Written by: Cally Worden
Being self-aware means consciously considering the way in which your thoughts, actions and beliefs affect you, and the world around you. It delivers many personal benefits, leading to general positivity and a natural tendency to bypass negative thought patterns. Yet developing self-awareness requires an active engagement with the inner self, an indulgence for which many of us feel we have little or no time.
We spend our lives in the here and now, wrestling daily routines into some kind of semi-reliable rhythm that occasionally works, and often doesn’t. Stepping back for a moment and taking the time to wonder why this is, can lead you to a heightened sense of self-awareness and release your mind to possibilities you never before considered. It’s worth a punt – you may be surprised how enlightening it can be. Try these daily self-awareness exercises and feel your mind expand.
The beauty of this exercise is in its speed. Several times throughout each day take a mental break for a few seconds or minutes and reflect on an interaction you have just had. Consider what you said and how you said it, and replay in your mind the way in which it was received by the other person. How did they respond, verbally, facially, with their body language? Become aware of the cause and effect of your interactions. Paying attention to your communications in this way improves your self-awareness in regular bursts, and helps to make it a habit.
Be Actively Mindful
Mindfulness is all about being aware of the self in a given moment. In the course of your day find a few quiet times to really experience your existence. When you are sipping your coffee focus on how it feels to hold the mug, the sensation the hot liquid entering your mouth, and the aromas that accompany it. We bumble along every day through a multitude of experiences we simply take for granted. Make yourself actively aware of a few, and you’ll begin to realise just how amazing your life is.
People watching can be great fun – observing others and how they relate to the world can help us to make sense of our own place in it. But often when we are engaged in this activity we are busy making judgements about the other people and the way they behave, imagining lives and consequences for them as a way making us feel better about ourselves. Try people watching from a totally objective viewpoint. Open your mind to the experience you are observing in another human being. Watch, don’t think. Then ask yourself – how does this make me feel? It can be very revealing, and will often trigger an inner understanding about your own experiences that has been previously lacking.
Forcing yourself to use your non-dominant hand to do everyday activities, like brushing hair, or lifting a cup takes considerable mental effort. It is a great way to remind yourself of the habitual nature of many of your daily physical actions. In fact, if you were to continue with switched hands for 4-8 weeks, your brain would probably form a new habit with your previously non-dominant hand. As an exercise in self-awareness this activity pushes your mind to a heightened state of alertness, allowing you to more easily become in tune with your inner self.
Let your Mind Wander
A powerful meditation technique is to allow your mind to wander along its own path, with you simply following and being consciously aware of the show without engaging with it. Paying attention without interacting helps the mind to concentrate on the practice of simply noticing stuff. It blocks the intervention of conscious thought and judgements on thought patterns, leaving space for the mind to remain open and aware.
Make Contacts that are Meaningful
When encountering others during the day we trot out a raft of predefined and well practised greetings and farewells. These tumble from our mouths without thought. So try something different for a day, and make every contact you make a meaningful one. Make yourself aware of how your body is positioned, and the words and gestures you use when you are interacting with another person. Note their reactions, and reflect on how your own behaviour may have influenced these.
In practising self-awareness you are moving towards a greater understanding of the person you are, and an awareness of the person you want to be. Self-awareness is a valuable self-development tool. Use it wisely, and enjoy the huge benefits it can deliver to your overall well being.