Self Reflection – The How and Why

self reflection

As we exchange energy with every event of our lives, we also allow the force of life to flow and mould us – through and through. This ever changing landscape of our inner being isn’t something that shows up on our faces. 

It would be tremendously helpful if we knew we are closing in for a mental breakdown because we have been avoiding a certain issue – let’s say – on the right side of our cheekbone, but sadly it does not. 

The workings of our minds happen silently in an abstract realm. So to have an understanding of what is happening inside and how in harmony we are with it all, we need to, on a regular basis, have a heart-to-heart chat with our world within.

What is Self Reflection?

Putting it simply, self-reflection is taking a step back and observing your own cognitive processes, your emotional & behavioural cues, triggers, and responses and having an open conversation with your own self about them.

 Self-reflection, also known as Introspection, was extensively used by early experimental psychologists like Wundt, Titchener, and Kulpe at the end of the 19th century as a tool for achieving self-knowledge. Self-knowledge forms a clear image of who we fundamentally are inside and self-reflection is the most sound means to lead to that. 

If you don’t trust the scientists, you can summon Socrates at your next séance, and he can confirm, as he spent his entire life doing just so – knowing himself through introspection.

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Benefits of Self-Reflection

Sigmund Freud, the renowned neurologist and psychoanalyst from Austria noted that we humans have a mind that resembles an iceberg and the tiny tip that is visible above water is how much we actually consciously interact with the most, on a day to day basis. 

The huge rest of it that is submerged is how much lies unseen and unspoken for, unless we actively try to look in. To know that there is such a vast plethora of information about our own selves that are shielded from our knowledge is not helpful. 

The more we know about who we have been all these years through our lives and what events have impacted us and how, the more we can suit our upcoming days with better calm and ease. To begin with, here are a few of a long list of benefits lookingwards begets us : 

  • Getting a better understanding our core values
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Stronger relationships
  • Better decision-making
  • The will & courage to face our fears
  • An ability to set bigger and better goals
  • Understanding our purpose
  • A more positive mindset
  • Greater accountability
  • More confidence
  • Improved leadership skills

 And so on. If none of these tempt you, then you may find one that is extremely humbling, the one called being able to be a friend to yourself. In the world of disconnection, this one thing is a rare treasure, and we know it. 

Through self-reflection, we achieve the ability to know how to be compassionate to us, how to step outside of blaming ourselves, and into supporting our own little flawed system.

Also Read: Benefits of Meditation (Meditation Advantages on Health)

Difference Between Self Reflection and Thinking

If we think about thinking, it is usually about a ‘what’. For example, if a friend asks, “What are you thinking?” your answer is likely to be about something that has, is or going to happen or something you are hoping, assuming or something similar. 

But reflecting goes deeper than our daily news and our reactions towards them. Reflection aims to achieve answers to more complex questions, like, ‘so what?’, ‘ if so..?’, ‘why exactly..?’, ‘what do we mean by..?’, ‘how accurate is our thought that..?’, ‘why do we feel…?’ and the likes. 

Another key difference is that thinking can be automated, reflection cannot be. It requires our attuned presence to actually get to any answers at all. Reflecting on your thoughts takes time and effort, thinking is instantaneous. To be blunt, you cannot mix these two up. Their differences are very stark. But these next two do get blurry for a lot of people. So let’s sort them out as well.

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Reminiscing vs. Rumination vs. Reflection

Let’s begin with the similarities. Almost like brothers, all three of them would require your inward focus; they might invoke deep seated feelings; all may get you lost in your world and lose track of time. But that is just about where the similarities end. To sum up the differences, they would be:

Seemingly positive in nature, usually pans out with nostalgic visuals in mind. Leaves out other details, only zooms into the pleasurable part of memories. Negative in nature, usually spirals down from one negative thought to the next. You feel like you are stuck in a loop. only zooms into the painful part of memories. Neutral in nature, usually goes where your curiosity lies. Reveals proportionate to how comfortable you are being vulnerable with yourself You choose the direction where it zooms in.
Risks distorting memories.Risks distorting memories.Opens up perspectives.

Our minds have a regular habit of wandering off. Sometimes when it does, it begins in its own automated mode and we lose focus on where we were and what was the objective. Knowing the key differences will help you in those moments to recognize what is happening. You can recognise, acknowledge without judging the mind and simply come back to your own process of reflection.

How to Practice Self Reflection?

Now that you have all the pre-level knowledge in hand, let’s chalk out a simple way to self-reflect by yourself. You can ofcourse make your own practice as you feel comfortable and that would be best. But if you need a handy one, here is the easiest steps to self-reflect

1. Find Your Space:

  • Pick a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. This is your time with yourself. So pick your favourite position – sitting, reclining, laying down – and don’t worry about dozing off to sleep. If you do, that says your body and mind felt calm enough to fall asleep. So that is good news too.
  • Consider brewing a cup of something to sip while you ponder. 

