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SELF-AWARENESS - Need of the hour or just another trend?

Self-awareness is the latest buzzword. But do we question in what ways it impacts our well-being? Since ancient times, the path of self-awareness has been practised and preached by several masters across the world. Before we implement self-awareness into our lives, it’s fundamentally important that we learn the usefulness of self-awareness. The word ‘consciousness’ has a wide array of meanings. It is used synonymously with 'Inner-Self' and 'Self-awareness', in a more straightforward sense, it means 'the act of being awake' or 'a state of awareness'. The techniques and tools to become more aware of ourselves vary among different fields and societies. A few of these techniques that have gained popularity include journaling, meditation and mindfulness habits, introspection, self-observation and yoga. Self-awareness can also grow without us putting in too much effort and time, by simply reflecting on our feelings and behavior or getting opinions from others.

Researchers have proven that self-awareness is an important aspect of our personality and helps increase self-confidence, empathy, decision making, interpersonal relationships and shapes our all-round personality. Studies show that self-awareness is directly related to Emotional Intelligence (EQ). It is the first step of self-improvement and helps us make a 'conscious use of the self'. Self-awareness helps us to be more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.

We get a deeper understanding of our individual selves which also plays a role in contributing towards our interpersonal relationships. It helps us to efficiently react to situations and regulate our emotions. Self-awareness helps us understand ourselves better. Once that self-perception evolves, we tend not to adhere to what others think of us or define us to be. We create our own self-image, we know our strengths, understand our weaknesses and keep growing. Mindfulness helps to control the way we perceive and react to situations. This evolves us into becoming better human beings.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga are activities that are popularly recommended as means to become more focused and self-aware. But how does the practice of this form of exercise help?

Meditation is a practice wherein various methods and techniques are used to achieve a calm and stable state of mind. It also focuses on practising mindfulness habitually as means to becoming a more conscious and self-aware being. Contrary to popular belief, the aim of meditation isn’t to ignore thoughts and feelings but to learn to observe them and eventually start to understand them better. The goal, therefore, is self-introspection.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, when translated means ‘to unite’. In an interview conducted by NDTV in 2008, B K S Iyengar, a prominent yoga instructor said, “The youth needs more of yoga today, because their life is very fast and vibrant. So I want that vibrancy to be ever alert like a river which flows from the mountains to the sea.” Through regularly practising yoga, one learns how to focus on each part of the body that is actively used in a particular pose, diverting the mind from the external world to one’s internal self. Yoga is believed to be a form of exercise meant for the elderly, a bunch of poses and stretches meant for people who need a standard amount of physical exercise and are unable to do high intensity workouts. However, yoga has much more to offer than just flexibility and agility. Simultaneously, it also helps with enhancing mindfulness and developing a deeper connection with one’s own self.

Self-awareness tools are not just limited to yoga and meditation but are also adopted by various other disciplines. All forms of Psychotherapy have different methods to enhance awareness. Modern Psychotherapy uses psychoanalysis and talk therapy originated by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis employs free association to help people become aware of their thoughts and memories continuously emerging in a stream of consciousness. The current wave of cognitive therapies teaches secular versions of Buddhist mindfulness practices. Enhanced mindfulness helps people increasingly act in accordance with their values instead of reacting with escape and avoidance behaviors that typically make problems worse. To improve self-observation, clients are taught mindfulness exercises such as moving the body with awareness, watching their breath, and acknowledging experiences without filters or judgments. The clients are also asked to fill diary cards that keep a track of mood, thoughts, actions, emotions and behavioral responses to difficult situations. The diary approach is fundamental to early cognitive therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

In the fast-paced lives of the twenty-first century, there are limited resources and time for self-introspection and self-awareness. The impact of social media is such that we tend to value our virtual image more than we value our authentic selves. Young individuals today often overlook the necessity of self-awareness, keeping in mind that personality construction and identity-formation begin in the teenage years. It thus becomes necessary to inculcate activities that help us work on our social and emotional lives along with other aspects of well-being. Taking the time to self-reflect must be included as an activity in our day-to-day lives. Implementing any practice will require time and patience, but doing so will be highly beneficial. Habitual practice will result in a widened perspective, it will boost our self-image as we become more aware of our differences, values, strengths, and weaknesses.

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