The Path to Insight
Do you feel stuck or out of alignment in your life? Is there a nagging feeling in your chest or swirling in the pit of your stomach telling you something is off. Do you feel guilty about having these feelings because your life is great in many ways, and you should just soldier on and hope the feelings go away. But, when you’re being completely honest with yourself, you know ignoring these feelings is impacting your quality of life. Something is calling you. You’re just not sure what it is or how to find it.
You are not alone. The good news is, you can do something about it. Before we talk about what you can do, let’s spend a few minutes talking about why you owe it to yourself, and your loved ones, to explore these feelings.
Living your life in a state of unease, anxiety, or stress has a serious impact on your physical, mental, emotional, and even financial well-being. It can zap your energy, leave you feeling irritable, and lead to consoling yourself with junk food, alcohol, shopping, or binge watching all seven seasons of “The Golden Girls” (o.k., maybe that one is just me). It can seriously impact your relationships. If this is allowed to go on for too long, you will not only miss out on truly experiencing your life, you are at serious risk of developing chronic lifestyle-related diseases. Lifestyle-related disease can include obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. Now, back to the good news of there being something you can do about it.
Let’s start by setting the stage for what to expect. Getting to the bottom of what’s going on is a journey that requires commitment, curiosity, and an open-mind. Along the way there will be self-exploration, surprises, aha moments, and breakthroughs. There will also be fear, doubt, hard truths, and decisions that need to be made. One of the most important success factors will be your mindset in how you approach the journey. Be proud of yourself for recognizing there is something going on that needs attention. Honor yourself for having the courage to do something about it. Be patient and kind to yourself as you work through the many layers. Know that you are not alone and there are many forms of support in the universe if you need it.
Now, let’s talk about the practical things you can do to gain insight into what’s going on. It starts by truly listening to what your body, mind, and emotions are trying to tell you. Noticing, without judgement, and recording what comes up for future exploration. Depending on the issue, this can either be quite easy or it can take a lot of exploration and unpacking. Following are my favorite techniques, tools, and practices for gaining insight and understanding where feelings are coming from.
Create space for thoughts and feelings
When we are always in a state of doing, we are too busy to pay attention to what our mind, body, and emotions are trying to tell us. By consciously slowing down, sitting quietly, and allowing thoughts and feelings to come up, meaningful insights about what’s going on will arise. The goal at this stage is to simply notice without judgement or preconceived conclusions. Jot down the thoughts, feelings, and ideas that come up, no matter how unrelated they may seem.
Get your body moving
Physical activity works wonders for the mind, body, and spirit. It gets endorphins flowing, activates bodily systems, and gets your creative energy flowing. You can do whatever kind of physical activity that works best for you and your fitness level. This includes walking, hiking, running, bicycling, and yoga. The choice and intensity is up to you and what works for your body. The important thing is to just get moving and notice what thoughts, feelings, and emotions arise. Note: always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. As with the creating space exercise, record your thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come up. You will refer back to your notes in later steps.
Journal with prompts
Don’t let this one scare you. The call to journal can feel so overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what the heck you are supposed to write about anyway. Writing prompts are a great way to make journaling accessible. There are many kinds of prompts and what will work best for you depends on how comfortable you are with writing and your situation. To tailor this practice specifically to you, use your ideas, thoughts, and feelings that came up in the previous practices to craft your own unique writing prompts. Following are a few examples:
- Lists and Logs – these require little actual writing and are a great entry into journaling by getting your writing juices flowing. Here are a few examples of list prompts you can try: List the top five thoughts, feelings, or emotions that come up when you think about your life, relationships, health or career. List your top 10 strengths. List your personal values that guide your actions. List three things you can do to make more time for yourself, your family, your passions, etc. List the top five things you spend your money on. List five ways you could save more money. Create a daily food, feeling, and/or exercise log.
- Mind-maps and other diagrams – these are great tools to help you explore relationships between ideas, thoughts, and feelings. They will help you see cause and effect. Start by having a central topic for the mind-map, and writing down thoughts, feelings, and ideas that arise related to the topic. Try to group these into categories so that the relationships between them become visible. Have fun, use different colors for different categories, and don’t worry about what’s on the page. The exercise is what’s most important, not the final product. And, it only needs to make sense to you.
- Longer form writing exercises – these are great to unpack ideas, thoughts, and feelings once you’ve identified them in a list, log, or mind-map. Examples include: “Write about a time where you felt at the top of your game. Be as specific as you can. Were you at work, volunteering, or pursuing a personal passion? What were you doing? How were you doing it? Who was around you? How did it feel?
Chances are, by doing the aforementioned activities difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions are going to come up. It’s expected and part of the process, but it doesn’t make it easy. To support yourself on your journey, it’s imperative that you focus on self-care. This could mean eating more nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, taking a relaxing bath, connecting with loved ones, getting intimate with your partner, and not being over demanding of your mind, body, or spirit.
Congratulations for recognizing the importance of taking care of yourself. By bringing your best self to the table, you will be a positive force in the world. You are on an exciting journey of self-discovery. You already have the power and know-how to create your best life, you just need to access it. Remember, your mindset is key – have faith and trust the process.
The next post in this series will focus on moving from a place of insight to a place of action. I will cover tools and techniques to empower you to make the lifestyle changes you need to live your best life.
If you find yourself needing support at any point in your journey, I’m here for you. I offer individual and group health coaching programs that will empower you to create a holistic wellness practice to support you in feeling your best and achieving your dreams.
Want to learn more about how taking care of your whole-self leads to greater health, stronger relationships, and the confidence to live big? I thought so…