffeine
  • Energy Drinks

Without detoxing from these foods, you will likely find contemplation and meditation very difficult. There are many things you can do to calm the Monkey Mind, including taking deep breaths, taking long walks in nature, reconnecting to sensations in your body by watching your breath or observing physical experiences like tingling, heat, discomfort, etc. but when you eat over-stimulating foods they do a number on your brain.

For instance, without enough serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that helps to make us feel safe and happy in the present moment, and to turn off ruminating thoughts and excessive worry, you will likely struggle to feel calm and self-assured. Serotonin is deeply implicated in our sense of well-being, and responsible for a host of physiological process,[1] yet animal products, excessive caffeine, and alcohol, for example, have all been shown to interrupt serotonin creation and its circulation in our brains. [2] [3]

Moreover, around 95% of your serotonin is actually produced in your digestive tract. If it is chronically irritated and inflamed, then you won’t make as much serotonin as you need to feel present and calm. [4] Sugar, animal products, gluten, caffeine and alcohol, in particular, all lead to gut inflammation and alter the delicate microflora (healthy bacteria) that helps to create serotonin and other “happy hormones” like dopamine, GABA, and oxytocin. This is why the gut is often called the second brain as the gastrointestinal tract contains over 100 million neurons. [5]

Research has also shown that people who are addicted to caffeine are often low in catecholamines, a brain chemical that supports energy and altertness. [6]

Finally, all the happy hormones are made up of protein, so you need to be sure you get enough of it – but not from animal sources, as these contribute to acidity and inflammation in your body, which then causes your gut flora to change with the resulting neuronal changes that go with it.

Your brain is also 70% fat so eating healthy plant-based fat is also imperative.

By choosing foods that are high in healthy fatty acids (Omega 3s), amino acids, vitamins and minerals, you can counteract the Monkey Mind.

Some foods are even serotonin-rich, like:

  • Walnuts (and other nuts)
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Eggplants
  • Red Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapple

Plant-protein-rich foods include:

  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Broccoli

Omega-3 rich foods include:

  • Flax seeds
  • Chia
  • Hemp seeds
  • Coconut
  • Seaweed
  • Sea vegetables
  • Algae and algae oil
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Walnuts
  • Perilla oil

Try replacing as many of the over-stimulating foods that you can with vegetables, fruits, and the foods listed above, and you’ll find it easier to calm the Monkey Mind.

 

[1] SARI, Y. (2004). Serotonin receptors: from protein to physiological function and behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews28(6), 565-582. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.08.008

[2] Hepatic Involvement in the Effects of Alcohol on Brain Serotonin Synthesis. (1981). Alcohol and Alcoholism. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.alcalc.a044286

[3] Manier, D. H., Gillespie, D. D., Steranka, L. R., & Sulser, F. (1984). A pivotal role for serotonin (5HT) in the regulation of beta adrenoceptors by antidepressants: reversibility of the action of parachlorophenylalanine by 5-hydroxytroptophan. Experientia40(11), 1223-1226. doi:10.1007/bf01946651

[4] Eva Selhub MD. (2018, April 5). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

[5] Hadhazy, A. (2010, February 12). Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

[6] How To End Your Coffee Addiction. (2013, February 23). Retrieved from https://www.foodrenegade.com/how-to-end-your-coffee-addiction/

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