Have you been feeling disconnected from yourself lately?
Maybe you’ve been going through the motions of your daily routine but it doesn’t feel quite right anymore.
Or perhaps you’ve suddenly developed different preferences in terms of food, music, or even clothing styles.
Alternatively, you might simply have a sense that something’s off, but you aren’t sure what it is.
When we feel like this, it often means that we’re not as in tune with ourselves as we could be.
What does it mean to be in tune with yourself?
To be in tune with another person means that you two share a feeling of “rightness.” Everything falls into place well and resonates harmoniously between you.
When it comes to being in tune with yourself, that understanding and resonance is turned inward, rather than toward someone else. You know that you’re living and behaving in a way that’s right for you because it feels right. Nothing feels out of place, forced, or discordant.
The best way to think about this is to relate the feeling to the sound of a musical instrument. Have you ever heard a piano or guitar that’s out of tune? It simply sounds wrong. Chords don’t harmonize, notes sound tinny, and any song played on it makes listeners uncomfortable.
In contrast, a properly tuned instrument creates sounds that elevate the spirit. The music played on it will be lovely to listen to.
When you’re in tune with yourself, you can’t help but feel at peace. You’ll feel whole and tranquil, without stress or conflict. In essence, the feeling that envelops you when you’re in this state is simply “serenity.”
In contrast, when you’re not attuned to your own nature, there’s a sense of disharmony within you. This is where those feelings of “not-quite-right-ness” that we touched upon earlier can manifest.
Maybe your favorite food suddenly doesn’t make you feel comforted or nourished anymore. Songs you used to love are now grating on your nerves. Exercises that once inspired and energized you now either hurt or bore you.
How To Get In Tune With Yourself
If you’re interested in being more in tune with yourself, there are a number of different things you can do.
These may differ depending on the individual, but you can always make adjustments to these suggestions to tailor them to your preference.
1. Check in with yourself every time you do anything to see if it feels “right.”
Some people maintain daily habits or take part in pastimes simply because they’re familiar, rather than being things they actually enjoy. If asked why they do it, they might say that they’ve always done it that way. It’s comfortable for them to continue the practice, even though they may have moved on to be a completely different person than they were when they began it.
For instance, someone may have gotten into the habit of eating a bowl of cold cereal every morning for breakfast. They may not even like cold cereal, but it has become such a ritual for them for years—even decades—that they practically do it on autopilot.
It’s possible that, subconsciously, choking down that daily bowl of mushy muesli sets the stage for a day of misery.
By changing things up and having waffles instead, they might be able to shift perspective for the rest of their day.
2. Take note of what upsets you, and why.
It’s become trendy to get offended at the slightest provocation, especially when it comes to virtue signaling to prove one’s worth.
That said, being truly upset by something is a different story.
Offense is usually a fleeting feeling, while upset lingers for quite a while. It can cause intrusive thoughts and manifest physically as belly upset, anxiety, headaches, and so on
Many people try to avoid situations, phrases, or even words that can “trigger” these upsetting reactions because they’re difficult to deal with. However, they might not know the true cause behind them.
Taking the time to understand why we get triggered like this can help us to defuse these reactions so they stop bothering us.
If you know that something you hear, see, or smell upsets you, try to lean into the experience instead of fleeing from it so you can understand it better.
Okay, let’s say a particular song is triggering for you because you associate it with abuse from a parent. When you’re feeling safe and grounded, try to go back to the memory that formed that association and attempt to see the bigger picture.
You may remember that song was playing when your parent hit you for spilling your glass of milk. Can you remember what their state of mind was like at the time? Was your family very short of money back then so anything that went to waste was a devastating loss? Did your mother have a recent pregnancy loss or did a close relative pass away shortly before the incident?
When we observe a situation neutrally instead of through the lens of our own traumatic experience, we can often snip the trigger wire that causes an emotional reaction within us.
Understanding other people’s poor behaviors toward us doesn’t mean justifying or forgiving their actions, but it gives us a broader sense of how everyone involved was affected.
Generally, when we can see all the factors that contributed to something we experienced, the trauma associated with it lessens significantly.
Furthermore, doing so allows us to better understand how our minds and emotions work. It’s a lot easier to be in tune with oneself when we have a few more pages of the instruction manual, right?
As you continue with this exercise, take note of what your strongest triggers tend to be. Are your memories normally associated with scents? Sounds? Colors? Words?
