Here is an adapted version of a post I wrote over a year ago and it is an oldie but a goodie so I thought I’d bring it back into awareness. Enjoy!
There’s a funny print cartoon that has a man and woman sitting on the couch staring at a TV screen and the caption below reads, “It’s 12 O’clock, do you know where your mind is?” As time goes on and we grow up from children to adolescents to adults, for many of us, somewhere along the way life begins to become routine.
Day in and day out whether we’re walking, driving, talking, eating, going to the grocery store, or being with our families our minds get kicked onto auto-pilot and continue to develop their habitual ways of thinking, interpreting, expecting, and relating to other people. These habits of the mind can keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, or even addictive behaviors.
Here are a few habits of the mind and a mindfulness practice to help you break out of auto-pilot and gain more control over your life.
Common habits of the mind that are not effective for well-being:
Cultivating the ability to be more present to these mind traps will help you break free from them and shift your attention to more effective ways of interacting with life. If you notice catastrophizing, actually say to yourself “catastrophizing is happening right now,” then bring your attention to your breath for a moment to steady your mind and then ask yourself, “what are some other possible reasons why my heart is racing fast?” (e.g. , I just ran upstairs, I’m nervous)
If discounting the positive, come back to the breath, and then switch the “but” to an “and” so at least the positive statement gets its equal weight, being more realistic and balanced.
If blaming, call it out, say to yourself “blaming is happening.” Remind yourself that blaming simply isn’t effective for anyone and then come back to your breath to steady your mind and bring yourself back to the task you were just doing.
This is not an easy process, but it’s an important one for regaining control from the ineffective habits we develop in our minds. If we’re not mindful in our daily lives, our minds could just fall into their habitual states to the point we’re on our deathbeds asking “where did it all go?”
Just check in with yourself during the day, look at the clock and say, “It’s X O’clock, do I know where my mind is?” You may catch yourself in some mind traps and if not, just notice whatever you are doing in the moment and then continue if you still want to be doing that or change if you’d rather be doing something else.
Try to be patient through this process and not judge yourself if you find the mind traps arising. Judging yourself as bad or wrong is another mind trap that keeps you stuck. Breathe in, breathe out, and just redirect your focus.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Do you notice when you’re on auto-pilot? What kind of mind traps do you catch in your daily life, what works for you? Writing below helps create a living wisdom that we can all share and benefit from.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (July 21, 2010)
From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: July 23, 2010 | World of Psychology (July 23, 2010)
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From Psych Central's Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
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Last reviewed: 21 Jul 2010