39 Ways for Becoming More Self Aware

Guy looking at his own reflection

The path toward understanding yourself and leading an authentic life is to become self aware. When you know and understand yourself, you know and understand the universe. It all begins with you.

In ordinary circumstances, your awareness (or attention) is completely preoccupied with “mind” activity and hence there is no room for any “self” awareness. Therefore, the first step toward self awareness is to become conscious of your awareness or attention. Once that happens, everything else follows automatically.

The following is a list of 37 powerful ways to step out of the “noisy” world of the mind and bring attention or awareness back to self.

1. Become aware of the sounds around you

Close your eyes and consciously listen to all the sounds you can hear around you. Look out for the most delicate sounds that can be heard and then listen for sounds that are even more subtle. The sound of vehicles, fan(s), the computer running, birds chirping, wind blowing, leaves rustling etc.

Realize that most of these sounds were always present but your brain was filtering them out. It is only when you bring your conscious attention to your hearing that you become aware of these sounds.

You will find that as you become aware of the “subtle” you also become aware of you as the awareness in which the listening or watching occurs. When there is no mind activity all that remains is “you” as pure awareness.

2. Become aware of your breathing

This is the most common practice used by the Zen monks to step out of the mind and increase awareness. Become one with each breath and be aware of yourself as the field of awareness in which the breathing takes place.

Feel the cool air caressing the tip of your nostrils as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out. You can also take it one step further and feel your lungs/belly expand/contract as you breathe.

Feel your lungs take in oxygen from this life energy we call (or label as) air. Also become aware of this life energy (air) that you are surrounded by.

3. Stay conscious of your body movements

A very effective means of becoming self aware is to become acutely conscious of your body movements. Don’t try to control your body, just let it move free while staying present enough to monitor it.

With time you will be able to notice subtle movements in your body that you were unaware of before. This practice indirectly helps improve your body language but that’s just a positive side effect.

4. Feel your heart beat

Place a hand on your heart and feel your heart beating. Realize that your heart has been beating since you were born supplying life energy to all parts of your body. And it beats on its own, no effort on your part is required.

With practice you will also be able to feel your heart beats even without placing your hand on your heart.

5. Un-clench and relax tension spots

Let your attention gently run through your entire body and see if there are any body parts that are clenched or under tension. Consciously un-clench and relax these parts by letting go.

Pay particular attention to your glutes, thighs, shoulders, forehead, nape and upper back as these are the areas where we generally hold on to tension.

Get into deeper and deeper states of relaxation as you let go this way.

6. Spend time in solitude

Sit with yourself alone without any distractions and monitor your thoughts.

Realize that you can create a space between your thoughts and your attention. Instead of being lost in your thoughts (which is our default mode), you can remove your attention from your thoughts and watch your thoughts as a detached observer.

7. Question everything

Make ‘WHY’ your favorite word. Question everything – the established norms/ideas, culture, religion, morality, society, education, media, your own thoughts/beliefs etc.

Even when your mind produces an answer, know that this answer is only temporary and will change as your awareness grows. Don’t hold onto answers.

Be fluid, keep questioning and stay curious.

8. Reignite your sense of wonder

Spend time simply wondering about everything life is. The vastness of the universe, the amazing way your body works, the beauty of nature, the sun, the stars, the trees, the birds, so on and so forth.

Look at everything from a perspective of a child whose mind has not been conditioned by rigid ideas picked up through education.

9. Become aware of your bodily sensations

If you feel hungry or thirsty, instead of immediately rushing to eat or drink, spend a few minutes consciously feeling what this feeling actually feels like. Simply stay present with the feeling (of hunger/thirst) without trying to understand it or interpret it.

Similarly, if you have a mild pain or ache in your body, spend some time consciously feeling this pain. Sometimes simply consciously feeling your body this way can help fasten the healing process.

Extend this to everything that you do. For example, when taking a shower, consciously feel the water against your skin, rub your hands together and be conscious of the sensations you feel, if you are holding something, consciously feel how it feels in your hand, so on and so forth.

10. Do some conscious chanting

Chant or Hum a mantra like OM (any which way you want) and feel the vibrations it creates in your body. Find out where you feel the vibrations (throat, face, head, chest, belly, shoulders etc.) as you chant OM in different ways.

