Expansion Guide 2

Understanding Yourself

In this Expansion Guide we will look deep inside ourselves. Btw, this is a series. With it, we take you through a journey of conscious awareness and cover the why’s and how’s of meditation. There’s some science, too, so we sound more serious (okay, okay, it’s solid stuff, you’ll see). If you’d like to read the first part, here you go.

“When you find your center, you are ready to move in all directions.”– Alan Watts. 

Self-improvement sounds sexy, right? Many want better and more - undoubtedly better and more than others, so that it can be ‘us – not them’, who are being looked at on Instagram and have people constantly comparing their lives to ours. Right? You don’t have to take a position concerning this statement. But rather to witness that it’s ingrained in our culture.The craving for improvement is what keeps us surviving and evolving as human species. Without that, we would be far gone. So, if it’s our very nature, then we can all accept it – it’s not the most reasonable thing to do to be ashamed of who we innately are, is it? 

So once we, more or less, have this laid out, let’s see what is helpful not to get lost and frustrated in the ever-growing world of self-development (certainly booming in the last couple of years). 

As we work to expand in different aspects of our lives, it is essential to know and understand ourselves deeply. 

Understanding yourself provides acceptance which is essential for steady personal development. And stability is good here. Taking your time to explore your inner world, notice all of its colors and try out which of its ingredients serve you one by one - it can’t and shouldn’t be rushed. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling lost even more than before. Acceptance is the first step that enables change. Without acceptance, no growth is possible. 

Only once you fully accept yourself, you can look for further benefits of self-growth in your work principles, knowing your constraints, and recognizing when you are pushing yourself too hard. The last one is crucial. Hard and straight to the point can be nice (okay, coming back to the main topic). Yet steady and slow provides space and time for self-exploration (if your mind is still wandering, you probably understand that relation even more now ;) ). Achieving objectives for personal advancement requires discovering the balance between work and play. 

Once you get to know yourself well, you will be able to recognize the moments when you’re being sent a sign by your brain or body that it’s time to rest and reset your mind. Remaining detached from oneself usually leads to overlooking these signs, becoming burnt-out or overworked. 

But don’t you worry! Aside from ambiguous jokes, we also have some hands-on experience to share with you, which hopefully will guide you through the nooks and crannies of self-discovery and, ultimately: personal growth. 

Habits of Maintenance

Anyone who has ever gone more than 20hrs without sleep, traveling in a sedentary position, knows well for themselves that our bodies require regular maintenance and healing activity to offer peak functionality. Although each of us manages a variety of limitations and difficulties, we all could make the underlying objective to strive towards the ultimate alignment of mind, body, and soul. Which will contribute to improving our mood, behavior, and motivation and increased circulation, muscular coordination, reduced muscle tension, and increased range of movement. Just teasing you a bit now, but we will cover it in more detail below! 

Let’s dive straight into this! We divided the range of overall benefits into 4 categories to help you understand the impact of the ultimate alignment even better: 

  1. Physical: Care for your body, ongoing health, home environment, and safety. Your physical well-being relates to the tangible aspects of your daily life, from how you sleep, eat, and exercise to your living situation (decluttered, most of all) and safety. Your body is your temple. 
  2. Mental: Care for your psychological states, thoughts, and self-talk. Mental health needs are related to and include emotional needs but consist of psychological and social needs as well. Psychological needs include autonomy, self-sovereignty, perceptions of the quality of your social connections and standings, a sense of competence, and the ability to overcome challenges. Social needs include love, friendship, a sense of belonging, and forming intimate attachments.
  3. Emotional: Care and tending to feelings of fear, anger, resentment, love, anxiety, sorrow, joy, and many others. While we as humans intrinsically rely on one another to enrich our emotional experience, no one is able to (or should) maintain our emotional well-being for us. Emotional needs rise and fall depending on life circumstances, hormonal shifts, and physical health.
  4. Spiritual: Care for your relationship to meaningful things in life, such as connection, creativity, and faith. Spiritual care is related to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It is the connection to something greater than yourself. Challenging experiences can be reframed as meaningful when you determine how they helped you grow, what lessons came from them, and how you can share those lessons with others.

Now that we have an idea of what we can expect let’s see how to aim for these outcomes. 

Physical Self-Care 

This is the very fundamental aspect. Your relationship to body health is the foundation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. We know that the way you feel about your body can be complicated. Self-care cultivates a gentle, loving, and accepting approach as an antithesis to the constant demands we make on our bodies. 

Your approach to caring for your body can begin with self-talk. You can transform the relationship to your body by merely witnessing (and confronting) how you speak to yourself. Notice when your inner dialogue is judgmental or unkind. Confront your inner Judge. Every time it throws a negative comment at you, replace it with an opposite affirmation. With time, you will be able to develop genuinely loving self-talk and apply it to replace those old ideas about your body that you’ve been carrying.

