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Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

Whether your life is motoring along beautifully or you feel like you’re hitting one pot hole after another with constant grief and hardship, there are things you can do to have a better life. One of the things I think we’re seeing more and more is moving away from a desire for material riches, and a desire for freedom (emotional and physical.) And instead of seeking things, we are seeking feelings. We want to get away from pain and hurt, guilt and sadness, and want to experience more fulfilment, love and happiness.

Even I read that paragraph and thought “Mandie when did you become a flowers in the hair kind of girl?” However, the fact is we do seem to be craving different things to what I’ve seen people come to me for coaching for in the past. And one of the most important things we are learning from this shift is that, no matter how fun or fear packed your life, no matter how much you hate and loathe or enjoy and love your life right now, there are things you can do to make it better. Right now, at this very moment. Not with more money, a bigger house, a newer car, or a smaller or larger body, not with your boss’s job or a house on a beach; today, at this very minute you could create a better life.

Really?

I speak from experience here. In the first half of 2017, I attended three funerals of people far too young. Three members of my family had serious health scares. My hard drive blew up, so did our boiler. (On the coldest week of the year!) It felt like the electric goods around the house were conspiring against us, both of our cars were hit while we weren’t even in them within in two weeks. And my beautiful Springer Spaniel fell ill suddenly and I had to have him put down when my Husband was on the other side of the world. And that is just some of the stuff that happened in the first half of this year. It was hard to not feel victimized, and like there was some evil deity reigning down a torrent of hell on the Holgate family. And having suffered from severe depression that nearly killed me 13 years ago, I will be honest and say I feared for my mental health.

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Despite the feeling of “is this really all happening to us?” that aimed to raise it’s ugly head, I managed to stay happy. It become the Holgate mantra that the harder times got, the happier we felt. How is that possible and why does it matter?

You see no matter what happens on the outside, we can choose what we think and feel on the inside and when we appreciate the power of this self awareness we can dramatically change not just our day, but our futures too.

Now it gets interesting, right?

Have you ever heard the saying “Who got out of bed on the wrong side?” That person moves through their day feeling miserable, frustrated and struggles to hold compelling conversations or get the results they want to. Did it start with these bad results? No of course not, it started with the thought that created the actions that delivered the results.

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Being able to be self aware is a powerful way to power up your happiness, actions and success. It enables you to be in touch with who you truly are.

My own experience taught me that I have a very blessed life (despite the three auto immune diseases and losing my dear pet.) It reinforced for me that I’m on the right path, going for the right goals for the right reasons. Many people find that despite achieving success in the traditional ways, they still lack happiness and it is highly likely it could come down to not being self aware of what matters to you.

5 Powerful Steps to Build Self Awareness

Here I share my 5 top tips to self awareness and how this power could help you achieve more personally, professionally and emotionally.

1. Drop the Victim Act

This has been so powerful for so many that I’ve worked with (including myself). Have you noticed how around some people, you are confident and capable; and around others you feel like a child? Or maybe you lose your power? Be aware of how you feel around different people. It is not your job to change people, it is your responsibility to change the way you perceive people and handle them. This is an internal exercise. Maybe you were bullied at school and you still question if people are your friends, and this impacts on your choice of activities and level of trust. Maybe you had an over critical parent or teacher and still find yourself berating things that you do. Become aware of these beliefs that you may have stored for decades. You don’t have to challenge them if that feels too big a step. Just notice them at this stage.

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2. Respect, Accept and Appreciate Who You Are

I remember up until only about seven years ago that someone I love dearly would say “You are so over sensitive Mandie!” and for years I saw that as a negative. I actually learned that I was not respecting who Mandie was. How can you achieve the things in life that make you happy, including just pure love for you that leads to internal genuine happiness if you don’t respect who you are? It may sound like a girlie fluffy subject, however by not respecting yourself and understanding your own emotional intelligence, you can seriously damage your chances of achieving. I learned for instance that what I’d seen as oversensitivity was in fact one of the reasons that I find coaching so easy and powerful—I can truly connect on a level that most people miss.

3. Learn What You Truly Value

If you learn to respect, accept and appreciate who you are, you can still find that you have emotional negative attachment to elements of who you are. By learning to hear and listen to your values, you can become more self aware and go for things that really matter to you.

