I find it fascinating that people assume that questions will be interpreted by a variety of people the same way. Having just done two different character strengths surveys, I can assure you that people do not all have the same understandings of simple questions requiring Likert scale responses; such as “I see beauty in every day things that others do not” – very like me, like me, neutral, unlike me, very unlike me.

To respond accurately, you need to be aware of what beauty in everyday things is in the same way the survey writer uses it, as well as what the scale means. For example, I have a deep emotional, almost visceral reaction to seeing the stars on a clear night, to the textures on the surface of the moon, to a vivid patch of flowers on the side of the freeway… but when I am tired I do not necessarily even notice any of these things, so although I am aware I do see and appreciate natural beauty, how can I quantify it?

I think it is more important to respond to yourself, then the world (and beings) around you, than to respond to surveys, but for both you need a keen awareness of who you are and what that looks like, sounds like and feels like. As a simple start – how do you respond to hunger? How are you aware you are hungry? Does this awareness of hunger creep up on you, arrive unannounced and yet grab your attention or it is there in the background becoming more noticeable over time if you do not respond?

How we are aware is as important as what we are aware of. Being kind to ourselves and taking the time to be both aware and respond helpfully to that awareness can improve the quality of our lives and the quality of interactions with the wider world and the people in it. Next time you are about to eat, think about how your body feels, try noticing the different aspects of muscle tension, feelings of hollowness or ache, sensations within mouth, stomach and gut as well as in the mind. Are you hungry or are you not sure? How can we respond unless we know? Pop over to MindfulBodyAwareness and check out the resources to see more on this. In the meantime, I feel slightly dizzy in my head, ‘antsy’ in my body, grumpy in my mind and my gut is feeling slightly hollow – signs for me that I am hungry, so I am off to eat.