It is easy for your brain to go into “auto-pilot” within a frequent routine. We do not really need to focus on the task at hand, so the brain shuts off and our minds wander. This is normal, but can really hurt us if we don’t recognize it and work to change it.
I noticed this when I was driving to work this morning. Granted, I was really tired and I left my house at 5:30am, but I really felt my brain turning off. Because I was used to driving that route and my car was set at cruise control, I wasn’t putting 100% of my focus on the road. While I was still aware and alert, I noticed my mind start to go off on its own into thought patterns that weren’t necessarily healthy.
While this is especially hard at times when we are tired, these are the times when it is most important to work on your brain’s “auto-pilot” mode. Letting your mind think whatever it wants rather than being mindful and in the moment can harm your mental well-being. This allows us to start thinking negatively rather than being realistic with what is really going on around us. We start to worry and begin to have automatic negative thoughts that can simply be controlled once we recognize that our brain is in “auto-pilot.”
To get out of this mode, the best thing to do is to be aware of where you are and what is going on around you. Once you realize that your mind has wandered, you can begin to look around you and count 5 things you hear and 5 things you see. If this doesn’t work, you can come back to your breath as you would during meditation.
It is normal to get into auto-pilot, but make sure that you are not letting this get in the way of your mental state during your daily activities. Always bring your mind to the present, and remember that vast majority of what we worry about never ends up happening! Rather than wasting energy on thoughts that are not constructive or beneficial in anyway, enjoy life in the moment, every moment of the day.