Self-awareness and self-care

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and being aware of what is going on in the mind and body. It’s so easy to get lost in worries about the future, or stories from the past, or to mindlessly react to certain events in the same ways we’ve always done.


To achieve a life filled with meaning, you must figure out how to be more conscious; only then do you become the author of your own destiny.

- Deepak Chopra

Self-awareness helps us be the best person we can be by allowing us to become more actively aware of what we are thinking, saying and doing. It is about being in the present moment, being open to life to actively feel it and being able to see the unhelpful past stories that can translate all that we do and all that happens to us. As Deepak Chopra says,  ‘Awareness contains the power to transform your world.’

For example, you have a lot on your mind and you’re feeling stressed. Your partner does something that annoys you; it can be something as simple as putting a kitchen implement away in a different place than usual, but because you’re stressed you react unconsciously, snapping at your partner who then snaps back at you. It’s amazing how these insignificant incidents can then escalate.

The whole day is spent with you taking small swipes at each other and you both spend the day feeling slightly bothered. These sorts of interactions can then become habit and happen regularly for years and years until you just accept that this is how your relationship works. 

Awareness can help you in so many ways in this situation. Being aware of your own state of mind means that you can take action before you get too stressed rather than leaving it to a point where you begin to lose control. You begin to gain an understanding of your reactions with awareness and can stop yourself acting unconsciously in a way that is just going to cause more problems.

Awareness can also broaden your perspective and allow you to see the bigger picture, so that you can more easily see the futility of spending a day in mindless bickering. So instead of seeing your partner’s actions as thoughtless, stupid or purposely annoying, you are able to see that your own stress could be playing a part in your response too. You learn to take responsibility for your part in any given situation.

So often this type of negative or unhelpful thinking goes on in our minds and we don’t even realise it. We just assume we have no choice over our reactions but when we become aware of our thoughts and what is motivating them we are able to see far more clearly, and we can challenge the initial reaction and respond from a calmer, less ego-motivated place.

But how do we become more aware?

How can we become more aware?

Meditation is obviously a fantastic tool for developing self-awareness but that will be discussed in more detail in the next ingredient. Mindful check-ins are also a great way to start learning to observe yourself and increase your awareness on a regular basis, whilst a daily intention can help set your focus for the day.

Mindful check-ins

The check-ins are designed to help you start to notice what is happening in your mind when you leave it unattended and begin to see how much time you actually spend in the present moment. It involves noting down what you are doing, thinking and feeling on a regular basis. By setting alarms you can catch your mind off-guard and see where it has gone. Are you engaged with the task at hand or are you thinking about something else? If you are thinking about something else, is it creating an emotion in the body?

As you start to become more familiar with your mind and where it wanders off to you start to recognize which thoughts are helpful and based in the present moment reality and which thoughts are unhelpful and can be discarded. You start to recognise when the feeling should be taken seriously and when it is just your mind creating a scenario that isn’t actually happening. And more often than not you notice that if you are in the present moment, unless something dramatic is happening, your emotions are pretty calm and neutral.

You may find when you start doing your mindful check-ins that quite often you won’t notice a strong emotion or physical sensation. The more in sync we are with ourselves the more likely our emotions will be in sync with whatever our current situation is and if our current situation is neutral than our emotions will be too.

The best way to do a mindful check-in is to set an alarm on your phone, watch or clock. You can do this five to six times a day, or even every hour if you feel like this is achievable. There are also apps that you can download onto your device that will set off a mindfulness alarm (a Tibetan bowl or chime for example) such as MindBell (see the Mind Pantry for further information).

When the alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing and take three slow, deep breaths. Whilst you are breathing notice what was I doing when the alarm went off, what was I thinking and notice what am I feeling emotionally. Jot these down on your daily diet plan whenever possible. It’s really interesting to see at the end of the day how often you were actually engaged in the present moment and how often your mind had drifted off somewhere else. It can also be a good reminder that all thoughts and emotions are transient and come and go on a regular basis. 

Set an intention

Setting an intention for the day helps you to really focus on one area or goal in your life and move towards changing or achieving it. Intentions can vary widely from a general one such as ‘I will listen with my full attention to everyone I talk to today’ to a more specific one such as ‘I will not snap at my son today.’ We, at the Mind Diet, often set a daily or weekly intention such as ‘I will be kind’ or ‘I will stay focused.’ These types of intention really help you remain pointed in the right direction and when you are tempted to veer off course the intention can bring you back.

It’s good to put a bit of thought into your intention and make sure it really is something you are interested in and want to achieve. When you have a clear intention being able to return to it throughout the day really helps you to focus on what is important and helps you make decisions and choices based on this information. For example; your intention is ‘I will eat healthily today’, when a piece of cake is offered or the smell of your favourite burger drifts by you are able to revert to your intention and then make your decision.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London WC1X & Hove BN3
Written by Fran Roberts, BSc PGDip MBACP
London WC1X & Hove BN3

This is an excerpt from the book I wrote with my sister, Jo Roberts, on self-care and how to create a healthy mind.

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