Brain habits: The Automatic Pilot

Brain habits: The Automatic Pilot

5 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

5 January 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

The previous blog was about the fact that what gives you attention is taking up more and more space. Today a sequel. What you often do, becomes more and more 'self-evident' over time. Our brains tend to do tasks that we repeat more and more 'automatically'. 

The auto-pilot

And that has many advantages. All day long, we do all sorts of things without having to think about it. It's nice that you can have a conversation while you're driving. Quite a difference with those first driving lessons, where deep focus and splashing armpits were needed to keep the car on the road. The good thing about the fact that after a while your brain seems to pick up tasks as if by itself, is that you are left with space for other things to focus on. 

A term that is used, especially in mindfulness, is 'the autopilot'. Just like in an airplane, your brain seems to have a way of functioning that ensures that almost everything happens by itself. 

When the auto-pilot works against you

Quite relaxing, such an autopilot. But regularly this also goes wrong. Our brains 'automate' our thinking, doing and feeling - and also negative patterns. Like for example:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself that keep popping up
  • Undesirable habits such as nail biting
  • Sitting on social media too often
  • Always experiencing certain negative feelings

The solution? A conscious consideration of your own autopilot. Which ways of reacting do you recognize for yourself that bother you? You can divide this into:

  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Behaviour
  • Attention

When you recognize a pattern, that's the first step. You are then aware of it, the most important part! Then it is about slowly changing, which means that you consciously choose different patterns. For example, you intend to be a little more active every day, and to stick to that. Or consciously train your attention with mindfulness, so that less attention goes to the pain. For the different categories you can find tips and exercises in past and future blogs!

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