We are creatures of habit. Our habits are our homes. Much our our life is spent on autopilot. We have our morning routines and our bedtime routines. We are morning people or night owls. For babies and children, creating regular routines gives life a sense of predictability and comfort. Their bodies learn that when they put on pyjamas, brush their teeth, hear a story and get a kiss, it’s time to fall asleep. They slide down a predictable ramp into their dreams.
As we get older we create habits for ourselves to help us make the millions of transitions we make everyday. We transition from asleep to awake, from upstairs to downstairs, from home to work, from hungry to full, from happy to sad, from alone to with others, from one thought to the next, from morning to night. Our habits carry us through all these transitions, reminding us how we deal with each situation so we don’t have to think about it each time. Our habits that brought us comfort as babies sometimes fail to bring us comfort as we age. Our autopilots need to be readjusted constantly.
When our habitual thoughts and feelings take a wrong turn and we fall into a pit of habitual depression, anxiety or anger, we need to turn off our autopilots for a while and steer our own ships. This is not always so easy, because our autopilots kick in constantly bringing up habitual feelings in response to constantly changing circumstances. The feelings come along with habitual thoughts to justify their existence.
If you habitually worry, you have to ride your autopilot like a bull. Each time you feel the worry respond to your circumstance, acknowledge and examine the worry. Try not to get thrown by it. Compare your immediate concern to the great suffering of humanity and throw it on the pile. Take a breath, and see where the autopilot tries to take you next.
If your 3 am habit is to wake up with a fear of the day ahead, your body is in the habit of producing fear at that time. Check your autopilot and observe the thoughts that rush in to explain the fear. Its just a little more suffering for the pile. Breathe and watch the thoughts and feelings. Then rebuild that comforting ramp back into your dreams.