We all associate looking into the mirror with fairy tales, urban legends, narcissism, or even feelings of inadequacy, but learning how to see yourself in your reflection can increase self-compassion, aid stress management, and improve relationships and emotional resilience. Mirror gazing, a form of meditation, is a simple concept that involves spending purposeful time in front of a mirror looking at yourself. It gives you a chance to self-reflect for a more accurate image of yourself. Though simple in concept, mirror gazing is a powerful health and wellness tool that can renew one’s sense of self and improve self-image among individuals struggling to feel empowered within themselves.
Mirror Gazing Differs From Other Practices
As a meditative practice, mirror gazing is not far removed from other mindfulness exercises. Like other meditations, it helps you learn to stay more conscious of the present moment and offers the chance to find some sense of relaxation and grounded calmness amid the various stressors you face daily.
The four main differences that set mirror gazing apart from other meditation practices are the use of a mirror, the focus on coming face-to-face with yourself to learn more about your inner thoughts and feelings, not chanting a mantra, and not using a special breathing technique. Your gaze becomes the focus of your practice.
The Benefits of Mirror Gazing
Mirror gazing isn’t just checking your reflection to see how you look; it’s an opportunity for you to build a spiritual connection with the person you see in the mirror and aids in mending misconceptions or issues you find within yourself. The act of mirror gazing is a simple yet powerful practice that can be highly effective for improving mental health and self-image, along with helping to develop a more profound sense of confidence in who you are.
Here are a few benefits of mirror gazing:
When you think of a mirror, you probably envision yourself checking your reflection to see if anything is askew. Mirror gazing is more than that; it’s all about looking deeply at yourself. The act of examining yourself in the mirror and focusing solely on yourself for a few moments can be incredibly grounding. Similarly, spending more time with yourself allows you to achieve a better understanding of your being.
During a mirror gazing meditation, you’re in your best position to affirm and validate all of your traits. When opinions and criticism of others fray your self-worth, leaving you feeling alone and vulnerable, you can find a trusted friend simply by turning to your mirror. By acknowledging yourself, your struggles, and your successes, you’ll begin to grow more confident and feel more at home in your own skin.
Authenticity and Emotional Awareness
Emotions commonly show themselves on your face, but research shows that you can carry pain elsewhere in the body, too. For example, distress may be evident by the slouch of your shoulders or your inability to meet your gaze in the mirror. Looking at yourself, though, makes it easier to practice authenticity and emotional awareness. You can’t run away from the things that are troubling you, so you have to confront them instead. Mirror gazing is a wonderful way to do exactly that.
Noting the emotions shifting across your face and within your body language can help you take stock of your present state of mind, especially those hiding behind false fronts of cheer and calmness. As you fully open yourself to what comes, find relaxation in the experience instead of fighting it. You may find that sitting with your reflection will dull the edges of the sharpest pains that accompany distress and find them easier to bear. Learning to understand and accept all of your emotions can also make it easier to communicate with others.
Greater Self Compassion and Love
Looking at yourself in the mirror might make you feel uncomfortable when your reflection reminds you of imperfections and weaknesses. Mirror gazing, though, can help you embrace a more realistic, forgiving perspective. Sure, you have a few flaws, but who doesn’t? These characteristics that you perceive as less-than-perfect may make you feel like they are staring back at you with disdain. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of love – especially your own love.
People often avoid thinking about mistakes they’ve made or wish they could alter aspects of themselves that they consider flawed. But in the mirror, you can’t turn away from the parts of yourself and your reflection that you view as imperfect; instead, you have to acknowledge them. The compassionate acknowledgment of your unique self can help disrupt feelings of shame or your own unworthiness. Pushing back negative thoughts that spring up like weeds can, in turn, allow self-acceptance and self-love to bloom.
Studies on Mirror Gazing
Mirror gazing has an abundance of benefits that can improve your mental wellbeing and how you see the world. While mirror gazing is a truly profound experience, research and studies on the meditative practice are limited; however, a few have been conducted to show the incredible power that mirror gazing wields.
Professor Tara Well of Columbia University
Professor Tara Well, a research scientist at Barnard College, Columbia University, discovered mirror gazing for herself before she developed research in the mirror gazing field and began spreading the word through lectures, courses, and Ted Talks. She conducted an experiment where participants were simply asked to mirror gaze for a length of time.
The results were clear on one thing: all participants benefited in one way or another. Many found reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. She also found that the women in the study started to focus less on appearance and more on how they were feeling. This led to self-resilience and a better connection with themselves. 1,2
You can view one of Tara’s Ted Talks here to learn more about her research and what mirror gazing can teach you.
Professor Nicola Petrocchi of La Sapienza University
A 2016 study conducted by Nicola Petrocchi from La Sapienza University in Rome focused on self-soothing while looking at oneself in the mirror. 86 participants were asked to write down words they’d use to console a friend in despair. Afterwards, they were invited to apply these very phrases on themselves while looking at their reflection in a mirror. Nicola found that the heart frequency observed under these conditions was similar to the frequency found when we’re feeling compassion toward others.3
This experiment shows that a mirror is a prop that possesses the power to make us feel genuine empathy towards ourselves in the same way we do for others. Our physical response moves us to love ourselves, and practicing mirror gazing can unlock great potential for all-around good health and positivity.
How To Do A Mirror Gazing Meditation
Many of us have grown up with an inner voice that’s been less than kind. Mirror gazing meditation can help release self-criticism, serving to replace it with self-love, self-compassion, and self-confidence. Practicing just 5-10 minutes a day of self-reflection (figuratively and literally) can be a therapeutic outlet to support mental and emotional well-being.
Here’s how to practice mirror gazing meditation:
Set the Space and Intention
Choose a quiet, well-lit, private place. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Position your mirror so you can see directly into your eyes. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Have no goal other than to sit with yourself in peace.
Tune Into Your Breathing
Close your eyes and slow your breathing. Take several deep belly breaths, allowing yourself to inhale, hold, and then slowly exhale. As your body relaxes, let yourself breathe naturally. Turn your attention to any tense spots in your body. Visualize that tension slowly dissolving with each breath.
Begin to Gaze Into Your Eyes
Open your eyes and look into the mirror. Notice if your breathing changes when your first look at yourself. Come back to full steady breathing. Consider the message in your eyes. Is it judgmental or kind? Do you immediately focus on something specific you dislike about yourself? Visualize each slow breath dissolving any dislike that arises.
Observe Your Inner Critic
Notice your thoughts as you continue to gaze. What comes to mind? Do flaws come more readily into focus than praise? Do you feel emotions, self-disdain or self-adoration? As every thought comes up, observe it, and breathe it away. Notice how emotions move across your face. What does judgment look like? Anger? Fear? Acceptance? Love?
Notice Where Your Attention Flows
Continue gazing at your reflection, staying open to whatever arises. Notice any sensations or emotions that come up and allow them to simply be there without judgment. Let your feelings and thoughts simply pass by as you breathe, relax your body, and gaze at yourself.
Close with affirmations of kindness, and set an intention to fall in love with yourself a little more each day. Breathe into the energy of your light, that inner beauty that shines so brightly for the world to see. Exhale, and thank yourself for spending precious moments of self-care with your reflection.
Have you ever tried mirror gazing? Let us know in the comments!