Another aspect of physical self-care is tending to your environment and dealing with clutter. Clutter is a form of unconscious chaos. It represents decisions you have put off, abandoned projects, and areas of lack of motivation or willpower – it develops quickly when we feel overwhelmed. While all of this is natural and completely normal to experience at times, it’s important to remember that living in a cluttered space contributes to worsening your mental health. We often bring things into your home with little thought about where they will go, how we will care for them, and what needs these things resolve for us. As a result, they end up taking up space in our homes and our minds too. 

There is an emotional component to decluttering. You might feel shame for overspending on that blender you never use or the fancy blouse you have never worn. Before you toss or donate something, you have to decide about it, which can cause decision fatigue, a feeling of going blank. Be sure to start small with your decluttering and be gentle with yourself along the way. You can also ask someone to help you out, offering an unbiased perspective on what to keep and what to let go of. 

For more inspiration and advice, we recommend checking out The Minimalists podcasts and two films (it doesn’t mean you have to become a minimalist, it’ll just lay down some handy rules and tips when it comes to dealing with your possessions).  

Mental Self-Care

Caring for your mental health is tantamount to looking after your body. Many things affect mental health, including what is going on in your social life, stress level, and environment; thus, conscious attention to self-care is critical for maintaining balance. It is essential to determine the level of social interaction you are comfortable with. Too much can leave you depleted; too little can leave you feeling isolated. The key to self-care lies in the quality of your social engagement. Focus on the quality of the connection rather than the duration of the event. Learn how to strike the right balance of social and personal time to maintain your mental health self-care. Remember: it’s okay to miss out, say no and stay home if it means maintaining your balance. Is your mind judging you? Well, you already know how to respond :)

Emotional Self-Care

As thoughts are information carriers to the brain, emotions are the same to the body. We cannot control our thoughts, only our relationship to our thoughts. We cannot control how our emotions rise and fall, but sometimes we can choose our behavior and attitude towards them. Emotional well-being includes self-care and tending to your emotional balance. It is essential to recognize the signs of emotional exhaustion, which include feeling short-fused, impatience for daily engagement, lack of concern for your self-care, physical symptoms of fatigue, and low motivation. These symptoms signal low happy-brain chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine. Each of these brain chemicals contributes to balancing your moods and emotions in different ways:

  • Serotonin: The level of this chemical rises in your blood during moments of high social status and feelings of importance to social groups. Low serotonin levels can contribute to feelings of impatience and a short fuse. Besides, an imbalance of this hormone’s level relates to depression. 
  • Oxytocin: You experience the rise of this chemical when you bond with people, animals, and babies to facilitate feelings of trust. Low oxytocin levels can result in a lack of concern for others and yourself.
  • Endorphins: They rise when you’re exercising, eating something you like, having sex, or enjoying your activity. You can experience euphoria from endorphins when your body masks the physical pain of something, such as overdoing exercise or pushing yourself when you have had no sleep. Low endorphin production can be experienced as fatigue.
  • Dopamine: Relates to the experience a feeling of success and accomplishment through increased motivation. When your dopamine levels are low, you can experience a lack of motivation. Excessive amounts of dopamine are connected with stress. 
  • Anandamide: Related to dopamine release, anandamide is a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, stimulating a sense of happiness and mental wellness. Anandamide is a little-known brain chemical that's been called the “bliss molecule” for the role it plays in producing feelings of happiness.

Spiritual Self-Care

Deriving purpose and fulfillment is an exciting part of being human. What we do to create meaning out of challenging experiences highlights our sense of purpose. When we are spiritually depleted, our understanding of purpose feels diminished, and creative blocks occur. Revitalizing our creative energy and connection to something bigger than ourselves helps manage our spiritual self-care.

If you are a musician, play music. If you are an artist, make art. Write, draw, problem solve, help others, get inspired. Tap into your creativity, drop into the process, and flow.

A flow state is described as the feeling of being immersed and fully engaged in an activity in which you lose a sense of time and other needs. Activities that access the flow state create meaning and a sense of purpose and are a great way to support spiritual self-care.

Daily rituals and practices, even the most basic, are helpful to nurture a spiritual connection. Lighting a candle and reading a passage from a spiritual book each morning is an easy practice.

The Power of Empathy & Compassion

The word empathy is often used as a desired trait fitting of a “good person.” Empathy is your way to relate to another’s emotional state, be it pain, enjoyment, or confusion. Your connection with your peers, family and loved ones depends on the mutual hardship and celebrations. We may enter and leave this world alone, but there has yet to be a strong enough argument on why we should live it so. Strengthening your ability for conflict management and gaining a deeper understanding of your traumas, thinking patterns, and blocks are essential to thriving – in a community, company, or relationship. Self-reflection, taking time to understand your inner mechanism, working on your self-talk, and developing self-love will contribute to better social skills and establish a deeper and more reliable connection with yourself. If you are afraid or unsure about doing it yourself, therapy or counseling are great places to address it with a professional’s guidance. 

People who lack self-compassion might experience ‘me’ time as something painful. Especially in today’s highly connected environment, me-time is almost nonexistent. 

