“There is no greater journey than the one that you must take to discover all of the mysteries that lie within you.” – Michelle Sandlin
A recent trip to the mountains enabled me to forest bathe beneath the trees with my journal. I know the benefits of journaling well, but honestly had not put pen to paper in some time. Taking time to self-reflect enables us to connect with and process our thoughts, emotions and motivations, and helps discover the “Why?” behind them. It provides an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, sort through our observations and experiences, create meaning and deepen self-awareness.
In my small bout of reflection I uncovered a lot. I found peace with my recent decision to take on a new role at work and began to process some difficulties I’ve been experiencing parenting a two-year-old. I created a list of actions I could take, reflected on some key questions, on what was going well and felt a physical sense of relief when I closed my journal and capped my pen.
Writing down our experiences and feelings is a proven strategy for coping with anxiety and negative emotions. One meta-analysis found that expressive writing led to reduced blood pressure, improved immune system, fewer visits to the doctor and shorter stays in the hospital, improved mood, reduced symptoms of depression, improved memory, and more. The act of self-reflection is a powerful tool to add to our resilience bank account and is critical during this time of continued uncertainty, grief and anxiety amid the pandemic and political division in our country.
Research also shows that self-reflection is an essential part of our learning process. For example, one study found that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not.
Ruminating on the negative, listing our complaints, unfulfilled desires, and regrets provides release, but may not be the most productive way to spend our time reflecting. We've got to reflect on the "Why?" behind what we do/did. What was going on for me when XX was happening? What went well? What did not go the way it was intended? What did I learn? What will I do differently next time? What do I need to let go of in order to move on? This process will lead to a plan of action and over time may uncover trends in your thinking and behavior.
Building time into our day for self-reflection helps us learn from our experiences, notice our habits and focus on what is important in life. It also provides an opportunity to practice other resilience-boosting activities, like deep breathing, gratitude and self-compassion.
As American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey shared “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” May we regularly take time to quiet our mind and take stock of where we are. May we devote time to focus on our breath and let our mind rest. May we slow down to go further. And may we be gentle with ourselves and each other along the way.
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!