It can be easy to fall into a pattern of doing things for others, rather than ourselves. To undervalue our present wellbeing. But eventually, this can cause burnout, and then we’re no good to anyone. Even Superman needs to take a day off.
Without some time for ourselves and allowing some well-earned relaxing, we may end up having a negative impact on the things we’re trying so hard to maintain. For example, we can end up resenting the things we’re trying to maintain or develop. In order to avoid such things, we need to check in with and focus on ourselves more regularly.
That can seem difficult, of course. We might focus on external things just so we can avoid dealing with ourselves. Or we’re simply hardwired to focus solely on others. In this article, I’ll explore how to turn that around and why it’s important to focus on yourself every now and then.
- The benefits of focusing on ourselves
- What focusing on yourself really means
- Focusing on different areas in our lives
- 8 ways we can focus on ourselves and build contentment
- Closing words
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
The benefits of focusing on ourselves
Taking the time to focus more on ourselves not only helps to avoid burnout but brings more joy and contentment to our lives. Workaholics and people pleasers are far more likely to have stress-related breakdowns. And those who actively seek self-awareness and pursue their own pleasures are much more likely to be resilient and content.
Dragging our feet over and over again through a sense of obligation can leave us feeling run down, depressed and depersonalized. It can cause us to no longer care about the very things we keep throwing ourselves into. But that’s not all.
Studies on the importance of focusing on yourself more
Between 2000 and 2001, a study in Finland showed that burnout not only causes depressive symptoms and depersonalization but physical issues too. Burnout was linked to higher cases of cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal disorders. So not only is over-devotion to external things bad for our emotional wellbeing, but our physical wellbeing too.
Conversely, creativity, hobbies and other leisure activities have been shown in studies to improve general wellbeing. And there are countless others that demonstrate the countless benefits of self-care and self-reflection i.e. focusing on one’s self.
The negative effects of self-negligence and burnout are hard to ignore from these studies, but all too easy to allow in our individual lives. Thinking of ways to circumvent them requires actual effort, stopping and taking the time to do so.
So, what does focusing on ourselves really mean and how do we go about it?
What focusing on yourself really means
Like all things, it’s about finding a balance.
Our other obligations are important and still require time. And outside of those commitments, perceived or otherwise, there are different aspects of self-care that need attention. An increase in bubble baths is all well and good, but not going to encompass everything.
Focusing on different areas in our lives
Focusing on ourselves means focusing on all our needs, which include:
- Some form of exercise.
- Good sleep.
- Healthy eating.
- Intimacy with others.
- Allowing and feeling emotions.
- Time in nature.
- Pursuing our interests.
- Community (support groups, volunteering, etc).
- Helping others.
- Making others happier.
The occupational and intellectual
- Taking time off; from lunch breaks to holidays, mental health and sick days.
- Considering what we do and why we do it.
- Learning new things.
- Discovering new interests.
- Leaving work at work.
- Actively taking time to relax.
- Indulging pleasures.
- Maintaining a routine.
- Maintaining and forging relationships.
8 ways we can focus on ourselves and build contentment
If you’re someone who pays a little too much attention to things outside your own life, you might already be looking for ways to pay attention to yourself. Or, at least realize it’s important to do so.
In that case, you might find some of these suggestions helpful.
1. Designate time for yourself
Instead of hammering out work emails at home, or taking precious free time to facilitate the desires of loved ones, it’s good to take some free time for yourself. Time to just be.
A direct way to relax is to make specific time available in your calendar for free time. For example, take designated time to take a bath, meditate, go out for dinner with a friend or to go shopping.
2. Start journaling
Journaling in varying forms can be a great practice for self-identification and self-care. Through continual journaling, you can discover your inner voice that may otherwise go unheard in your day-to-day living.
This can help you to discover what it is you really want, and separate it from the needs of external people and factors.
3. Look into psychotherapy and counselling
Possibly one of the greatest ways to focus on ourselves is with professional assistance. A counselor or psychotherapist is trained to help us with ourselves. Therapy can really help us to focus on ourselves more and less on others.
If you’re wondering how therapy can help you become happier, here’s a specific article on the topic!
4. Set boundaries and say no
In order to work on yourself, especially if you’re busy or have a tendency to put others first, you must practice assertiveness. Some ways to do this are:
- Saying no sometimes instead of yes.
- Allowing specific circumstances in which you will do something for others, and determining circumstances in which won’t.
- Turning your phone off if necessary, and pouring some of that time and effort back into yourself.
Here are more tips on how to be assertive that can help you focus on yourself more instead on others.
5. Actively do things for you
Focusing on yourself doesn’t mean sitting around disregarding everything else.
But it’s important to indulge in our passions and interests, to take ourselves out and engage in activities that inspire and satisfy our innermost needs. This might be as simple as going to the cinema to see that film you’re interested in. Or as big as taking that volunteering opportunity in Costa Rica that’s always called to you.
6. Practice checking in with yourself
In order to discover what you want, you need to actually listen to yourself. Instead of automatically saying yes to something, take a moment to reflect. If you don’t want to do it or would rather do something else, listen to that feeling.
Meditation, journaling and mindfulness can certainly help build this practice. Tuning into our true feelings more often can be hard, but it’s difficult to overstate its value.
7. Avoid idleness and false self-care
The object of this article is to promote a focus on one’s self, but it would be a mistake to confuse this with self-obsession or idleness. These things don’t help you focus on yourself in a productive way. They’re simply more ways of ignoring the inner needs of our emotional selves.
To improve wellbeing, we must find a balance, and focus on things that truly bring us more joy and contentment. Passions, hobbies, creativity, exercise and even socializing and helping others (though on our terms) are all great ways to truly focus on ourselves in an important and positive way.
8. Find the right balance of self-care
Instead of bending over backwards for others every day, balance and streamline your life by focusing on yourself more often. Focusing on ourselves doesn’t mean working ourselves to death with things we should do, nor does it mean lazing around and ruminating. It means finding the balance of work, play, self-fulfillment and self-care.
Taking care of ourselves actually improves relationships with work and others, as it improves our general happiness and fulfillment. Without focusing on ourselves enough, we become depersonalized and eventually depressed. So really it’s a no-brainer to do so. Focus on yourself instead of others, and become a happier person in the process. By following the tips in this article, you’ll be a more positive person to be around, and in turn will share more happiness in your life.
Was there anything I missed? Do you want to share a tip that has worked for you personally? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Henry CollardMental health writer
Mental health blogger with a passion for learning ways to improve wellbeing. I also love to write fantasy, learn about history and play video games. Which I suppose makes me an all-round nerd.