How I Stopped Living on Autopilot & Reclaimed a Healthy Lifestyle

Do you watch TV? A lot of it? I have noticed something curious happening the last few months regarding the amount of TV I watch. I never really kept track, but without a doubt like many people I would religiously gather in front of the television every night after work & watch at least one or two programs.

After that, I might drift off to do something else, but still the TV remained turned on most of the evening in my house, often times just as background noise which I’m not proud to admit.

That has slowly changed to the point where I’m seriously considering canceling my cable subscription because the TV rarely gets turned on anymore. 

Time Wasters & a Lack of Purpose & Direction

I now realize that watching so much TV, or spending countless hours scrolling through my social media feeds was a symptom of a lack of purpose & meaning in my life.

With a demanding job that consumes so many of my waking hours, the rest of my life was running on auto-pilot. After a long day the last thing I felt like doing was expending more energy; I just wanted to veg out in front of the TV & empty my head for a few hours before I had to be at work the next day. 

Challenging Myself

To be sure, we all have moments like this, but I didn’t realize just how pervasive & damaging this mindset could be in the long-run. I wasn’t challenging myself in any way & it felt that my mind was atrophying at times.

When I was alone with my thoughts, I didn’t quite know what to do; the inviting blue screen on my phone beckoning me to just give in to more mindless entertainment. & I did, for a long time. 

It wasn’t until I began writing regularly that I realized how little actual ‘living’ I was doing, choosing escapism night after night instead.

Escapism

The irony is that writing allows me to escape as well, but in a much more introspective manner that amplifies every feeling, which allows me to know myself on a much deeper level. The same cannot be said for the screens in my life.

Choosing to write, read a book or give a new recipe a try when I come home from work in the evenings is not always easy, but what I have found is that it is very much like exercising a muscle. The more I engage myself in a creative way even for just a few minutes, the more grounded & centered I feel. 

Raising the Bar & Expectations for Myself

I have raised the bar on what I expect for myself and whereas before I could easily spend a Saturday afternoon binge-watching TV, I now feel compelled to seek out activities that are more enriching to my mind & body.

It’s simply not enough anymore to ask myself what I want to do, but to instead ask why I want to do it. 

One surprising benefit to this approach is how it has carried over into other areas of my life. Doing something personally rewarding every evening has led me to make many more deliberate choices than I was before. I am now choosing to do things that align more closely with my values & goals rather than what feels good or choosing the default option because it’s what is easiest at the time.

It’s somewhat challenging at first to exercise those dormant muscles but the more thought I give to how I spend my time, the easier it becomes to choose a healthy lifestyle, each & every day.

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About The Author - Monica Lannom

Monica is a PhD candidate in Biology attending the University of Illinois.

She struggled with burnout after her first semester in graduate school when, like many people, she took on too many responsibilities while neglecting to practice self-care. However Monica was able to dramatically improve her outlook after incorporating writing & wellness practices into her daily routine. Monica now shares her insights into self-care on her blog & Twitter to encourage others on their own personal development & wellness journeys.