Being fit and healthy is one of the most valuable assets when it comes to surviving the modern world and the current health pandemic. There is no doubt that we have reached a point in our evolution, where accessibility, comfort, and wealth are more important than everything else. We all know that by prioritizing sleep, having a good relationship with nutrition, and incorporating activity in our lifestyle, we can maintain a healthy, strong, and resilient body.
But, did you know that there is one other aspect that combines all the rest into a pursuit of health? Awareness.
As you may have noticed, in my content, I do talk a lot about being aware of your body needs, learning how to read your body`s signals, etc… I even wrote a guide that can help you with that, called the awareness journal. But even though I have always preached being aware, I never actually wrote a specific piece about it. Therefore, I will dedicate this article to awareness and do my best to share with you, all my knowledge about it, and give you some tips, how to become more self-aware.
First things first, let's talk a bit about awareness and more specifically:
What do I mean by self-awareness?
I think the best way to approach it would be to give you an example. My grandma often complains of headaches. Thus, she tends to rely on the help of painkillers to help her, go through the day. I am not saying that pain killers are a bad thing ( as long as you are not addicted to them, of course) but sometimes they are used incorrectly to treat the symptoms and ignore the real reason.
In the case of my grandma, she believes that her headaches are caused by solar flairs. A massive eruption of solar plasma that is indeed found to be able to affect earth's radio communications. However, they are very less likely to be the cause of my grandma's regular headaches, and yet, she strongly believes in this theory.
She completely ignores the fact that she does consume coffee, often in the afternoon, which can affect her sleep. Because she is awake at night, she reads books using a very dimmed, yet artificial light, which substitute to sleep disturbance. She does not have regular meals, and she definitely does not watch the types of foods she takes. She lacks movement and if she is not cooking, she spends a lot of her day sitting, watching TV, or reading.
Unfortunately, this is an example of someone who is not very self-aware. Someone who does not acknowledge basic factors that can affect their quality of life, but rather blame the outcome on theories. What's more alarming, is the fact that instead of looking at the things that can be changed, the solution is painkillers that work for a certain period of time. Self-awareness is a tool that can be used to determine a disturbance in the regular rhythm which may have been the cause of your current symptoms.
Let’s look at food, for instance.
Just because everything is labeled as food, does not mean that it is going to benefit or nourish your body. Being self-aware means that we are constantly looking to improve the knowledge we have in terms of our body’s food preferences. And they are very individual. Gluten intolerance is a perfect example of that. It can cause gut issues, which can lead to poor muscles activation in this area, leading to a bad posture and low back pain.
A self-aware person will be able to notice the potential changes that can happen due to the consumption of gluten and therefore try to eliminate or minimize the consumption of it. A non-self-aware person would continue to eat the same way as before, treating the symptoms with pills, and not striving for improvement.
Becoming more self-aware can greatly improve the quality of your life.
Think about all the discomfort that can be avoided by just acknowledging facts. And I mean, not the discomfort that makes you grow, even though with the right approach it can be used as such. I am talking about the discomfort of pain and having to take pills or being drowsy and sick for a few days after eating the way your body is not supposed to.
All that can be easily prevented. Take a look at the example above. With a bit more self-awareness, you will acknowledge that your bloating and discomfort comes from eating gluten so you will change that.
Yes, you will endure the discomfort for few times, but once you find out that the root cause, that discomfort won’t ever be here again.
Self-awareness can greatly improve the quality of our lives. It won’t hurt if applied more frequently. It can lead to less usage of medicines, more productivity, more energy, less pain, and can ultimately lead us to a happier lifestyle.
Self-awareness is the tool that can make lifestyle changes easier and more sustainable.
We all know that prioritizing quality food is among the best things we can do to benefit our body, but oftentimes, changes in our diet habits are perceived as restrictions and associated with forbidden fruits. Using awareness can help us truly see the reason behind listening and benefiting our bodies. It can help switch the focus from: ‘’No, I can’t have that, because I am not supposed to’’ to ‘’No, I do not want it, because it won’t benefit me in any way’’ Kind of like the concept of self-love vs self-hate.
How to get more self-aware?
Of course, it is not an easy thing to do. Like everything else, self-awareness is a skill, and just like every other skill, it has to be practiced in order to be perfected.
Do you know how the learning process works? There are 4 stages.
At first, you are not even aware that you do not know a certain skill.
Then you become aware that you do not know that skill.
You get how the skill works and you practice it, but you are not yet a master of it.
The skill is part of your default programs and you do have to think about practicing. It comes naturally.
Here, I am going to give you 3 tips for remembering to implement the skill, practice it, and eventually master it.
1. Start looking for a reason.
Avoid blaming the universe or the sun for your headaches. Start looking for a logical reason for the way you feel. The way your body feels and performs is a reflection of the way you treat your body. If something is wrong, there should be a reason behind it. Especially if it is a chronic condition and is usually treated by pills that must be taken on a regular basis. Looking for the reason may involve you in more research about how your body works or how certain stuff affects it. It can spark your interest and may result even in questioning doctors’ opinions. That is good. Not because you should not trust doctors, but rather because you want more information and knowledge. What better way to know how to treat a machine, than knowing how it works.
2. Feel and acknowledge
It is strongly related to the last point, but what it is essentially is to pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to sleep, mood, pain, energy, stress, and how those factors fluctuate in response to your daily habits.
It takes a bit of time and dedication, but it is, hands down one of the best tools you can think of when it comes to gaining self-awareness in regards to food.
Take at least two weeks to record your food intake. Not the quantity. The type of foods you eat. At the end of the day, on a piece of paper, or whatever you like, write down what, and when did you eat that day. Take some time to write down how was your sleep, energy, mood, pain, stress levels. Approach it as taking notes about yourself.
For the first two weeks, the only thing you have to do is nothing but record this data.
After two weeks, you can take a look at the Free Healthy Eating Guide and try to follow it. If not, just try to eliminate the processed, packaged, full of preservatives foods. Or just make sure you cook your food, and you are getting enough healthy proteins, fats, and fibers.
Keep tracking the way you feel. Then at the end of those 4 weeks, you can come back and assess the data.
This exercise is great, because:
You will be more cautious about acknowledging and looking for the way your body feels.
You will have written proof of how food affects those 5 very important factors of quality of life.
I have created something called the awareness journal. It is nothing, but a spreadsheet, which can save you some time and effort. Or can at least serve you as an example for creating your own.
3. Strive for self-improvement.
Everybody wants to be better. Everyone wants to be more productive, have more energy, and have better health. Try to improve your current lifestyle. Pick one aspect and try to get better at it. Can be sleep, can be the way you eat, can be activity levels, whatever. You will be surprised how many people, don’t even realize that food can affect their lifestyle, or even if they know, they do nothing about it. As I said, it is totally up to you to get better at whatever you want to be. Strive for it. Learn new stuff. Improve. And enjoy life.
Self-awareness is a great tool in our arsenal for fighting obesity, diabetes, and modern diseases. It is a great way to improve the overall quality of life and health. It is not an easy skill to acquire either. It takes time and dedication. However, with the right approach, consistency, and just a hint of willpower, self-awareness can be a powerful tool that serves us forever.
If you liked this blog, check out Episode 7 of Fit Life Radio, to get even more insights into how awareness works and how to implement it in your life.