Mindfulness can improve self-knowledge

Updated: Mar 16, 2013, 14:45 PM IST

Washington: Mindfulness may help you learn more about your own personality, according to a new study.

The study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, explores one potential strategy for improving self-knowledge: mindfulness.

Mindfulness a technique often recognised for its positive effects on mental health involves paying attention to your current experience (eg, thoughts, feelings) and observing it in a non-judgmental manner.
Recent research has highlighted the fact that people have many blind spots when it comes to understanding their patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Despite our intuition that we know ourselves the best, other people have a more accurate view of some traits (e.g., intellect) than we do.
In some cases, blind spots in self-knowledge can have negative consequences, such as poor decision-making, poor academic achievement, emotional and interpersonal problems, and lower life satisfaction.

In the new study, psychological scientist Erika Carlson of Washington University in St Louis said that two components of mindfulness, attention and nonjudgmental observation, can overcome the major barriers to knowing ourselves.

She argued that the motivation to see ourselves in a desirable way is one of the main obstacles to self-knowledge. For instance, people may overestimate their virtuous qualities to ward off negative feelings or boost self-esteem.

However, non-judgmental observation of one`s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, might reduce emotional reactivity such as feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem that typically interferes with people seeing the truth about themselves.

Lack of information is another barrier to self-knowledge in some situations, people might not have the information they would need to accurately assess themselves.

For instance, we have a hard time observing much of our nonverbal behaviour, so we may not know that we`re grimacing or fidgeting during a serious conversation.

Mindfulness could also help in this domain, as research has shown that mindfulness training is associated with greater bodily awareness.