This is especially helpful if you choose to work with a therapist at some point, either currently or somewhere down the road. By letting them know that you’re aware of your own cognitive associations, you give them an extra map so they can help you get to where you want to be.
3. Observe your body’s natural cycles.
Most people don’t live in harmony with their own natural cycles, let alone those of the planet. From a very early age, we program ourselves to function within a daily schedule—whether that’s for school, work, or other societal frameworks.
As such, instead of sleeping and waking according to our individual circadian rhythms, we get startled awake by shrieking alarms and we try to force ourselves to sleep at a set time.
Furthermore, we often find ourselves using various techniques and crutches to help us power through the day. This might involve a cup of coffee to help us wake up and concentrate in the morning, or a combination of melatonin, a sleep mask, and whale songs to usher us to sleep at night.
If you don’t have vacation time coming up, see if you can book a few days to a week off for a mental health reset. A full week or two would be ideal, but work with what’s available to you. During that time, go to bed when you feel tired and sleep until you wake up naturally. While you’re at it, take time to notice what you need to sleep peacefully and wake up refreshed.
Do you feel more comfortable if your bedroom door is locked? When the room is still, silent, and pitch black? Or do you need airflow and a bit of light to drift off peacefully? Similarly, do you wake up naturally as the sun rises? Or does your internal clock snap you alert at a specific time?
Take note of different repeated cycles over the course of any given day. Many people get a slump in energy around 2:00 or 3:00pm, which makes them feel tired and less able to concentrate. This can have several different causes, but the most common ones are fluctuating cortisol levels and the aftermath of a post-lunch sugar spike.
Determine which techniques help you move past this, such as a quick nap to reset (if that’s an option), a healthy snack (like almonds or vegetable juice), or a walk around the block.
While you’re at it, take note of when and if you feel random bouts of joy, anger, or irritation. Some folks get snappish and hypersensitive to light and sound after the sun sets, while others might get worse sleep during the full moon.
Map these experiences out over the course of a few months to see if any patterns emerge. If they do, you can take steps to ameliorate or avoid them, such as taking some alone time when you know you’ll be sensitive or nourishing yourself more when you know you’ll feel depleted.
4. Determine what makes your body feel happiest.
This isn’t necessarily a sexual thing, though intimacy is a part of it.
Think of your body as the home/vehicle you dwell in. When you look around your house, you probably see items that bring you joy and contentment. Do you have a bed or couch that you find perfectly comfortable? Have you painted the walls in hues that bring you joy? What about the decor?
Now consider whether you treat your body with the same care and reverence or if you decorate it with trendy things and force it to do things it’s ill-suited to.
Which movements make you feel happy when you do them? One person might love to lift heavy things and challenge themselves on machines, while another will feel great joy in swimming or dancing.
Similarly, while one may adore massages and manicures, another will be horrified by the idea of being touched by strangers, and what one person enjoys in bed might make another cringe.
How about the clothing/fabrics that you wear? Try this exercise: Take all your clothes out of your dresser(s) and closet(s) and spend time with each one of them. You can either try them on, or simply run the fabric over your bare skin.
Ask yourself whether you truly like the sensation of this texture, or if you wear it because it looks good and other people like it. Similarly, ask yourself whether you feel that you can move freely and gracefully in each outfit or if you feel constrained and awkward in it.
This is a bit like the Marie Kondo technique of sitting with items and discarding those that don’t bring you joy. If you find that you dislike certain clothes that you’ve been wearing out of habit, or because they suit the current popular aesthetic, ask yourself whether you truly want to continue wearing them.
Then you can decide whether to keep them, or donate/discard them and purchase something that’s more “you” instead. In fact, while you’re doing that:
5. Ask yourself some great questions.
I had a discussion with a younger friend of mine today about getting to know oneself, as she has been feeling lost regarding who she is. Like many others, she’s used to being a chameleon and adapting herself to suit her current social circle. The problem with this is that she feels like she’s so used to wearing various masks, she doesn’t know what her “true face” looks like.
I went through something similar in my early thirties, and I found that exercise books that offered interesting questions and writing prompts were incredibly helpful. The ones I bought from bookstores were great, but I also found numerous worksheets online to follow.
If you’re interested in being more in tune with your authentic self, then it might be a good idea to figure out exactly what that authenticity entails.
Some of the questions you can explore to help you be true to yourself may include:
- If you knew that you only had one year left to live, how would you spend it?
- Which colors make you feel happiest?
- Who would you invite to your last dinner party ever?
