Self-awareness is the practice of truly understanding yourself, your own beliefs and the way you react to situations. It is the cornerstone of developing good, healthy habits, because only when you truly understand why you do something that you consider to be negative or a bad habit, can you acknowledge it and start to take control of it.
Some people may consider self-awareness to be a little self-indulgent, but it really isn’t. Being self-aware actually helps us to be kinder to others, react better to situations and generally be a better version of ourselves. It allows us to think clearer, improve our mood, communicate more effectively with our families, friends and colleagues, and even be more productive and achieve more.
Self-awareness is all about understanding what you are really feeling, and why you feel the way you feel in different situations. It helps you to understand and therefore predict when you might have a negative reaction to something and therefore plan a strategy to help to react in a more positive way.
Now, the whole navel-gazing thing can be uncomfortable, but, once you start to unpack your feelings, take a step back and look objectively at why something makes you feel a certain way, you can then start to challenge yourself to react differently. It’s really enlightening, and is absolutely a positive experience, because it is giving you back control.
How does self-awareness help with lifestyle change?
There are two elements to how self-awareness helps when we are trying to change our lifestyles. The first is knowing and understanding your real purpose, and the second is knowing and understanding your behaviours and reactions.
Understanding your purpose in life is absolutely pivotal in lifestyle change. If you are able to link every choice and decision you make to your purpose – whether that’s to be a good role model to your family, to lead and inspire others, to care for those less able, to be a teacher, or an artist, then you will ultimately be more successful. But the answers don’t come easy, working out your purpose, then linking it with the changes you want to make will take some self-analysis and thought.
Your purpose is your absolute reason for being but it means when there’s a job that needs doing that you really hate, as soon as you connect it to your reason for being, it makes it almost impossible not to complete the task.
Understanding your feelings and behaviours is crucial, particularly those feelings and behaviours that are linked with food and exercise. This might mean we need to look at those times when we participate in negative eating patterns, such as bingeing and try to identify what might trigger it, what we are feeling at that point in time, and how else we could improve those negative feelings. Only then will you be able to develop a strategy to tackle it.
It might not be a behaviour that is so damaging as bingeing, it could simply be the amount you pick and nibble, it could be the choices you make for lunch – but spending some time unpacking thoughts and feelings in whatever is stopping you from succeeding in changing your lifestyle will undoubtedly arm you with strategies to prevent it from recurring or occur less frequently.
How to develop self-awareness
- Move more – you might wonder why moving more will help us be more self-aware. If we are more present in our feelings when we move our body we become aware of how our body feels and how our emotions change when we move. This helps us to begin to understand what movement we enjoy, and which types of exercise help to resolve the physical and mental aches and pains we feel day to day.
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness requires you to acknowledge thoughts, feelings, reactions and behaviours and then let them go. You can start to do this, by trying a mindfulness practice. An easy way to start is to sit alone in a quiet room and focus on your breath. As thoughts and feelings as pass through your brain, you acknowledge them but let them go by refocusing back on the breath. This will help you to acknowledge how you feel and then let the feeling or thought go without it continuing into further negative thoughts and behaviours. With more practice you will do this in day to day life, identifying thoughts and feelings and letting them go, without taking you into a spiral negative thoughts and behaviours. Try Shoa’s Soul Sanctuary sessions to help you connect with your movement more and begin your journey to being more mindful.
- Ask for feedback – Asking people you trust for feedback on certain aspects of your life, whether that’s ideas for goals or plans, their view on your response to situations, or even feedback on how they see you can be brilliant for your self esteem and success. They will give you their view objectively, which should help you see yourself and your behaviours from a different perspective. Why not publish your thoughts on the forums, and ask for feedback?
- Identify your emotional kryptonite – work out what upsets you and causes you to behave irrationally, or what triggers a series of poor choices and decisions around eating. Is there anything you can do to change your reaction to these situations? Is there a better way of handling it? Is there a way to prevent these situations arising in the first place?
- Write down goals, plans and priorities – we say this so often, but writing a goal down improves your chances of achieving it no end. When we write things down, either in a diary or on a piece of paper, a chalk board or in the notes on our phone, we turn our thoughts into something tangible. It helps to focus our mind on what is important and what other hurdles we need to negotiate to achieve our priorities. We encourage you to do this as part of your Gameplan, to help you to really focus in on what you want to achieve, and how you will achieve it.
- Reflection and journaling – reflection and journaling is a great practice to get into. We are often required to do it in our professional lives – to reflect on what has or hasn’t gone well, what we could do differently next time and how we could improve. We encourage this practice too in your Gameplan, when we ask you to complete a weekly progress log – it’s no coincidence that those who do this regularly see the most success, as they learn so much about their journey and where they can make changes for the better.
How can you become more self- aware? Are there any of these practices that you can adopt that will help you to achieve your goals, and experience long-term success?
Do you already participate in these practices? Are there any others that you would like to share, doing so could really help someone else in the Be Strong community.