In my book Fight the fear – how to beat your negative mindset and win in life, I recommend the values exercise. It enables you to explore on a subconscious level to learn what really matters to you. This is great for when you fear that you are concentrating on the wrong things in life—often being impacted on by the outside world, rather than hearing and knowing your own values.

4. Reframe Your Negative Thoughts

So after you’ve learned to accept who you are, you can still find that negativity is impacting on your ability to become self aware. If you have feelings of low value and self worth, it’s hard to want to listen to more of your thoughts. Re-framing your thoughts can help.

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Listen carefully to your negative thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Don’t try and change them, just acknowledge them. What comes next? Is it a physical thing, an emotion or a belief? By following the flow of this, you can create a negative spiral of what happens to you when you are not self aware. The awesome thing is I’ve used this process with so many clients to shift them fast into a positive spiral. Here is an example of how many of us struggle to accept compliments.

    5. Ditch the Shallow Self Development

    With a growing appreciation around the world that our minds impact on our success, alas there are some that are exploring this subject on a very superficial level. While any level is better than nothing, you need to do your homework if you really want to be self aware. Expecting results by osmosis or by reading motivational posters is not enough. Aristotle, Einstein and so many others have indeed said powerful things about our minds and our ability to achieve true happiness, creativity and success. However remember that at their core they were people of action too.

    By always assessing your self awareness, you can learn to not just respect who you are but to trust this true version of you. And that could be incredibly powerful on so many levels.

    Buy Mandie’s book Fight the Fear – How to beat your negative mindset and win in life on Amazon

    More by this author

    Mandie Holgate

    Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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    Last Updated on May 16, 2019

    Can You Stop Depression from Damaging Your Brain?

    Can You Stop Depression from Damaging Your Brain?

    Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in America, according to the latest mental health statistics.[1] Approximately 17.3 million adults have had at least one major depressive episode.

    In this article, we will take a deep look into depression, what a depression brain is like, and how to prevent the damage from depression.

    What is Depression?

    In order to tap into treatment options for depression, we must first examine what defines this disorder.

    Apart from differing scientific and medical jargon, depression – also known as Major Depressive Disorder – is best categorized as a serious mood disorder.

    While it is common, it is anything but innocent. The symptoms of depression have serious effects on daily living, and leave the afflicted person with an inability to carry out normal tasks, such as working, interacting with friends and family, and sleeping.

    Depression itself is an umbrella term for a list of specific types of depression, such as Postpartum Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (which leads into serious symptoms of depression), Bipolar Disorder, and Psychotic Depression (which is depression with symptoms of psychosis), just to name a few.[2]

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    While everyone experiences moments of depression in their life, being clinically diagnosed with depression is usually done with the aid of medical help. This diagnosis typically relies on a baseline of depression symptoms that have been present for at least two weeks.

    Symptoms of Depression

    Because depression is categorized as a serious mood disorder, most symptoms will begin with a person’s behavior. A person may feel persistent sadness that simply won’t go away, or they may experience a loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed, like gardening, traveling, or working out.

    Other symptoms, although not a complete list, may persist:

    • Feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
    • Anxiety
    • Angry outbursts, followed by a complete mood change (from happy to sad in very quick shifts)
    • Struggles with insomnia or significant changes in sleep schedule
    • Inability and lack of desire to get out of bed in the morning
    • Significant decrease in personal hygiene, nutrition, and maintenance of their home or space
    • Decreased interactions with friends, family, or colleagues
    • Lack of energy and physical weakness, apathy, or pains and aches
    • Trouble concentrating on specific tasks or making decisions
    • Frequent thoughts about death, or even suicidal plans, thoughts, or attempts
    • Back pain and headaches

    While this list is not complete or exhaustive to a person’s struggle with depression, it does provide a general picture of some of the common symptoms.[3])

    Causes of Depression

    Mental health disorders still very much pose a mystery to medical professionals and science, in general. While depression is treated in a variety of ways (medicine, therapy, alternative healing, etc.), professionals are still learning more about this disorder and how it affects people of different genders, ages, and backgrounds.

