The past few months have brought about a lot of changes for many of us. Society continues to face unprecedented social shifts, and our personal concerns about our health, our wellness and our immune systems has never been more front and center. Likewise, over the past few months, many of us have embarked on new health strategies and approaches — from dramatic New Year’s resolutions to new immunity supplements to new habits. Today, let’s take a step back in self-reflection and consider all the ideas and strategies we’ve adopted, how each of us is doing in our health pursuits, and how we can move forward with a mindset of positivity, hope and courage as we take control of our health, our immunity and our destinies.
What Is Self-Reflection?
Many of us move through life without fully tapping into our inner intuition. We make changes, embrace ideas, or evolve our habits without really considering our goals, our values, and what we want most out of life. We’re also often not fully attuned to our inner motivations, desires, worries and fears.
Self-reflection changes that. It’s about creating space, time and emotional capacity to be aware of our inner thoughts and needs, and ensuring that our external life and our external routine is aligned with what we actually want to get out of life.
Alas, it’s a life skill that many psychologists warn we don’t practice enough, especially in the face of rapid scientific advancements, political upheaval, and a world navigating a pandemic and renewed interest in public health and public policy.
“People look to others to solve their problems, make them whole and give them meaning in life,” explains human behavior expert Beverly D. Flaxington in a column for Psychology Today magazine. “But what if the problem isn’t actually out there? What if part of the struggles you deal with are internal to you? It’s quite unpopular today to engage in healthy self-reflection, or to put it in another way, ‘What’s my role in my problems and how could I address things differently for different results?'”
This is true for may facets of our lives:
- “I can’t change my diet because so-and-so does all the grocery shopping.”
- “I can’t exercise because my job is too demanding.”
- “I can’t take my health supplements because…”
This isn’t to say that life doesn’t present real, concrete challenges and obstacles between our daily lives and our best selves. But with more self-reflection, and being more aware of what we want (and how our actions and habits are either supporting what we want, or sabotaging those very same goals), we can’t really change our lives.
“So many of our habits, patterns of behavior, and pre-set programming are buried in our subconscious,” says psychologist Tchiki Davis, PhD. “They operate in a sort of ‘control room,’ directing how we think, feel, and act, oftentimes hurting our well-being. If we want to be in control, we need to see into the ‘control room,’ beyond the conscious mind, and change some of the programming we no longer benefit from. One way to access the unconscious is through self-reflection.”
The Benefits of Self-Reflection
As you contemplate the last few months that you’ve experienced, consider the ideas you accepted. The habits you embraced. The changes you made permanent. The advice you fell in love with. And consider how your own desires, inner thoughts, emotions, fears and dreams played a role in all of that.
That’s the benefit of self-reflection. It’s about becoming more aware of our needs. It’s about becoming more attuned to our motivations. And it’s about ensuring that everything we do gets us closer to our healthiest selves, our happiest selves, and our best selves.
When we spend more time in self-reflection, we experience benefits like:
- Increased health and vitality: We are better able to recognize how our habits influence our health, and we’re more able to make the right changes at the right time.
- Increased commitment to our health goals: When we have a clear picture of our goal, and it’s a goal that we truly desire (and not something that was simply pushed on us by health experts, the media, Hollywood’s idea of body image, etc.), we’re more motivated to do what it takes to realize our goals.
- Increased happiness: One of the biggest things that sabotage our diet, our supplement habits, and other wellness routines is that we’re motivated out of fear and anxiety, and not motivated out of love for ourselves, and hope for our future. Studies make it clear that negative, fear-based emotions don’t truly motivate us to stick with what we want in the long term. By embracing positive emotions, we aren’t just healthier — we’re also happier and more full of joy.
How to Spend More Time in Self-Reflection
Self-reflection is a habit that takes practice. Try:
- Checking in with your thoughts: What is your inner voice telling you? What is your internal dialogue saying?
- Asking yourself about your “why”: WHY do you want to do this diet, or try this juice cleanse, or do this action? Is it because it’s something you want, or is it because someone else told you to do so?
- Get comfortable with knowing yourself. The more you know yourself, the better able you are to make decisions that embody your best, healthiest self. Ask yourself questions such as, “Am I taking any of this for granted? Am I putting in real effort to do this? Do I have a healthy perspective? Is this a way for me to be true to myself?”
- Consider habits that naturally cultivate more self-reflection and self-introspection, such as spending more time in nature or doing daily meditations.
- Set aside time to make this a habit: “Schedule time,” recommends Harvard Business Review. “Start small. If an hour of reflection seems like too much, try 10 minutes.”
Your goal this week is to consider carefully all the things you’ve implemented over the past few months to be healthier, happier and stronger (whatever that might look like to you). Then, check in with yourself. How are you doing? Was it/is it something you actually want? Did you put in the energy, effort and honest attempts to make it real?
Apply this to all future health habits, recommendations and goals you might be tempted to try, and move forward with true motivation, purpose and joy.
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