Autopilot, no more!
I’m here to say that social peer pressure exists. It can be positively motivating in some cases but in my experience it mostly causes anxiety and disappointment. Do you relate? Do you agree that in the last few years “keeping up with the Jones’” became keeping up with the “Kardasians.” The bar keeps getting set higher and higher.
I didn’t realize it but I was maximizing my ability to accomplish tasks because I had automated almost every task in my life. I had built many small routines that put me and my family on autopilot and required little to no decision making. This is a helpful task for accomplishing a lot in a day but is best done in moderation like everything else. After a while of automation and fitting in more and more into our schedule, I started to detached emotionally. I can see now that I did this because the emotion slowed me down from completing all the tasks. This is not something I wanted to teach my four daughters.
Our modern society sets high and unrealistic expectations and has us cluttering our schedules. We are so busy trying to make sure we are doing everything right and that the kids have every opportunity that it feels like there is no time to breathe let alone enjoy the journey of life.
The pressure and anxiety leaves us needing coping skills to combat those emotions. Setting yourself to autopilot is a way of coping. I see how this feels helpful in deep, dark times to make it possible to keep going even when you don’t want to. But for the long haul it leaves us void of joy.
Here are three things that I did to stop living on autopilot.
1. Be intentional about seeking joy.
It takes more muscles to smile than it does to frown. So we have to work harder for the smile. It is easier to dwell on the negative, to frown, and to point out the bad things than it is to remember the joys of the day. This is why we need to be intentional about seeking joy! We are meant to be social and joy filled people!
Get a gratitude journal or notebook, or heck! a scrap sheet of paper and begin writing a little something down daily. Make a list of five different things you are thankful for each day. Document your joys of each day. I know, I thought it was a busy task that wouldn’t make much difference, but when I tried it, I was having a mindset shift only a couple weeks in.
What we focus on and give our attention to is what we attract. If you want more joy you have to be intentional about seeking it.
2. Be More Mindful
When you are on autopilot, moments are fleeting. They pass quickly and drag on at the same time... or at least it feels that way. Either way we are exhausted. Too exhausted to be even partially present with our family and friends. There are lots of mindfulness techniques. You will want to pick one that is right for you. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. It’s about looking into the eyes of your family and friends when you’re talking and being present with people you are with. It’s about taking a bite of food and really thinking about the flavors and savoring it.
Among other things, it’s also about understanding your own emotions deeper. I started out by slowing down and checking in with myself. I would ask myself, what emotion am I feeling right now and why. Then following up by asking how my body is dealing with the emotion. What I recognized was that most of my true emotions at that time were the same: apathy or anger; and my mind and body was exhausted trying to handle it.
Understanding your emotions deeper can be a hard box to open. I found that when I coupled being mindful with the gratitude practice that it provided me the balance and strength I needed.
3. Go Natural
I don’t mean your birthday suit! I mean start looking at the products you are using and weed out the toxic ones. Start looking at the food you eat and make it healthier.
I know, I can hear you. “Ila, what does the food I eat and the toothpaste I use have to do with living my life on autopilot?”
I didn’t realize this at first either. Everything we put on our skin, in the air, and in our food goes into our bodies. Our bodies are wonderfully and masterfully designed to heal themselves, when it is functioning properly. The more chemicals, toxins, and non-organic compounds we introduce to our systems the more backed up they get. This accumulates over years until your body starts breaking down because of it or all the free radicals start to join forces against us.
All of our body systems work together to sustain life and heal. When our physical system gets bogged down so does our mind and emotions. As our digestive system is taxed, our lymphatic system gets clogged, and hormones get out of balance. All of these things have an impact on our energy level and our emotional tolerance. We need energy and emotional resilience to sustain us as we turn of our autopilot settings.
For every natural food you eat and each natural product you use, you are reducing toxic exposure to your body. It's one less product or set of potential toxins your body has to process and you are reducing the negative impacts.
And for a bonus tip! Stay hydrated! Drinking enough water each day to stay well hydrated helps to flush out toxins from the body.
There you have it. Those are the three things I started doing that got me out of autopilot. I started claiming my joy and writing in my gratitude journal as a way to be intentional about joy. I paid attention and was mindful about my emotions and what my body was telling me. Finally, I’ve started slowly converting to natural products and food so that I will have the energy to be happy.