    However, a variety of factors are known to be possible contributors to depression, such as:

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    • Hormones – in cases of giving birth or going through menopause, women’s hormones quickly change, which can trigger depression or similar symptoms
    • Genes – while not everyone gets depression from inherited traits, it is a factor, and research has seen a correlation between depression in families that is carried through generations
    • Brain chemistry – one of the key factors in understanding cause of depression is brain chemistry, specifically neurotransmitters that work with the neuro-circuits in the brain to balance mood stability. If these neurotransmitters are not working properly, it could lead to depression or similar symptoms

    We already mentioned brain chemistry, and how it plays an integral part in understanding how your brain works in relation to mood stability. Neurotransmitters are your body’s chemical messengers. They transmit these messages between neurons for a plethora of reasons – cognitive function, organ function, dopamine release, etc.[4]

    In terms of relating this to depression, however, those transmitters also regulate mood stability, and if they’re not relaying messages correctly or connecting to the brain circuitry in normal, functioning ways, we see a correlation between that “misfiring” and mental illness.

    To paint a picture, imagine your brain split in half, the two lobes or hemispheres perfectly separated from each other.

    Now, imagine the mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters like tiny little ping-pong balls that bounce from one hemisphere of the brain to the other, relaying messages that connect the brain as a whole. This is what we normally see in a healthy functioning brain.

    However, if there is a change in this chemistry, and the ping-pong balls are not crossing and relaying as they should, that change creates a shift in your brain circuitry that may cause depression or similar symptoms.

    Because our brain is an extremely complex and intricate organ which scientists are still studying and learning about, it wouldn’t be complete to say that only chemical imbalances cause depression.

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    In fact, recent Harvard research suggests that a slew of factors are involved in creating a correlation between depression and your brain function. These are inclusive of the neurotransmitters we described above, but they also include your way of life, medication, stress levels, and even genetic contributions or ways in which you were brought up.[5]

    Because depression is a mood disorder, we have to look at our behavior, and how it is influenced by our brain chemistry.

    Behavior is shaped by our temperament, and much of that comes from our genetics. We are predisposed to act in certain social situations in ways that tie us to our family chain.

    How we react to life circumstances or other people is very much a reflection of what we picked up from our parents, guardians, friends, or social upbringing. From this, we may make different choices in life, for better or worse, depending on these genetics.

    Similarly, our view of the world and our relation to it also have a hand in how depression may form. We create our world view early on in life, and while it is influenced by our family and life events, it’s also very much our own.

    If you’ve experienced loss or disappointment, you’re likely to fall back on your world view to cope with it and allow it to protect you. As an example, you may close yourself off from new relationships because you’ve endured heartbreak and don’t believe that you’re worthy of real love; or, you come from an upbringing that wasn’t emotionally available, so you don’t create habit patterns or behaviors that show you how to handle emotion in a healthy way.

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    All of these scenarios create behavior. In turn, that behavior creates habit patterns, that in turn, create your daily life and your interaction with it.

    While chemical imbalances can have a direct role in manifesting depressive episodes, we have to be aware that our own, inherent behavioral traits are just as powerful contributors.

    Medications to re-balance any chemical disruptions in the brain are a proactive tool against depression. These can be explained and provided to you by a medical health professional.

    When it comes to our behavior, however, and how we deal with stress, trauma, loss, medical problems, and the like – all of which are triggers for depression – we can implement new habits[6] that can decrease any damage to our state of body and mind, such as:

    • Meditation
    • Deep breathing
    • Yoga or any body-conscious movement or workout
    • Journaling about life events or problems we encounter on a daily basis
    • Therapy or group-sharing
    • Acupuncture, Reiki, or any alternative-healing modality
    • Diet and nutrition rich in foods that cleanse and empower (rather than numb and overpack the gut)
    • Hiking, running, biking, or any cardio-increasing activity
    • Spending time with others who support you

    These are habits and tools that you can implement on your own, as well as with a professional. Remember to always consult with your doctor before starting any new regiment.

    The Bottom Line

    Depression is a disorder that affects our mood. While research has uncovered that depression may be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, it also suggests that our behavior and inherent genetic traits are strongly connected to how depression manifests.

    How you deal with the many ups and downs of daily life are strong indicators of where you may want to make changes, whether medicinal or alternative, to decrease your chances of depression and its damage, and embrace a life of health and well-being.

    Featured photo credit: AJ Garcia via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Major Depression
    [2] National Institute of Mental Health: Depression
    [3] Mayo Clinic: Depression (Major Depressive Disorder
    [4] Queensland Brain Institute: What are Neurotransmitters
    [5] Harvard Health: What Causes Depression?
    [6] Help Guide: Coping with Depression

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