June 3, 2016
Cultivating awareness is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Just like knowledge is power, knowing yourself—what motivates you, what stresses you out, what makes you afraid, what truly makes you happy—is the first step in the journey to living your best life possible.
So, great! But… how do you do that?
Here are four simple steps to getting to know yourself—and being conscious of what is actually going on inside the complex animal that you are!
Develop a Meditation/Mindfulness Practice
We live in a world full of distractions. From the internet, your smart phone, the tv blaring in the background… the volume knob on you daily life is set to eleven by default.
That’s why it is important to learn how to sit in silence and focus inward.
It sounds like a big job, but with a little practice, you’ll see the benefits in no time.
How to do it:
Find a quiet spot. Wear some comfortable clothes. Sit and close your eyes. Breathe deeply.
Now, sit with your thoughts. Observe them. Put space between them. Understand what they are, where they are going, and focus on recognizing that your thoughts are moving you to different places.
The more you practice this, the better you’ll get at it. You’ll begin to understand how your brain—and your thoughts— affect your body—and vice versa.
Humans are really good at making things up. Our brains fill in a lot of gaps that our memory leaves out. Which means, it’s hard to get an accurate view of what your actual habits are if you don’t write them down as they’re happening.
That’s why journaling is so important. It gives you a very accurate view of what your “normal” behaviors are.
This can take a number of forms. Food journaling is a great way to keep track of what you’re putting into your body. If you want to be healthy, it’s easy to forget that you binge-ate a box of Twinkies at 2 AM last night. In fact, your brain wants you to forget about it because otherwise you’ll feel guilty about it. It’s a cognitive dissonance issue.
So, keeping a food journal gives you both an accurate view of what you’re actually eating, and also holds you accountable to your own health, since whatever you eat you have to write down.
Exercise Journaling works in a similar way.
You can also just write down your thoughts. Knowing—and seeing—what you are thinking is a great way to get a gauge on who and where you are personally. Knowing your thoughts raises your consciousness, your awareness, and will positively impact your health.
How to do it:
Turn off your phone. Get a pad of paper or a blank journal. Schedule out a time each day to just sit for five minutes and write. Figure out a time where you know there will be no distractions. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to succeed. And don’t stress out about what you’re writing. Just get it down within the set timeframe and then move on with your day. You can look back later—hours, days, even weeks— and see what you’ve written. You’ll be surprised at how valuable this exercise is in raising your awareness.
You can go approximately one whole month without food before you die. You can survive for three whole days without water.
Without oxygen, however, you won’t last six minutes.
That’s how important air is.
So it makes sense that learning how to breathe correctly would be vitally important to both your health and your awareness.
Believe it or not, but you’re probably not breathing correctly. Most people breath with their faces, which results in a very shallow breath. Good breathing happens from the ground up.
How to do it:
Sit or stand with good posture, keeping your back straight and your feet flat against the floor. Exhale down into the floor, concentrating on fully emptying your lungs. When you take your next breath, push your feet into the floor as you inhale. Squeeze all the way up through your body, imagining that the breath is filling you completely. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Health doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It also doesn’t happen just by yourself. You need community, because community breeds accountability.
Goal setting is important for a few reasons. You’ll never get to where you want to be if you don’t know where that place is. Goal setting is also good because in the process of setting those goals, you’re also strategizing about how to get there.
How to do it:
Say your goals out loud. Write them down. Let others know what your goals are and ask them to hold you accountable to reaching them. Just getting a little air under your words makes a big difference. Set both short term and long term goals, and put realistic milestones between them. Make your goals attainable and measurable.
And then work each day to meet them!
I hope this post about how to cultivate awareness has opened your eyes a little to how important it is to understand what is going on inside of you. Meditation and yoga have been around for thousands of years for a reason. There’s something integral to who we are and how our bodies function that relates directly to our thoughts. Getting into the habit of tracking with what’s going on inside of yourself is key to living the life that you’ve always dreamed of.