We often associate staring into a mirror for long periods of time with vanity and narcissism or flaw-finding and self-criticism. But learning how to get comfortable with your reflection can actually be good for you. Mirror gazing, a form of meditation, is a simple concept that involves spending purposeful time in front of a mirror to literally self-reflect. 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.
Mirror Gazing Differs From Other Meditative Practices
As a meditative practice, mirror gazing is not far removed from other mindfulness exercises. Like other meditations, it can guide you to be more conscious of the present moment, enhance relaxation, and ground you in calmness amid the various stressors of the day. The main differences that set mirror gazing apart from other meditation practices are the use of a mirror and the focus on outer self as a portal of better awareness to your inner thoughts and feelings. 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 to build a spiritual connection with the person you see in the mirror. The practice can at first be quite uncomfortable, particularly if self-esteem has been tied to aspects of your physical being. But as a new form of healing, over time, mirror gazing can help mend misconceptions you may hold deep within. This simple yet powerful practice has been shown to offer a multitude of benefits including increased confidence, improved mental health, healthier self-image, increased compassion, better stress management, improved relationships, and enhanced emotional resilience.
Mirror gazing engages you to look past mere surface flaws to recognize the profound beauty and true miracle that is your whole embodiment. Focusing solely on yourself quietly with no distractions for a few intimate moments helps you notice your inner voice more clearly. Noticing any negative self-talk and mindfully transitioning toward more positive self-talk each day is a significant step toward greater self-confidence.
Similarly, when you sit with yourself as your own best friend during a mirror gazing meditation, you can single out your favorite features, traits, and attributes and show them love and appreciation. By acknowledging yourself, complimenting yourself, and cherishing yourself, you can begin to grow more confident in your own skin.
Authenticity and Emotional Awareness
Emotions commonly show themselves on your face, but research shows that you also carry emotions elsewhere in your body. For example, distress may be evident by the slouch of your shoulders. Insecurity may be revealed by your inability to meet your gaze in the mirror. Looking at yourself intentionally, though, helps you to practice authenticity and emotional awareness. You can’t run away from the things that are troubling you, so mirror gazing offers a chance to confront them instead.
Noting how emotions shift across your face and show with 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 up to what comes, find relaxation in the experience instead of fighting it. You may find that sitting with your reflection can help dull the edges of the sharpest pains that accompany distress, making them easier to bear. Learning to understand and accept all your emotions can also facilitate better communication 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 is a relatively new meditative technique that is gaining broader awareness due to research showing benefits of improved mental well-being. Here is a glimpse at two studies that 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. Afterward, 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.
A Mirror Gazing Meditation Technique
If you’ve 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.
- Practice Self-Kindness
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.
The Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror
Every time you glance at your reflection, be greeted with a friendly reminder that you are a beautiful human. The new Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror is perfect for your mirror gazing meditation practice. The mirror measures 5w” x 7h” and comes with a double-sided engraved wooden base. Perfect for your desktop, tabletop, bookshelf, or windowsill, so you can mirror gaze anytime, anywhere. It makes a great gift and is made in the USA.
You can shop the Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror here.