Caught in thought?

Hey Insiders! Welcome to the Well!

Have you ever gotten in your car, begun your drive, and then arrived at your destination with a gap in your memory? It’s like you were on autopilot, with no recollection of the journey. Whenever I hear people describe this, and when I experience it myself, a common reaction is to feel a little freaked out.

Here’s another thought – do you ever start doing something, like searching the internet or simply thinking about something, and lose touch with what’s going on around you? For instance, you might be lost in thought and bump into something, drop what you are holding, forget what you are doing, and so on. These are indications of our mind being divided between the world around us and whatever idea is vying for our mental energy. This is another example of being on autopilot.

caught in thought

“Why did I come to this room?” is a popular question that snaps us out of autopilot, because clearly it is not always effective to leave our body to handle worldly matters while we entertain idea guests in our brain.

It’s true that what you give attention to grows. When you are giving your thoughts attention, they grow. And they grow, and they grow… and when they are bigger, they need more energy and attention. It’s a vicious cycle, and it can disconnect you from reality.

I’ve dealt with this personally, and I’ve developed strategies that work for me to help combat the sometimes intense pull of my thoughts for attention. One of the most effective ways I have found to reconnect with my body is to do a few minutes of meditation each day. It can be as few as three or five minutes, or as long as you want. Each person has a different comfort level.

Once I started a regular meditation practice, it felt wonderful. I told myself, “If I ever get to a place where I think meditation won’t be useful, please remember that I’m lying to myself.” Seriously, it’s like I’m dissolving the hard buildup of anxiety inducing, depressing, or destructive thoughts from my brain. It also helps me recognize when I am beginning to engage in this sort of thought pattern. If you aren’t sure how to meditate, or want some encouragement, there’s a great app call Stop, Breathe & Think that I wrote about in a previous post.

Another strategy that I use is actively noticing what’s going on around me. I will take time to notice colors, smells, lighting, how I am feeling, what’s actually going on around me, and why I’m thinking about what I’m thinking.

Checking in with my breath is another way I can snap out of autopilot. If I am caught in a thought cycle, I tend to have shallow breathing which can physically create feelings of anxiety. Practicing breathing techniques can help you ground yourself and do your body a favor by giving it lots of delicious airtime.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, what you give attention to grows. So, if you are actively devoting time to noticing your surroundings, meditating, breathing, and connecting with your body, you will start doing these activities with ease. It can be challenging to make these changes at first, but they will definitely become easier and you will be grateful you spent some extra time taking care of yourself.

Do you ever feel like you’re trapped on autopilot in your brain? What have you done to reconnect with your body? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by the Well!

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