11. Write down your thoughts

Take a journal or a piece of paper and write down what is on your mind. Read and reflect on what you have written. If you don’t have anything in your mind, try answering a few thought provoking questions like ‘what is life?’, ‘who am I?’ etc.

12. Use your imagination

“To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.” – Anatole France

Let your imagination run wild. Think out of the box. Think of different possibilities you would like life on earth to be like. Think of life on other planets. Travel the universe in your mind. The possibilities are endless when it comes to your imagination.

13. Understand your mind

Spend time understanding how your mind functions. Specifically the subconscious and conscious mind. Your conscious mind is the seat of your attention. And by becoming aware of your attention, you can start to objectively look at the ideas, beliefs and programs in your subconscious mind. You are no longer controlled by these unconscious programs.

14. Become conscious of your attention

In the true sense of the word “self awareness” means placing awareness on awareness. Placing your attention on attention itself. It’s difficult to describe how to do this but it just happens naturally when you become conscious of your “attention”. This is a deeply peaceful state to be in because it’s devoid of any external form.

15. Take a conscious walk

Be fully present as you are walking (preferably bare foot). Feel every step you take. Feel the soles of your feet touch the ground. Feel the muscles in your legs. Be aware of your legs moving your body ahead with every step.

16. Eat consciously

As you eat, feel the muscles in your mouth working to chew the food. Consciously feel how the food tastes. As you drink water, consciously feel the water quenching your thirst.

Also stay conscious of what and how much you consume throughout the day.

17. Stay aware of how food makes you feel

In the same vein, stay conscious of how what you eat makes you feel. After a meal, does your stomach feel light and healthy or does it feel heavy and bloated? Do you feel energetic or drained and jaded?

Doing this will help you identify foods that are right for you and help you make conscious eating choices.

18. Reflect on your dreams

Dreams for the most part reflect the state of your subconscious mind. So reflecting on dreams, helps you understand your mind better.

If you wake up in the middle of a dream, try to recollect what the dream was all about. Replay the dream in your mind and try to identify what was the reason for that dream. Looking at dreams this way is a good way to understand the unconscious beliefs in your subconscious mind.

19. Stay conscious of your self talk

Self talk reflects the state of your mind. If you catch yourself talking negatively, stop and reflect.

Analyse which unconscious belief in your subconscious mind is this negative talk originating from? Become conscious of these beliefs.

Once you shine the light of consciousness on these beliefs, they no longer control you on an unconscious level.

20. Consume media consciously

Do not believe everything that the media is trying to tell you. As mentioned earlier, question everything and look at the ideas presented from various perspectives instead of accepting them at face value.

21. Reflect on your past

Spend time consciously reflecting on your past as you can learn many valuable life lessons and grow in awareness this way. Find out if there are any patterns that are repeating in your life, reflect on your childhood, think of the kind of people you keep attracting, so on and so forth.

As you reflect, stay aware and detached so you do not let your past consume you.

22. Stay conscious of your beliefs

Realize that your beliefs are temporary and they will keep changing as you keep growing. If you reflect on your past, you will realize that your beliefs have changed over the years. You don’t believe in the same things you used to believe when you were young.

People who rigidly hold on to their conditioned beliefs stop growing. So don’t be rigid with your beliefs. Be fluid instead.

Also, do not take your beliefs to be yourself. How can something that is temporary be you? You are beyond your beliefs.

23. Stay conscious of your ego

Your ego is your sense of I – this includes your self image and your perception of the world. So getting rid of the ego is out of the question. But what you can do is stay conscious of it so your ego does not get the better of you.

Staying conscious of your ego simply means staying conscious of your thoughts, beliefs and actions.

24. Sleep consciously

As you go to sleep, relax your body, let go of thoughts and try to consciously feel as your body slowly drifts off into sleep. Enjoy this intoxicating feeling fully.

25. Un-label things

Labeling things makes them look ordinary. For example, you label the sun, moon and the stars and they no longer evoke the kind of wonder they are supposed to.

When you label something, your mind thinks that you know what it is and hence the sense of wonder is bound to leave. Of-course labeling is important as that is how we communicate but you have the freedom to look at things without the label.

