Have you ever spaced off and not sure where time went, but were able to complete the task? I know for myself, I do this eating. I have a plate of food in front of me but don’t remember the actual process of enjoying my meal. This can even happen during tasks at work, home, driving, and so many other daily tasks. If you answered yes, you are not alone.
This is called being on autopilot. We are able to carry out tasks and activities without being in conscious thought. This can cause us to feel like we are just going through the motions or feel like a robot at times. Having these types of feelings can increase anxiety and depression because were are not able to have purpose and meaning to our lives, even as simple as remembering our food.
There are ways to get off of autopilot. One activity includes thinking about and asking questions during the task. I go back to my example of eating. When I eat my food now, I will ask myself questions. Is the food hot? What does it feel like when I chew it? How does it feel when it hits my stomach? Being able to answer these questions in the moment helps to bring awareness to the activity. I am going to validate that it may seem odd but the more that you practice, the easier being mindful becomes.
Another tool is doing meditation or trying the body scan. During these practices, your mind might wander off and that is okay. It is about being able to notice when it does, validating yourself, and bringing your thought back to the present moment. Practice can help make the process easier, you might find that your mind still wanders which leads to autopilot but remind yourself how to recognize it. The more that you are able to recognize when it is occurring, you will be able to implement ways of decreasing it.
The main goal in these tips and tricks comes down to being more mindful about what we are doing. Living in the present moment. Our mind is a fascinating tool, it can take us in the past and in the future. While it is good to learn from the past to be able to grow from it and plan for the future, if we let our thoughts sit there it can also increase anxiety and depression.
My last thought is to encourage you to find your purpose and meaning. We often live the day on autopilot to get through the day and try to feel accomplished by getting task done. We also need to remember to breath and enjoy life.
Written by Tanager Place Clinic Therapist Holly Miller, LMHC