Awareness is a state of being that requires practice every day. True awareness takes in everything—the most insignificant interaction with someone you don’t know and the most important choice that you have to make in a given day are equally understood when you practice awareness. You might be wondering, “How can I be more aware and present?” There is no single answer, but you can start to build on your awareness using these five tips.
One of the easiest techniques to increase your awareness in life is to start consciously practicing gratitude. Throughout my day, I try to notice three things that I am grateful for and record them on my phone calendar. I find that writing down what I am grateful for helps me to center myself. It also helps me focus my energy on what is most important to me in my life. You can try journaling in the morning after you get up or at night before going to sleep, whichever helps you the most. Writing in complete sentences can help your thought process uncover different things that you might not have thought of otherwise. Try not to worry about “getting it right” or editing your thought process. However, you can also write out a simple list.
Meditation can help you be more aware. Meditation sessions can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, depending on your needs. When you first start meditating regularly, you will notice that it helps to calm your nervous anxiousness and reduces stress quite effectively. Mediation is also a gateway to help you manage overwhelm and anxiety. If you are looking for some guidance, I recommend Pema Chödrön’s book, How to Meditate. You can find it here.
It seems that with every year that passes, we become more and more caught up in our fast-paced world. We’re focused on work and family. We want to have it all. But sometimes simply slowing down and taking the time to notice things can put everything in perspective.
Life is a series of moments strung together. If we never make the effort to be present in these moments, it will pass us by before we realize it. If you are unable to spontaneously sense and track the rise and fall of your breath during any activity, you are probably “hurrying” vs. “going fast.” Hurry often leads to increased and unnecessary muscular tension, and over time, emotional worry and anxiety.
Be More Aware by Recognizing and Feeling Your Emotions
We all experience emotions, but for some, we might get so used to not feeling those emotions that we become numb to them. Most of the time, we have learned how to stuff our emotions down because, for whatever reason, the rules that govern our social lives don’t allow us to show them. When we habitually inhibit these emotions, a few things can happen. Science has very clearly identified this as the biology of emotion. Thinking a thought literally generates a series of tiny electrical impulses to a very special place in the brain called the Limbic System.
This system categorizes all emotional experiences as pleasant or unpleasant. It is a part of our early survival strategy. Inside the brain, a flood of neurochemicals is released, which immediately generates a feeling to be carried, via the limbic system, into action. This is a natural response for all humans. If the feeling is not permitted active expression, it must be channeled into some outlet by the nervous system. Often known as the mind-body connection, you might feel the unpleasant consequences like excessive jaw, neck and shoulder tension, slow, insidious development of a headache, or a flare-up of body pain, a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, and even induction into a vegetative state. The limbic system evaluates situations, thoughts, and conversations, and depending upon the level of threat, it can bypass rational processes when facing emotional decisions.
Just as the baby physically maturates into an adult body, so too does the emotional body of a human maturate. Known as emotional intelligence, it is the development of the prefrontal and frontal lobes, the area of the brain that is located behind the forehead and between your eyebrows. It is not until the age of 25 and with practical experiences that the frontal lobes are fully developed. Starting as very young children and lasting into young adulthood, we have experiences that help us learn how to pause, discern, and execute judgment with sound reason and emotional response that is not destructive to ourselves or others.
In order to stand and walk upright, the physical body requires the integration of reflexes, movement, and motivation. The same process is needed to be able to control impulsive desires, determine right from wrong, pay attention, and verbally communicate with respect and compassion. It takes a certain level of training and repetition to allow yourself to feel your emotions without inwardly or outwardly exploding or repressing. If you want to learn more about your limbic system and ways to improve your “pause and reason” response time, I recommend Daniel Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence. You can find it here.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Your body is constantly feeding you information. According to Bruce Lipton in his book, The Biology of Belief, we have nearly 400 billion bits of information/sec entering the brain, but most people who pay attention can consciously track around 40-60 bits of information/sec. If you want to be more aware for the purpose of sensing differences and having choices, a good place to start is by becoming aware of your own embodiment. How do you notice tension or pain? Can you recognize how you will react in a given situation, for instance, when you are frightened or when you must face a stressful situation? Learning to recognize the signals that your body is sending you and what they mean can give you a better understanding of your relationship with the rest of the world. More importantly, interpretation of your body’s signals can guide you to choices you never knew could be possible.
Carol is a physical therapist, a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory, a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence. Focus, Align, Teach and Inspire! These qualities not only describe her work, but they also describe her presence. She is passionate when it comes to reconnecting learning with human function and health. Carol is in private practice at MontgomerySomatics.com in Columbus, Indiana.