- How would you dress if you knew that nobody would judge you for your style choices?
- Where would you live if you could move anywhere?
- What kind of music do you listen to when you’re alone?
- Whom do you respect the most? If you know them personally, how do you think they’d describe you?
- When was the last time you felt confident or powerful? How have things changed since then?
- Describe your ideal partner. If you have one, how does this description compare to the partner you have now?
- Which foods would you eat on your last day on earth?
- What is the greatest compliment you have ever received?
- Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t done so yet? These can be skills, languages, subjects, and so on
Asking yourself questions like these is great for creating a map to the type of person you want to be, rather than the type of person others expect you to be.
For example, if you discover that the people you spend the most time with aren’t the ones you’d want to see on your last day on earth, that tells you a lot about how you truly feel about them. In fact, it may encourage you to switch up your social circle so you’re surrounded by people who share more of your interests and values.
Similarly, if the foods you’d choose for that last dinner party aren’t in rotation in your life now, ask yourself why you’re depriving yourself of them. Are you afraid of what other people will think of you if you do? Or would eating them go against the regimen or values that you’ve been upholding? If so, do those values still fit you the way they once did?
6. Create an “ideal me” mood board.
You can do this digitally on platforms such as Pinterest or Canva, or you can go the old-school route and glue inspirational images onto a large paper board. On this, you can collect images, quotes, and even questions about the things you enjoy best and what’s truly important to you.
For example, you can draw from the answers to the questions you asked yourself earlier. Are there clothing styles that you’re completely in love with? Find images of clothes in the colors you love best and post them on there. The same goes for places in the world that you might like to visit, events you’re interested in attending, and so on.
In simplest terms, you’re creating a vision board dedicated to the ideal version of yourself; the one you daydream about being if you didn’t have to live up to other people’s expectations. The visual reminders of how awesome that potential “you” could be may eventually give you enough confidence to take steps toward becoming that person.
Maybe you’ll start wondering why other people’s opinions and approval matter to you. And furthermore, you might start to question all the things that have been holding you back from living more authentically.
While you’re at it, create a section on that mood board that’s dedicated to the kinds of people you’d ideally want to spend your time with.
Do you daydream about spending time with a wise elder from whom you can learn all kinds of fascinating tidbits and skills? Or a group of wild-hearted hippies who dance in the sunshine and grow their own food?
Quite often, when we find ourselves in group environments, we feel pressured to engage in performative behaviors in order to fit in with those around us.
7. Allow yourself space to play and be creative.
When was the last time you engaged in creativity or play? Children are constantly drawing, painting, sculpting things out of macaroni and mud, and playing different games, but adults usually don’t prioritize such endeavors.
Most of us have been programmed to place higher importance on getting chores done than on expressing ourselves through art or music.
Try to remember the types of creativity that you enjoyed most when you were younger. Did you fill endless sketchbooks full of dragons or plants? Or wear your fingertips raw from coaxing different melodies from your guitar?
If those endeavors don’t feel “right” to you anymore (as we touched upon earlier), try out a wide variety of different art and craft forms to see what suits you best.
Our interests and hobbies often change a great deal over the course of our lives. Speaking from experience, I focused on drawing and sculpture at art college and spent two decades as a graphic designer and art director, but now the art forms I love best involve fibers and fabrics.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine who loved to play the guitar in his youth has become a luthier and creates all manner of wooden instruments for others to play.
Explore different art forms and games, including those you would ordinarily shy away from. It’s absolutely okay to play video games as an adult, as they’ve been shown to increase joy and alleviate stress.
Go ahead and fingerpaint, make wire-wrapped jewelry, or take up the didgeridoo. Let your heart and soul guide you, and you’ll feel a lot more peace and fulfillment as a result.
8. Pay attention to what your body and mind are trying to tell you.
In most healthcare circles—including psychology—it’s believed that conditions such as anxiety and depression are symptoms of disharmony in one’s life.
For example, a person might feel generally depressed without seeming to know where their sadness is coming from. But, in reality, they know deep down that they’re in a loveless relationship or they absolutely hate the career path they’ve worked so hard to attain.
They’re grieving this truth on a soul-deep level but haven’t consciously come to terms with the reality of it yet.
Similarly, someone may get waves of anxiety over the course of the day without understanding why either, especially if they haven’t experienced anything that would cause it.
Most doctors don’t tell their patients that food allergies can cause anxiety and depression, and some of the most common allergens that trigger these responses include wheat (gluten), corn, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshades, and eggs. Even substances such as coffee and sugar can cause anxiety spikes.
