How To Turn Off Your Autopilot Brain
We’ve all had experiences when we’ve driven to work, or locked up the house at night without remembering exactly how we did it. Our brain is wired to minimize the “alert-ness” of routine events to free up our brain power for other things.
Researchers are now linking this to our ability to stop behavior we don’t want or to begin behaviors we do want. Repeating behaviors become our habits. Some of these work for our benefit, like meditation, working out or drinking water every day.
Other habits can do us harm or be undesirable like hitting the snooze button or snacking when we watch TV. When behaviors become addictions instead of a deliberate choice we can face debilitating effects both physically and emotionally.
How can we break or discontinue a habit that isn’t supporting what we want? It’s helpful to know how our brain works. Actions that are repeated are treated like those “automatic” functions. In non-tech terms, the brain saves the action as a unit of activity so we’re less and less “aware” when we take the action. Much like brushing your teeth or locking your car. You do it with little thought or awareness.
Because it’s a habit.
Stopping a habit requires specific awareness. The brain experts are working to figure out how we take those “units” that we don’t want anymore, like reaching for the chocolate or a smoke when we’re stressed, and erase them so they no longer occur in our automatic zone.
They haven’t figured out how to do it chemically, but there’s great support for incorporating a more mindfulness approach to your activities.
It’s like driving in a new city. You’re not on autopilot anymore. We pay attention to street signs and speed limits and watch for landmarks to help us remember. We can use mindfulness the same way. It’s not going to erase the habit memory track overnight.
Awareness is just part of the solution. The balance comes from being mindful about embracing change.
For me, I wanted more out of my life; actually, I expected more from myself. But I had to be willing to make the change. If you have reached this realization, here are 4 strategies you can do to ensure success when implementing a new habit.
- Fire up your desire. Your desire is what will drive your determination to do something different. You have to be tired of doing the same thing and making no head-way. To be frank, your years on this earth are limited, thereby limiting your timeline to succeed in making a change for a better outcome.
- Change your mind. After desiring to do something different, there has to be a mind-set change. When you think differently you will do things differently. To stay with your new mind-set, create post-it notes with affirmative action statements. These statements will encourage you to keep taking the correct steps to your determined goal.
- Consistency helps. Once your mind is set, make sure you stick with it for at least 30 days. I know we have all heard 21 days. I even have followed that format for many years and it worked for me. However, I came across some information on how the original story was altered as it went from person to person — a new story line evolved. How fast you adopt a new habit really depends on you as an individual. We all make changes at different rates. Some of us go kicking and screaming until it takes root. The main thing is to stick with it until that new action becomes a natural behavior.
- Do one thing at a time. Don’t try to change too many things at once. You may release your inner Saboteur if you do. You want this behavior to result in a positive change. So, select one thing that you have a strong desire to do differently. Stick with it until you don’t have to think about it to have it happen. For example: I was in my late twenty’s when I decided to stop smoking. I didn’t go around people who smoked, I didn’t do anything that would stir up the desire, I chewed a lot of gum and I affirmed positive statements. I intentionally set my mind on a different outcome.
Desire, changing the mind-set, consistency and doing one thing at a time are some of the strategies that helped me succeed in making that change toward a healthier lifestyle. Use those keys to help you too.