Reflecting on your life should be easy…
Truth be told that some of us don’t know where we are in life right now. How is it that we got to where we are today? It feels like just yesterday I was a child eating chicken nuggets and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It would be nice if there was a specific process where we can just take time to reflect on our lives and see how each stage made us into who we are today. When we’re working for most of the week and seeing friends on less than frequent occasions, we might ask ourselves “Am I doing the right thing?” Is there something that we could’ve done in the past to give us the life that we’ve always dreamed of? When it’s all set and done, we have to realize that life in itself tends to move at different paces, at one moment it may feel like we’re having the longest day of our lives and the next we tell ourselves that the years are going by too fast. Taking time to reflect on one’s life is a crucial process that is necessary for our well-being. While we’re going through life’s obstacles, we don’t remind ourselves of how important it is to reflect. Through my experience and some proven research, there are five simple steps that you can take to learn how to reflect properly and consistently.
Taking 5–10 minutes of your day to close your eyes and focus on one thing can have enormous benefits to your mental health. Often when we catch ourselves reflecting it tends to be at random parts of the day when we’re caught up in our work. We build habits and we can’t help but not to follow them, whether these habits are good or bad they stick into our brain and consume our time. With meditation, you can plan your next move and take time to think about how your living your life and what put you in the position that you’re in today. Many children do this practice without even knowing, and as you can see, they find joy in the smallest things and can remember the names of everybody they meet along with experiences where they had a fun time. Almost 10 times more children used meditation in 2017 than they did in 2012 (disturbmenot.co). Humble yourself and use this reflection process to gather information about how your life is going at the moment.
When it comes to reflection, the most recommended process in doing so is journaling. Having somewhere to write down what happened in your day allows you to be more organized in your thoughts. There’s something that goes unsaid when you're able to see your thoughts appear on paper. Any anxiety that you have built up in your head is now on a sheet of paper written in ink and now when seeing that problem visibly it’s not as bad as you may have thought it was. “Not only does it boost memory and comprehension, but it also increases working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing (intermountainhealthcare.org).” What’s also unique about this step is that after a few months or years, you can always go back and read in greater detail about how your life was compared to how it is now. These written memories will stand out from all your other ones that have been forgotten and disposed of.
3. Talking to Friends
Talking to your friends may be a regular thing for some people or it may not, nonetheless, it’s a highly effective method for reflecting. These conversations are even better when you get in contact with a childhood friend or somebody that you’ve grown up with. When there are times that you can’t figure out how something was done or need some encouragement, a friend is always there to guide you through it. Part of the process of them telling you what you need to know has to do with how much they already know about you. They know what you like and what you don’t like. Another benefit of having a friend to talk to when it comes to reflection is that you can be as open to them as you want to be. One example of this is when I’m talking to my best friends, I ask them about how they view me in certain situations. I ask them about what it was like talking to me when I was having a mental breakdown or how I sounded after having a good day. If you find yourself stuck on what to reflect about, talk to your friends and listen to what they have to say about you and how they say it.
4. Analyzing Your Routines
Part of this process can be done while journaling or meditating, but it has its own distinctive process that is more natural than others. Over time we build new routines into our lives, these routines change without us even realizing. Routines that were once part of our childhood are now upgraded into procedures that are necessary for life that is filled with family, work, and school. Making the comparison of your past routines to now can show you how you’ve changed as a person as well. Thinking back on those memories allows you to go back in time and figure out why you were doing the things that you were doing along with your pre-mature mindset. From a personal perspective, I have certain routines that I look back to for inspiration and reflection. My morning routine when I was a teenager didn’t involve mediation and exercise, for me at that time it was about taking a quick shower, eating a quick breakfast, and then I was on my way to school. I’ve accepted the changes that I’ve made now because I now have more time in my mornings and know how to prioritize a bit more.
5. Taking Time to Daydream
Daydreaming is something that is forbidden at work and is looked down upon by society in most scenarios. Even the school system won’t allow such behavior because it shows your lack of focus. While in some instances it may not be right to take on this habit, it can be used as a reflection tool in the right situation. When daydreaming, your mind is doing whatever it wants, it can be compared to meditation except with your eyes open and not necessarily in a seated position. I like to set time aside at night when I’m in my bed to daydream before I go to sleep. I will sit in my bed facing my closet and just allow myself to do nothing as if I was some type of Roman statue. What can make this process even more effective or even a little less boring to you is to add some music. I’ll usually turn on some R&B or some Lo-Fi instrumentals for a calmer mood. This is the ultimate reflection tool and will have amazing benefits that include: better sleep, a relaxed state of mind when dealing with a problem, and more presence in your life as well.
Reflection is something that we need to add more to our life. We carry ourselves through the day with no inspiration at times and we forget where we came from. What can inspire us the most is time spent thinking about what made us into the person that we are today. While all we can do is stay in the present and hope for the future, we should also think about the ups and downs of our past. I leave my readers with a quote by novelist Charles Bukowski about reflection that says, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”