To become “self-aware” and to be “mindful” is both important and beneficial, but it’s something that one typically wouldn’t think of. Mindfulness is the ability to look within yourself and have a clear picture of your thoughts, passions, goals, values, etc. To be able to do this, however, is far more difficult than one might imagine. Being self-aware is more than just being aware; it’s to have a heightened sense of awareness. By having this heightened sense of awareness, you can interpret thoughts more clearly and determine why you may be feeling the way you are, discover the meaning behind your own emotions.
Once we are able to know these things about ourselves, we will be able to make the changes we need to make our lives better. Emotional intelligence, the capacity to express, control, and be aware of one’s emotions, is a key factor in self-awareness and an important part of mindfulness.
So why should someone aim for mindfulness? By being aware of yourself, you are taking control of your emotions and behaviors. Once self-awareness is routine, knowing which paths to take in life will almost feel like an instinct. When problems pop up, you will know how to react and how to respond, and will be able to prioritize and focus your attention. These skills enable us to make positive changes in our lives, for without them, it could be more difficult to correctly respond to big decisions in life. Practicing mindfulness to become self-aware is ultimately the first step towards discovering the best version of yourself. Self-awareness is key to creating and sustaining healthy relationships, whether they are romantic, friendships, family relationships, etc., being self-aware helps you understand other people and how they think/act. A self-aware person can empathize with other people more than people who are not self-aware, because, from experience, they can understand feelings and emotions better.
So being self-aware can be a very positive thing, but how can one achieve it? Well, this cannot be accomplished by reading a book. There is no manual, no instruction guide, as a lot of it comes from within. This is an internal process and may be different for everyone. There are some recommendations, however, such as focusing on the little details of your behavior and personality. Mindful self-awareness can be practiced by paying attention to yourself when you communicate with other people. Even the smallest things can help us determine who we are. Self-reflection is key because that’s the only way we can really learn about ourselves. When you experience a stressful or emotional situation, it’s important to stop and take it all in. You’re looking for the triggers in your emotions. What made you upset? Why is this stressful? What about this don’t you like? Once you practice this reflection enough, you will begin to see connections in feelings/triggers throughout your everyday life, and from that, you can embark on your self-improvement journey. Mindfulness training will strengthen your emotional self-awareness, and eventually, you will be able to avoid (or at least prepare for) your triggers because you’ll actually know what they are and how they present themselves. With mindfulness, you can monitor and pinpoint your emotions as soon as they arise, and use those feelings for improvement in the future.
In addition, to become self-aware through mindfulness, you should learn about your thoughts and be able to differentiate thinking from mindful thinking. There is a difference between mental dialogue and simply experiencing something. If someone sees a pretty piece of art, there is a difference between thinking, ‘this is a pretty piece of art,’ versus actually being mindful of the artwork: what makes it pretty? Why are you drawn to this piece of art and not the others? That way, you can actually determine why you enjoy that artwork, rather than simply determine that you enjoy it.
The positive impacts that self-awareness and mindfulness can have on your life is significant. In a 2016 study, the first one examining the impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness, found that mindfulness has a huge positive impact on leadership. Mindfulness improves physical and mental health, and generally improves overall well-being. It’s a simple practice that anyone can do and that everyone can be helped by. There are really no downsides to beginning this inner experiment with yourself, as only positive changes can come from understanding the way we act and think, and so much good can come from mindful self-awareness.
Art by Sarah de Surville