Mindfulness and self-awareness. Rumination and introspection. Fixed mindset versus growth mindset.
With so many subsets in the wellness niche, the glossary of mental health can be a daunting thing to behold.
But it needn’t be.
In this article, we’ll cover two mental health topics — mindfulness and self-awareness — to gain a clearer understanding of the oft enigmatic realm of wellness and mental health.
These topics are often used interchangeably. In fact, mindfulness and self-awareness are so closely related you’d think that they’re one and the same. But when you look at them closely, you’ll notice slight differences between them, and eventually, you’ll be able to distinguish one from the other.
We’ll hold up a magnifying glass to both concepts in a moment. And by the end of this article, you’ll be well-versed on the differences between mindfulness and self-awareness so much so that highbrow wellness pundits will gawk at your expertise, kowtow to your mental health knowledge, and pull a “Wayne & Garth” by falling to their knees and pleading, We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!
Okay. So maybe we’re exaggerating just a tad.
Although this article won’t make you a certified mental health guru of Dalai Lama proportions, you’ll at least be able to tell the differences between mindfulness and self-awareness and use this knowledge to your wellness advantage.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
MINDFULNESS AND SELF-AWARENESS
Mindfulness is a quiet form of introspection where you acknowledge and accept your emotional state to achieve a temporary or constant state of inner calm.
In the same vein as mindfulness, self-awareness also entails looking inwardly. But a key difference is that self-awareness allows you to remain focused on what’s happening around you and impels you to detach yourself from emotions or thought patterns that cause you stress and anxiety.
So on the one hand, you’ve got internalized self-reflection with acceptance and without judgment (mindfulness). On the other hand, you’ve got external sensory input with objective observation, insight and desired outcome (self-awareness.)
We can tell from your furrowed brow that the difference between mindfulness and self-awareness isn’t all that clear to you yet.
But no worries!
We’re more than happy to get granular until your brow unfurls with clarity.
To better understand the concept of mindfulness, let’s break it down into three separate components.
The first is “awareness” (i.e., setting an intention to focus on the “self” without judgment.) The second is “equanimity” (i.e., maintaining a spirit of unconditional acceptance or surrender to what’s “arising within.”) And the third is “concentration” (i.e., an unwavering intention to keep the mind’s attention on the cultivation of awareness and equanimity.)
When you practice mindfulness, you set an intention to look inwardly and accept whatever it is you’re feeling at the moment. You acknowledge those feelings and let them pass through your mind without judgment.
Feeling crappy? Okay. Feel crappy. Just don’t be upset that you’re feeling crappy. Being upset about feeling crappy will make you feel crappier.
This practice of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness is what separates mindfulness from self-awareness. It can be a liberating process for anyone who’s struggling with negative feelings about themselves or depression in general.
What’s more, both mindfulness and self-awareness feature prominently in the practice of meditation because they nurture an understanding of the “self” from multiple perspectives.
During mindful meditation, visualization techniques are highly encouraged. They allow you to disconnect from your immediate environment and visualize yourself elsewhere.
Hopefully, this other place isn’t a strip club or a casino filled with ornery individuals, but rather a tranquil environment like a quiet beach or a peaceful dock at the lake.
Other mindfulness practices include mindful reading, mindful writing and mindful listening. Check them out!
Self-awareness is all about detaching.
When you practice self-awareness, you set an intention to observe your emotions “from a distance.” Think of it as an out-of-body experience where you can view your thoughts, feelings and emotions from an outsider’s perspective.
Consider why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Ask yourself, is your stress or anxiety grounded in reality? Is it something that you can control or is it beyond your control? Did your comments, interactions, or behaviors lead to unwanted outcomes or negative experiences? Are you aware of other people’s feelings, too?
To improve your mental health, it’s important to keep your thoughts from overtaking you. Don’t let every thought or emotion that crosses your mind feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. In case you haven’t heard, nothing is too serious, your world isn’t on the brink of crumbling, and the show must go on, dear reader.
The more you practice self-awareness, the more you’ll realize that you are not your thoughts and feelings. They just happen at random times — that’s all — and can be observed empirically without attaching yourself to them.
Some people are so caught up in their thoughts and emotions all the time that they forget what it means to watch themselves think without feeling overwhelmed.
Understanding your own mind will allow you to take a step back from things you usually react emotionally to, like reckless drivers cutting you off in heavy traffic or rude customers yelling at you at work.
By becoming more aware of your emotions and not letting them sweep you away with every little or big thing that happens, you can gain more space for creativity and innovation. Booyakasha!
But what you really want to strive for is a combination of both mindfulness and self-awareness practices that’ll help you slay the negative thoughts and emotions that keep you from living your best life.
This combination won’t only silence the inner saboteur that each of us has inside. It’ll kick the sh*t out them!
Now, find a quiet place, sit still, close your eyes and “be present.” Your mental health will thank you. 🥰
(P.S. For a deeper dive into the blissful and life-changing practices of mindfulness and self-awareness, I wholeheartedly recommend Mark Manson’s article, “The 3 Levels of Self-Awareness.”)