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When we talk about mental health issues, we often latch onto symptoms.
We talk about the things we can see.
We especially like talking about the "scary" things, the behaviors that make us nervous or uncomfortable.
But there's something else we need to talk about--something so important that I'm amazed it doesn't come up in more mental health conversations.
That something is "knowing yourself."
Today you're going to learn why getting to know yourself better is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your mental health.
Then, you're going to learn how to easily take that step.
Why Knowing Yourself is So Important
Knowing yourself makes everything easier.
It can decrease anxiety, renew your focus, and lift your spirits.
But you might be wondering, "What does it actually mean to know yourself?"
Have you ever stopped to consider what you love?
For instance, what do you love doing?
What would you do even if you could never get paid for it?
What are the traits that are so core to your being that you forgot that they've always been part of you?
For me, it's being curious.
I'm that guy who is always asking questions.
When I went to grad school to study social work, I'm that person who asked not one or two--but three follow-up questions so that I could drain as much knowledge out of the professor as was humanly possible.
My classmates hated me.
They wanted to get out of class early. They wanted to know what they needed to do for homework so that they could get on with their lives.
But, for me, the questions were my life.
I'm obsessed with asking questions.
So a key part of being happy for me is putting myself in situations and environments that not only tolerate my question-asking behavior but encourage it.
The same applies to who I spend my time with.
I get drained by people who are not curious, people who accept whatever they are told and fall in line with the status quo.
I need curious people in my life like I need water.
And because I know this about myself, I can be intentional about the actions I take.
I can choose behaviors and experiences that are most likely to allow me to come alive.
Know Yourself to Improve Your Mental Health
So, I'm going to ask you some important questions:
Do you know yourself?
Do you know what makes you happy and what makes you tick?
Do you even spend any time considering these types of questions?
If not, it's time to begin.
Because your mental health is at stake.
Think about all of the relationships you've had in your life.
Think about the ones that brought you the most joy and the ones that crushed your spirit.
If I had to guess, I would say that the bad relationships were bad because they did not fit who you were--and are--as a person. They didn't allow you to be your full self.
Knowing yourself can combat this.
And it's not just relationships.
It's jobs and career paths. It's what you do in your free time. It's even what you read and watch.
The better you know yourself, the better you can choose what you want to do with your life.
It doesn't have to be harder than stopping to think.
It doesn't have to be more difficult than writing a list.
At some point this week, try this experiment to get to know yourself:
Take ten minutes of your time to create a list--a list of who you are.
Write down all the people and experiences that have made you happy.
Write down whatever comes to mind. Don't limit yourself.
Just let your creativity flow.
The more you write, the more ideas that will come to you.
Before you know it, you will have a list of 20-30 items.
And soon you will see patterns emerge.
You will see the fine threads that have woven your life.
Study the list so that you can study yourself.
Because the better you know yourself, the easier it is to make decisions for how you spend your time.
A huge part of anxiety in life comes from not knowing.
It stems from the crippling indecisions that eat away at your vitality.
It doesn't have to be that way.
You can know yourself better.
You can reintroduce yourself to who you are.
And if you do, the world will open up--not because it was closed in the first place, but because the person who is looking at it is viewing it all in a new, more vibrant way.