Another reason for fear of being alone is that we do not really understand our thoughts or even know how to process them. We are scared to see what our minds will cook up when we are alone and have nothing to do or no one to talk to. Most people struggle to be alone because they are uncomfortable with their thoughts. They think that if they keep moving and being engaged with activities and other things, they will not have to deal with their thoughts, and ultimately, themselves. 

Importance of Me-Time ( link to Zat Rana video) 

You probably won’t be surprised if we tell you now that securing time for being alone with your thoughts and emotions is incredibly essential. Multiple studies have proven the importance of alone time. Let’s look at some irrefutable benefits:

Me-time enhances productivity and efficiency. Multiple studies have shown that people tend to be more productive and efficient when they have a bit of privacy. This observation is quite contrary to the modern-day open-architecture workplaces. It appears that being surrounded by people and the accompanying noise can reduce the productivity (and mental clarity) of workers. 

Me-time sparks creativity. This is the reason why artists, writers, philosophers, and thought-leaders tend to keep a cabin in the woods away from all connectivity to find complete solitude. They need their creativity at a peak level to produce their best yet. 

Me-time enhances mental strength. Although human beings are social creatures who need social connections to thrive, studies have shown that me-time is equally important (it’s all about keeping the balance, right?). Research has shown that people who enjoy alone time can be happier and more satisfied, and they have better stress-management abilities than people who do not like being alone. Also, people who enjoy solitude do not get depressed quickly (btw, there are ways to learn how to enjoy it :) ). 

Me-time is an excellent opportunity to make life plans. Spending time with yourself gives you a chance to reflect on your path and think of where your life is headed. Are the potential outcomes aligned with your desires? Is all the hustle and bustle of life, the stress you are undergoing, the commitments you have, and the energy you spend worth it or not? 

Me-time improves self-understanding. By spending time alone with your thoughts and emotions, you gain more clarity and keep establishing a deeper and more reliable connection with yourself. This also leads to becoming more comfortable in your own skin. Additionally, thinking for yourself and listening to yourself empowers you to make decisions outside the influence of other people. Which, in turn, gives you the feeling of actionable power and control over your life. 

Well, the benefits are great but now, how to stand yourself? Joke, you’re a fantastic person, and everyone would love to be 1-on-1 with you. So let’s see how to make the most of this special, intimate time you’re going to spend alone.

First things first: Leave your phone, computer, tablet, book – literally everything behind to build an environment for undisturbed, quality “me-time.” If you have decided to spend some time with yourself, respect it fully. 

Open your heart to yourself. Remember, you are your best friend. You are the one who knows the best way to talk with you and how to comfort you. Shut up your inner Judge by kindly saying,  “I don’t need to be judged, I accept myself fully. I decide to be open and welcoming for everything that is to come during this time I choose to dedicate to myself.” Or, if you prefer to be edgy, “Thank you and f* you very much.” Now, you can do anything you want, and there will be no one to judge. And when you learn not to judge yourself, then your self-compassion goes up a few notches.

Get out of your everyday space. Just pack your bags and leave. Go away somewhere far for a few days and spend time alone. Uhhhh, isn’t it exciting?! It will be so much fun! Even if it doesn’t sound so. You can also test out getting out of your comfort zone and try something you have never tried before. Spend ‘me’ time productively, usefully. Which, in that case, might mean just walking around and allowing yourself to welcome all thoughts and emotions that you’ve been suppressing to keep up with your everyday duties. You can look up some activities to try out, such as journaling, thought exercises, learning about emotions, or meditation. 

Scan for evidence of what you love. Once your mindset is right, then begin scanning for evidence that points you in the right direction. You will recall and identify peak life experiences that you enjoyed thoroughly. Dig deep into your mind and uncover forgotten episodes in your life that generated joy and happiness. Use these emotions and feelings to list activities that could serve as the root for your passion for life and inner exploration.

Do not underestimate the power of “me time” in helping you build self-compassion. The more you understand yourself, the more space you create for self-compassion to grow. 

That’s all from us for now. If you enjoyed this journey as much as we did, stay with us – there’s more good stuff coming. In the next guide, we will talk about “The Enriching Skill of Cultivating Amazing Relationships.” If you ever wondered (like we did) how one makes great friends or builds beautiful romantic relationships, you might want to check that one out :)

Faiz Nazarali
Chiyoko Osborne

Expansion Guides

Expansion Guide 1

The Journey of Meditation

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced practitioner, chances are you may experience some doubts from time to time or recognize moments where you lack some information about meditation.

Expansion Guide 2

Understanding Yourself

As we work to expand in different aspects of our lives, it is essential to know and understand ourselves deeply. 

“When you find your center, you are ready to move in all directions.”
– Alan Watts. 

Expansion Guide 1

The Journey of Meditation

In this Expansion Guide (delivered in short bits), we take you through a journey of conscious awareness and cover the why’s and how’s of meditation.

Expansion Guide 3

Cultivating Quality Relationships

You are looking at one of the Expansion Guides that we crafted to help you navigate this complex and fun thing called life. We already talked about the journey of meditation and something nice to have, which is self-understanding. Now, let’s move further, to talk about those around us, and, more specifically, the one thing we want from them and they also want from us. Sounds curious? Let’s go!