It’s Mental Health Week and this year it’s all about connection. Connecting with nature, connecting with community and connecting with self. Being pack animals, human beings are wired to connect and we don’t fair as well when we’re not connected to people and our surroundings.
But what’s most important of all is the connection we have with our self.
Socrates knew a great deal of things and he wasn’t wrong when he stated that us humans need to get to ‘know thyself’.
I know myself pretty well. I know what makes me happy. I know what my strengths are as well as my values. But I also know what my fears are, where I need to challenge myself, what I avoid, what I am sensitive to and also where I tend to get a bit defensive. I also know what gets my goat and where I get stuck in life. To know all of this took hard work, along with thousands of hours reading and a lot of time by myself.
But most of all I know that there’s still a tremendous amount I don’t know.
Surely we all don’t know that much about our selves, and we would benefit from knowing a bit more. Perhaps if we all prioritised connecting with our selves, we would start laying a life pathway that’s a bit more conducive to you know, what we want. After all, we only have one life, and it is ours.
Many people are completely disconnected from their self, and instead caught up in endless patterns of striving and seeking external things to pacify them. Many people are constantly unhappy and punishing themselves on a path that they have unconsciously but willingly chosen, when really their true selves just wanted to head in another direction.
But where do we start when we get to adulthood and are composed of layers of fears, unhelpful thinking and other people’s expectations? It sounds difficult, but there are some easy steps we can start with to get on the connecting-with-self pathway. For many of us, it might be the first time.
1. Spend Time With Your Self – Engage in enjoyable activities all by yourself. Do them because they make you happy, and for no other reason. Embrace the silence of being in a world that talks too much, and do fun stuff just because you want to.
2. Pay Attention To Your Needs – You are uniquely you, and like no one else. Other peoples needs are not your own, and for years other peoples needs may have unknowingly become your own. When you connect with your self, your gut instinct will tell you what your needs are, and it usually shouts out to you when they're not being met.
3. Notice Your Feelings – Check in with yourself regularly, and ask yourself how you are feeling in the present. Accept all of your feelings regardless of whether they are positive or negative, and allow them to release. Let tears flow, let a scream out, let a boxing bag be punched in anger and let a hug happen.
4. Be Aware Of Your Thoughts – Your thoughts become your reality. So notice the themes in them. For some, it might be lack of confidence, for others unhappiness in a relationship or for others it might be thinking that they’re a failure. The themes can usually be grouped into a select few, but once you are aware of them, they will guide you to what you need to work on further.
5. Practice Self-Compassion – Support yourself with love and understanding. We are all doing our best with what we know, so work towards stopping the endless criticism about your mistakes and perceived inadequacies.
Our relationship with our selves is the foundation that everything else in our lives rests on. If it’s not solid, then other parts of our lives are never sitting where we want, and we’re never feeling quite right.
There’s a good chance that if you start connecting with yourself, you will be quite happy with what you discover.