When we say life on autopilot, it actually means that we are not aware or present in our life, our everyday life, relationships, work – we do things mechanically, routinely, sometimes as if we are just floating through life under stress or without motivation and without much enjoyment.
You do a hundred things during the day and you don’t even remember how and when you did them.
On the other hand, it is normal to do some things mechanically, routinely and out of habit, but often, unfortunately, little by little, the “routine” becomes our whole everyday life.
In that sense, Mindfulness practice can help many, first of all, because we are often unaware that we live on autopilot. Only when we dare to stop and slow down do we realize that we are not really present in what we call our lives.
We do things but we don’t do them consciously. We listen to others but we are mentally in another story somewhere else. We forget to enjoy the things that used to bring us joy. Life on autopilot can lead us to burnout, depression, and a life without meaning, purpose, and joy. Therefore, it is important to ask ourselves whether we are facing depression or we have just forgotten to stop and be present here and now.
How do we know if we live on autopilot?
You look forward to things less. Every day is more or less the same. There is nothing that gives you motivation, strength, and what you look forward to during the day, it seems as if you can just predict what each day will be like.
You are not very present in relationships. You may see others, hang out, but somehow you seem to wander mentally often in conversations with people or think about completely different things while you are in contact with them.
You eat unconsciously. Meals are mostly off your feet, fast, or with your phone and TV. If someone asks you what was the taste of what you ate, you are not even sure if you fully remember the taste.
You are often on the phone. You mechanically pick up the phone, scroll through social networks often without any purpose…
You know your life can be better. You crave more meaning, joy in life, and sincere motivation. You have the impression that you are trapped in “security” in many areas of your life and that you need to make some other choices and decisions.
How can we change life on autopilot?
By focusing more on non-ordinary daily activities that we perform mechanically. Find one activity that you will do consciously during the day – showering, brushing your teeth, consciously eating e.g. breakfast… focus your attention on this activity, and whenever you notice that your thoughts are wandering (and it will happen) return your attention back to the activity.
Start listening – when you talk to others, notice when you tend to wander off, and practice stopping yourself. Focus your attention back on the converstation and sometimes it is even better, to be honest, and say “I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to keep my focus while we are talking”. It is important to maintain a connection with others instead of passively nodding your head and thinking about totally different things.
Give yourself a chance to find again what inspires you, what awakens joy and motivation in you. Try new things, go to new streets on the way to work, meet new people or join a new course or program. Don’t give up on the better side of life, although at the beginning it will be difficult for you to motivate yourself to do so.
Practice Mindfulness and Self-compassion – these practices will teach you to stop, practice your focus and learn to recognize your needs and how to support and motivate yourself.