So remove the label of ‘Sun’ and think of what it is. As you breathe in, remove the label of ‘Air’ or ‘Oxygen’ and see what it is you are breathing in. Remove the label of flower and look at it. Remove the label of your name and see who you are. Do this with everything.

26. Learn to look at things objectively and subjectively

When you look at things from a neutral or objective perspective, everything just is. There is no good or bad. Things are just happening. It’s your mind or your subjective reality that labels things as good or bad based on its conditioning.

Both perspectives are relevant. You cannot live completely objectively or completely subjectively. There needs to be a balance between the two and this balance comes when you learn to look at things from both these perspectives.

27. Have a deep conversation

If you know someone who might be interested in self awareness, invite them to have a deep conversation and if you don’t find anybody, which will most likely be the case, have a deep conversation with your own self.

28. Ponder about the universe

You are part of the universe and the universe is a part of you. As Rumi said, you are the entire ocean in a drop. So ponder about this universe and from it will come a lot of profound realizations.

29. Always be open to learning

If you believe that you know everything, become conscious of that belief and realize that there is no end to learning. The moment you think you know everything, learning stops and so does your journey toward self awareness.

Realize that self awareness is a never ending journey without a destination.

30. Look at things from a different perspective

People who are deeply unconscious always think using a one track mind. Don’t be that person. Make it a habit to look at things from various different perspectives. A good way to start doing this is by learning to think dialectically.

31. Feel your emotions

Realize that emotions are to your body what thoughts are to your mind.

Don’t interpret your feelings, don’t label them as good or bad. Just feel them consciously. Do this every time you feel any type of emotion be it anger, jealousy, fear, love or excitement.

32. Exercise consciously

When you exercise, be in your body. Consciously feel how your body feels. For example, if you are jogging, feel all the muscles in your body that are working to help you jog.

33. Practice focused meditation

Your attention is your awareness. On a default basis, your attention is mostly lost in your thoughts. When you consciously focus your attention during meditation, you become more conscious of it and develop better control over it. And having better control over your attention is akin to having a better control over your mind.

So make it a habit to practice focused meditation (where you keep refocusing your attention on your breath).

34. Become aware that everything is merely your perception

Realize that the whole world is merely your perception. The world exists within you. Your perception colors how you see the world. Change your perception and the world appears different. Again, this is about understanding objective and subjective realities that we discussed earlier.

35. Always try to simplify

The mind loves it when things sound complex, and believes that in the complex lies the truth. But the fact is that complex concepts and jargon only hide the truth. It is the mark of the incompetent to make a simple thing sound complex just to satisfy their ego.

Therefore, always try to simplify the complicated. Awareness lies in simplification.

36. Stay conscious of where you are focusing

Throughout the day at various intervals check on your attention and see where it is focused. Your attention is your energy and it is important you give your energy only to things that matter.

So whenever you find yourself focusing on things that don’t matter, (for example, on feelings of hate or negative thoughts), refocus it on things that you want to focus on.

37. Spend time being present in nature

Consciously experience nature with all your senses. Be fully present. Watch, listen, smell and feel consciously.

38. Do self inquiry

Ask yourself, who am I minus all my accumulated beliefs? When you strip down all the labels, your name, your beliefs, your ideas/ideologies, what remains?

39. Be okay with not knowing

Realize that in this lifetime, you will never know everything and that is perfectly fine. To stay in a state of not knowing is to be open to learning. When you think you know everything (which is what an unconscious ego likes to believe), the learning stops.

All these practices will seem like a lot of effort initially. This is because of the habitual tendency of your awareness to get mixed with “mind” activity. It’s like separating “awareness” from the “mind”, taking it away from its “pseudo” home to its true dwelling which is within itself.

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About the Author
Mukesh is the founder of Outofstress.com. He is a writer, author and meditation teacher. Having suffered from anxiety and depression for a good part of his adult life, he used meditation, attention training and self awareness to break free from these limiting mind patterns. You can learn more on his personal blog - ConsciousReset.com
About Outofstress
The aim of this site is to provide down to earth, thought provoking content to inspire higher thinking, infuse positive energy, expand consciousness and promote self awareness.
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