We all have two modes. Most of us spend half our lives on autopilot, surveys show over 49% of our lives are spent in this way. Doing things as we always do them, not concentrating but doing them automatically. Think back to the last time you made a cup of tea, do you even remember the process? Tasks like this, that we do repeatedly every day, are the sort of things we do without paying attention.
There are some things we do an autopilot that are beneficial. Locking the door as you leave the house, putting your handbrake on in the car when you park, blowing your tea to cool it down before you drink it. All of these actions protect us and keep us safe.
The problem with being on autopilot is when we do it too much and we don’t realise that we are doing it. Surveys show that people report being unhappy when they are in this state.
The reason for their unhappiness? Well, when we are acting without thinking about our actions we get less enjoyment from what we are doing. So if we are sitting in glorious sunshine with a glass of wine but we are not focused on this, and are instead planning our early morning the next day and worrying about how we will cope, this means we fail to enjoy the experience that we could be loving.
When we are not present in the moment we tend to plan the future, which can fuel anxiety, or ruminate on the past, which can promote thoughts of regret, guilt and worry.
Sometimes we need to plan and a period of reflection is necessary, justified and perhaps just what we need to do. Planning in itself does not make us unhappy, it’s when it takes over enjoyable experiences that our happiness suffers. Feeling the sun on our back is much more likely to make us have happy thoughts rather than going over and over our concerns and worries.
Training our brains means that we can become more aware of the mode that our brain is in. Is it on autopilot and far from our actions or is it present in the moment savouring the experience? The more we train the better able we are to switch between the two modes as and when it’s appropriate. We can make our tea on autopilot but enjoy the experience of drinking it fully. We can focus and make our plans for the next day and then go outside and feel the nourishment of the sun on our skin whilst we relax with a clear mind.
Finding our way through these states of mind can feel like a real challenge. Putting the time in to understanding how our mind is working can have a massive impact on our happiness and success in life. Come on a Revitalise Day to learn how you can train your brain to adapt and to be aware.