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The Power and Challenge of Your Autopilot

health mindfulness mindset May 08, 2022

Autopilot is the opposite of mindfulness.  In fact a study by Duke University back in 2006 found that nearly half of all our behaviour is automatic.  This means you get triggered by an unconscious thought and off you go adopting a habitual behaviour.  Does this sound familiar?  So, autopilot is a state of mind disengaged from the present and stuck in the habits of the past.  Letting go of our automatic behaviour enables us to escape the pull of the past, and offers us a better chance of happiness.  We often reflect on how we felt or feel about past experiences and try to apply our conclusions to attain happier outcomes in the future.  The problem occurs when we repeat this process automatically, offering the same emotional reactions to similar situations, even though the outcome last time was far from ideal.

When on autopilot, the mind steals it reactions from the past.  We don' realise that when we are in auto-pilot mode that we have a much wider range of options that we haven't noticed yet.  By training ourselves to live more in the present moment and relate to ourselves and our experience with acceptance rather than judgement, the more we will become grounded and have more choices in how we respond.   

Dissolving the habitual responses of your emotional life will take practice, and, for the moment here are five ways to refresh your daily routine:

Step 1: Occasionally leave your mobile at home.  Whilst this may feel unsettling, notice how more aware of your surroundings you become.  Rediscover or discover what it feels like.

Step 2: Talk to a stranger.  Spend a few minutes having a chat with someone you meet.  It acts as a pattern break and guess what - you will realise that others may have something new or unexpected to offer.

Step 3: Do something new with your partner (or friends). Relationships get stuck in routines.  A novelty like this can jolt you out of your habits and reawaken your bond.

Step 4: Break a regular journey.  Stop en-route and explore a new area.  Walk around observantly.  Find something you can take from the experience that is new.  Maybe a lovely colour scheme of a house you can use for yours? I often do this!

Step 5: Do that big chore.  It's autopilot that makes us procrastinate, avoiding uncomfortable experiences for as long as possible. Don't let it hang over you.  And, when you do it, do it with your full positive intention and attention.

Let me know how you get on.

To your success...

Lindsey and all at Team NLP

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