2. Ask Yourself Open-Ended Questions:

  • However you choose to approach this – as a case study or making a new friend, remember that you are here to indulge in your own curiosity, about yourself.
  • Questions like “What went well today?” or “What could I have handled better?”, “how so?”, “why did that bother me?” can be a good start to your self-reflection journey. Then you can ease onto more complex ones as you gradually feel more drawn to the answers.

3. Keep a Journal:

Think of your journal as a time capsule for your thoughts and feelings. Writing down your reflections helps you track & discover your patterns in your thinking. It’s like playing treasure hunt with your own thoughts!

4. Embrace Imperfection:

  • Remember, nobody’s perfect, not even your favourite superhero. Embrace your flaws like a quirky sidekick in your path to self-knowledge.
  • Self-reflection isn’t about judging yourself harshly; it’s about learning and growing. So whenever you discover a trait in yourself that you dislike, or have actively protested in others, remind yourself that if you hold something that defies your own values, you can choose to look into why it has been there for so long and then work with or around it to shape yourself the way you feel authentic. There is no final version of us. So don’t dread an unfavourable answer, rather ask it back “why is it so..?”

5. Set Aside Regular Time:

Make self-reflection a habit, like brushing your teeth or sharing memes. Schedule a date with yourself and stick to it. This can act as a check in time and keep you informed on how you are feeling inside about how life outside is happening. We know life happens, so you might miss many. So it is okay, as long as you keep coming back to the practice and maintain your connection with your inner world.

6. Celebrate Your Wins:

Acknowledge your victories, big or small. It can be a pattern you recognized that had you stuck in a loop of unsuccessful relationships, or a little realisation why exactly you said what you said in that meeting, that had you confused for so long. No matter how big or small, they matter. You knowing about your way of being is equal to you looking in the mirror and seeing more of yourself – the picture being less blurry, and expanded more. Celebrate that. All of that.

7. Alternative ways to self reflect:

Therapy :

Contrary to popular belief, Psychotherapy is not a place where you tell your problems to get solutions in return. It is far more a cumulative approach than an individualistic one. A Therapist rather helps you self reflect and find your way towards your own self. This guided form of self reflection is ofcourse more generative of results as there is a professional practitioner involved. So if you feel you need a guiding light to tread further unknown territory inward, professional help can be the best solution.

Go on a Walk :

Apart from the fact that walks keep us healthy, walks also turns on our brain significantly more than when we are sitting. So if you fancy a walk, go for it! Maybe this will become your on the move kind of reflection time.

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Also Read: Impact of Meditation on Brain (Effects, Changes, Benefits)

Self-Reflection Checklist

So you have achieved the basics and now you want to further your reach. Here is the checklist, let’s see what you will need to be a Pro in Self Reflection:

1. Breath to Mind:

Breathing is where we begin. So going back to the ultimate basics can unlock a lot more than the modern world intends to share. Breathing techniques, such as pranayama in yoga, help by harnessing the intimate connection between breath and mind. 

Science shows that conscious control of breathing patterns can regulate physiological responses, induce relaxation, and enhance cognitive function. By directing your attention to the breath, you can anchor yourself in the present moment, making the perfect ground for deeper self-awareness and introspection.

2. Mind and Body:

The practice of asanas is the combined practice of body and mind through one avenue. Beyond the physical benefits of increased flexibility and strength, asanas provide you with perspectives to your internal balance and wellbeing. Through mindful movement and alignment, you can tune into bodily sensations, emotions, and energetic states, gaining valuable insights into your inner landscape. 

3. Body and Self:

Originating from ancient Indian wisdom, the philosophical framework of Panchkosha offers you a comprehensive model for understanding the layers of the self. According to this doctrine, your human existence comprises five sheaths or Koshas, ranging from the physical body to the blissful essence of pure consciousness. Delving into each kosha through contemplation and study enables you to unravel the complexities of your being, fostering profound self-reflection and spiritual growth.

4. Awareness:

Meditation now is backed by results of scientific studies for its myriad benefits on mental and emotional well-being. Through techniques like mindfulness, body scans, detachment and so on, you can cultivate a heightened sense of awareness, allowing you to observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement. 

This can be a great place to start if you don’t want to jump head first in the world within just yet. Meditation can slow down your process of thought consumption and help you take the step back so you look at yourself thinking. And that, you will find, is a superpower, no less.

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In a nutshell :

All of them might seem kind of similar and that is because they all are different windows looking out at the same scenery. Neuroimaging studies have revealed structural changes in brain regions associated with self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy following regular meditation practice. 

Similarly, research on yoga and pranayama has shown improvements in cognitive function, emotional resilience, and overall well-being. As we find more stillness, no matter the practice, or how many, we get one step closer to a more fluent relationship with ourselves. The language of our inner world begins to speak more to us and in time, we flow in harmony with who we always have been within. And the goal is that.

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