The Joy Of Learning About Yourself: 5 Ways To Become More Self-Aware
In 2021, we're focusing on joy. After the year we've had, cultivating and celebrating small moments of happiness as they come has never felt more cathartic, life-affirming, and essential to lasting well-being. In the coming weeks, we're going to laugh, experience new things, and revamp stale aspects of daily life. Come back each day for a new "Resolution Joy" installment, where you'll find inspiration and expert-backed advice, free classes, and—dare we say?—fun activities.
As a child, joy can seem limitless. But as we grow older, it's easy to become jaded. Many of us lose the sense of wonder and awe we once had for the world—particularly the ordinary moments. We become entrenched in work, distracted by technology, and over time, may even lose a sense of self.
Research has shown that a sense of self-awareness is a useful tool for combating psychological distress. A study in the European Journal of Psychology says, "The importance of self-awareness goes beyond well-being and mental health to include substantial impacts on day-to-day functioning."
Not only has it been shown to improve performance in daily tasks, despite stress, but it may even lower the risk of burnout. Think about it: The more self-aware you become, the more likely you are to take necessary breaks and tend to your needs in a way that's restorative.
"Self-awareness and mindfulness is associated with higher degrees of confidence, happiness, and overall wellness," licensed professional counselor Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD, LPC, BCN, tells mbg. "When you are more emotionally regulated, you have more mental space for creative and positive thinking and are more adaptable to the changes in life."
Bonus? The process of learning about yourself can actually be really fun. If the busyness or chaos of the world has disconnected you from your purpose and your joy, here are a few ways to reconnect:
1. Be still and listen.
Being still is the first step to becoming self-aware, and it may also be the hardest. "We often lead such busy lives that we don't slow down enough to connect with ourselves, but when we do, our body can tell us so much," Capanna-Hodge says.
Spend at least five minutes every day in your own thoughts, listening to your breath, and becoming aware of your body. "Being mindful of what comes through in those moments, and in our day-to-day life, helps us to be more grounded and connected with others," she explains.
If sitting still is difficult for you, consider movement meditation, sans technology. That means no audiobooks, podcasts, music, or phone calls—just you and nature. Journaling is another effective way to self-reflect (here: five mindfulness prompts to get started).
Whichever method you choose, be sure to let the thoughts pass through you without judgment or interference. Simply listen.
2. Take a personality test.
Whether it's the Enneagram, the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI), or a quiz on introversion versus extroversion, personality tests can be a fun and useful way to understand your inner workings. "Personality tests can provide insight into who you are and how you relate to others, your strengths and weaknesses, and what are your likes and dislikes," Capanna-Hodge says. "One of the best features of a personality test is how you best receive information, which can be valuable in personal and professional relationships."
Just try not to take the results too seriously. While personality tests can be useful guiding points, they can also lead to harmful stereotyping. "From home or work, stereotyping people, based on their race, culture, gender, or personality type, is inevitably going to lead to all sorts of terrible consequences," Enneagram practitioner Ryan Lui, M.A., previously told mbg.
3. Figure out your love language.
The five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch) were developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., as a way to describe how people give and receive love.
"We all may relate to most of these languages, but each of us has one that speaks to us the most," marriage and family therapist Sunny Motamedi, Psy.D., once said. Learning which one speaks to you most can nurture intimate relationships by helping a partner better understand your needs. While you're at it, find out what your apology language is, too.
4. Dig into your astrology sign.
Ever read about your horoscope and get lost? Perhaps you've memorized your star sign but haven't done a deeper dive on your rising sign, your astrological element, or what it all really means. This free birth chart is a good place to start, then you can determine what 2021 has in store for you, according to mbg's resident astrologers, the AstroTwins.
5. Consider therapy.
"Stopping unwanted, negative, and intrusive thoughts is a critical component of learning to love oneself. Our own inner voice is often our harshest critic, but we can learn to talk back and break that negative loop," Capanna-Hodge says.
That process may be harder for some than others, particularly those dealing with mental health issues. Finding a therapist to help you become more mindful, self-aware, and provide you with the tools to break negative patterns may be beneficial if other practices don't seem to be working, or you need extra support. "It takes time and practice to become more connected and self-aware," says Capanna-Hodge, "but anyone can achieve it."
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