It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of day-to-day life and to get distracted by the never-ending flow of emails, news, and social media begging for our attention. Experts recommend carving out time for self-reflection as the starting point for identifying our goals and charting our progress.
Here are five tips to get you going.
Set aside time
Pressing pause on your to-do list might feel wasteful or indulgent, but it’s just as necessary as your visibly productive tasks. Schedule time regularly, whether daily or weekly.
“We often resist self-reflection for reasons that sometimes include not wanting ‘waste’ time or perhaps because we do not want to disappoint ourselves when we realize what we may not yet have achieved,” observes Laurel Steinberg, psychotherapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University.
Make it as easy as possible to do
Take a few minutes while you walk the dog or commute, if that’s all you have. Turn off the social media or podcast to create quiet time whenever you can.
“The simplest way to get started with self-reflection is to make the habit of checking in with yourself regularly and in a nonthreatening way, e.g., while you are waiting for a coffee. Reflect on how you are feeling and ask yourself why you are feeling that way,” suggests Brett Cowell, coach and author of “The Good Life Book.”
Check in with your body
Review yourself head to toe to see if your body is telling you something. There’s a reason it’s called gut instinct.
“Self-reflection can include attending to subtle physical sensations that provide clues about feelings that haven’t quite entered consciousness. Just as a barometer picks up slight changes in pressure that can signal the arrival of a different weather system, a tight feeling in our stomach or an ache in our chest can indicate an emerging sense of unhappiness about something in our lives,” observes Lisa Marchiano, licensed clinical social worker and Jungian analyst.
Feel your emotions … all of them
After checking out what your body feels, do the same with your heart and mind. When you notice a feeling, ask yourself why you’re feeling that way.
“Pay attention to the surface emotions that show up and notice how it feels in the body. In a quiet place, a person can continue to pay attention to these emotions and bodily sensations and slowly dig deeper. Protective emotions like frustration, anger and sadness often mask primary emotions that take intentional reflection to access, such as loneliness, humiliation and rejection,” suggests Melody Li, licensed marriage and family therapist associate and relationship specialist.
Try both structured and unstructured time
Maybe you need the simple quiet of meditation or maybe you’ll appreciate a writing prompt like a gratitude journal. See what works for you.
“Meditation is one way, reflecting on defining situations by thinking or writing them out is another, and creating a life story is yet another. There are many ways self-reflection can take place, and trying different ways can go a long way to helping find the best type or types for you,” says Craig Foust, counselor and therapist.
This post is part of Unstuck’s Self-Reflection Week. Check out this week’s Instant Insight, our ultimate guide to self-reflection, and our collection of three touching stories on how reflection led to personal transformation. And please write us and let us know about your experiences. We may publish them next week.