If you’ve worked with a therapist to try and determine where these feelings are coming from and haven’t gotten any clear answers, consider a consultation with an allergist and/or nutritionist. You may discover that things that have been throwing you out of balance can be addressed with some dietary changes*.
Similarly, if you feel anxiety or depression in a particular place or around certain people, don’t dismiss it offhand. Certain environmental toxins—including but not limited to things like black mold—can cause depression, anxiety, brain fog, and other mental health issues.
In fact, concentrated mold toxicity can cause symptoms so severe that they’ve been diagnosed as bipolar disorder by some mental health professionals!
Similarly, sensitivity or allergies to certain scents can cause symptoms ranging from heart palpitations to vertigo.
Always err on the side of caution. Trust your intuition and talk to a healthcare professional to determine the potential cause(s) of what you’re experiencing.
*Note: What we’ve mentioned above doesn’t apply to clinical depression, anxiety disorders, or issues relating to PTSD or autism spectrum disorders. There’s a huge difference between one’s brain being wired a particular way and feeling intense sadness or anxiety because of life circumstances or food sensitivities.
9. Keep a dream diary or journal.
Elements that appear to us in our dreams often stem from our subconscious minds. Furthermore, they can inform us about topics we need to pay more attention to, or they may offer us clues about what we need on a fundamental level.
Many doctors and psychologists believe that our dreams offer us advice on things we need to do to help ourselves. For example, a person who dreams about eating cheese or ice cream may be in need of more calcium, so the subconscious mind prods them to consume foods they know contain that mineral.
Since your dreams will show you what needs to be attended to, you can also make a conscious request to be given information via your dreams. We have the strongest link to our subconscious minds in the liminal state between sleep and wakefulness.
When you find yourself drifting off, either say aloud that you’d like guidance about X topic in your dreams or that you’d like to be shown what you need to pay attention to.
Ensure that you have a pen and paper beside the bed or that your phone is within reach and set to take dictation. Whether you snap awake in the middle of the night or ease into the day several hours later, record whatever it is you can remember from your dreamtime adventures. Even if a detail seems weird or insignificant, it may offer you great insight later on.
Ideally, you’ll keep a dream journal or diary and record what you’ve dreamed every single night. Jot down what you remember as soon as you wake up, before you make that morning tea or coffee or even speak to your partner.
Write down everything you recall, as often as possible. Then, several months down the road, read back through the entries to see if you can find patterns.
For instance, you may discover that things you dreamed of matched your intuition in the waking world and that situations you anticipated would happen actually came to pass.
If this occurs often enough, it may help you learn to stop second-guessing yourself so you can trust your instincts more in the future. After all, it’s one thing to simply be a cheerleader about a topic, and it’s another to see evidence of repeated patterns in which you were correct over and over again. Evidence is much more convincing than theory, right?
10. Spend time alone.
Many people avoid spending time alone because they aren’t comfortable in their own company. This often happens when someone is actively trying to avoid their own thoughts and thus keeps themselves occupied with conversations and tasks involving others.
When they’re alone, they might start to question things that they’ve been trying to maintain, or face truths that they don’t particularly want to deal with.
That said, silence and solitude are absolutely vital for one’s personal development. A person can’t truly be in tune with themselves if they’re never alone by themselves. This is because we have to constantly adapt and compromise in order to exist harmoniously alongside others.
As such, we may not be able to blast and sing along to the music we love the most because it will bother our partners or housemates. Similarly, we might not be able to eat what we like most because of others’ preferences or sensitivities. Or we may not concentrate on projects we like to do—even something as simple as reading—because we’ll inevitably be interrupted by someone else’s needs or wants.
When you spend time alone, you don’t have to live performatively. You don’t have to put energy into pretending to love someone’s art project or listening to someone else complain about the bad day they had at work. Similarly, you don’t have to dress to impress any other people or take part in activities that they’re unlikely to mock or mess with.
When you get in tune with yourself, it feels as though everything in your life falls into place more easily. You’ll start trusting yourself more instead of being wracked with self-doubt, and you’ll develop the confidence to be the version of yourself that makes you truly happy.
This might feel a bit scary at times, especially if the “real” you is quite different from the version that you’ve grown accustomed to pretending to be. But, in the end, the sense of peace and fulfillment that goes along with it will be well worth the nerve-wracking baby steps.
You can absolutely do this, you beautiful unicorn, you.