As I mentioned in Part Two, the Enneagram, and learning my number, has truly helped me embrace my self. This self-awareness has enabled me to pursue greater emotional intelligence, significantly improving my mental health and deepening my close relationships. I genuinely believe that self-awareness and self-discovery are key factors impacting our holistic health. If you didn't get a chance to read Part Two, it's linked here.
In this concluding post of the Happy, Healthy Self series, I'm going to share a Top 10 list of practical ways to maintain a healthy, happy sense of self.
10. Get to Know Your Personality
I've already talked about this one in detail in the first two parts of this series, but it's worth saying again. Getting familiar with the unique nuances of your personality and behavior patterns is life-changing. And, while the Enneagram is my preferred resource for personality assessment and self discovery, there are many others available as well.
There is something significant about writing things down that somehow makes them more real. For me, emotions and thoughts can be experienced and processed much more easily when I can see them written on a page. Plus, the practice of journaling ensures that I carve out time for reflection that I might not do otherwise.
8. Cast a Vision
I'm always searching for meaning in things. I need to know and understand the why. So for me, vision casting (some might also call it goal setting) is a way to look toward the future and set a plan for my personal development, positioning myself for plenty of growth opportunities. I need to know that I'm living on purpose, and out of my passions, rather than just mindlessly getting through each day.
Meditation is a practice that I've just recently implemented into my self-care routine. It provides me an opportunity to speak truth to myself and to regularly contemplate the vision I have set for my life.
6. Invite Objective Opinions
Being vulnerable is hard, and hard things rarely feel good. At least not at first. Asking for the opinion of another person takes a great deal of vulnerability, especially when the opinion is not going to be what we want to hear. Yet, these objective opinions challenge us to move beyond unhealthy thoughts, behaviors and patterns. Although painful, more often than not this practice brings about profound positive life change, and a dramatically healthier and happier self.
5. Name Your Weaknesses
In a culture that celebrates successes and strengths obsessively, it can be very difficult to focus any attention on our weaknesses. However, I have found that naming and taking responsibility for my weaknesses has actually been incredibly freeing. It has given me the opportunity to examine whether the weakness is something I need to commit to working on, or if it is simply something I need to accept. For example, no matter how hard I try to force myself, I will likely never be a morning person. Sure I can set alarms and attempt to make myself enjoy the hours before 7AM. However, for whatever reason, I am wired more for late nights than early mornings. And it's okay to embrace that. Consistency, on the other hand, is a weakness of mine that I know is worth working on because it is an important value of mine and it impacts many areas of my life, including my relationships.
4. Ask Questions
We can learn a lot about ourselves by simply taking the time to ask questions. When doing an activity, for example, ask yourself "What am I trying to achieve?" When you catch yourself avoiding something, ask yourself "Why?" When you react in a way that surprises you or initiates conflict, ask yourself "What emotion am I feeling?" It might feel odd at first, but getting in the habit of asking questions is not only helpful for self-discovery, but also for resolving conflict with others.
3. Know Your Triggers
Being able to identify emotions as they are happening is an incredibly valuable skill. It is imperative that we do not repress our emotions or deny their causes, but rather learn to be able to flex with them, and fully process them before communicating with others.
2. Set Boundaries
It is both important and admirable to be warm toward others, but it is equally important to say no when you need to say no. From Brené Brown: [Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can't base our own worthiness on others' approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say "Enough!"] Read more.
1. Connect with the Divine
Within the context of my personal faith practice, this looks like praying the prayer found in Psalm 139:23-24:
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
This prayer is followed by listening--lots of listening. And while the answers don't always come immediately, God has always been faithful. Divine truth has provided solid grounding when my own emotions and thought patterns were clouded by lies, false assumptions and insecurities.
And, as I've noted in every single one of the Happy, Healthy series posts, our holistic health is a complex and interconnected web--our level of happiness and our health is influenced by our nutritional choices, our physical activity and movement practices, our environmental influences, our psychological, emotional and social conditions, and our spirituality. Each area of wellness has the capacity to positively or negatively impact the others, and we cannot achieve our greatest capacity for wellness without carefully considering each. Before you get overwhelmed or feel defeated, take heart, wellness is a lifelong journey and every positive seed you sow, will reap a positive result. It is my hope that you will consider implementing some of the practical steps listed above, planting seeds of self-awareness that will allow you to blossom and thrive.