In a world that encourages productivity and being busy at all times, spending quiet time for reflection and introspection may not be on the top of everyone’s priority list. With so many competing demands for our attention, it can be hard to prioritize spending quiet time on self-reflection. Taking the time, as little as five minutes, to reflect on our lives and choices can make a world of difference and add value to our lives.
Introspection is a process of self-reflection that involves examining one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations in order to gain insight that can inform life’s most important decisions. Introspection can help us notice negative patterns that have developed in our lives that we want to change, it can prevent us from worrying about things that are out of our control, and help define happiness on our own terms.
Start the Conversation
Sometimes, the most difficult part of introspection is finding where to start. Start the process of introspection by beginning the conversation with yourself. It could mean taking a moment during meditation, writing in a journal, or even sipping a tea without distraction. Taking some time every so often to reflect on our own mental and emotional processes is a cathartic way of facing and understanding our feelings and emotional state of being. By starting this conversation and the process of introspection, it lifts us up from feeling stuck and helpless to creating and executing an action plan.
Ask What Questions Instead of Why
With introspection, it’s important to ask yourself questions to examine the problems you’re facing. However, it’s also important to ask the right type of question to keep your conversation focused. Asking ‘what’ questions instead of ‘why’ questions helps shift your focus on coming up with solutions to problems to work towards your goals. When we ask why, we can get caught up in a line of thinking that enables us to fixate on problems instead of taking action. For example, instead of asking yourself, “why do I feel so terrible?” reframe the question to ask “what am I feeling right now?” Asking ‘what’ questions can help you name your emotions better to reduce negative feelings and attitudes associated with a problem you’re trying to work through instead of indulging in them.
Frame Your Questions Around a Goal
While framing your questions to examine the problems you’re encountering is helpful to identify our emotional processes, it’s also important to frame your questions around a goal. If you have a persistent problem on your mind, and you’ve already identified the feelings that this problem brings up, ask yourself questions that aim to shift your focus from the problem to possible solutions. This shift in thinking can have potential answers to problems and can increase your confidence in your ability to solve future dilemmas. Feeling agency and control is an important part of creating effective introspection while increasing the odds of following through on your intentions.
Beware of Rumination
In order to have effective introspection, it’s important to keep introspection structured toward reflection and avoid rumination. Rumination rehearses things you did or that were done to you in the past, and many confuse this process with introspection. Left unchecked, rumination can lead you down a spiral that is not only unproductive, but can potentially be harmful to our mental health. If you notice that you are starting to feel bad about feeling bad when reflecting, then that is a sign that you are experiencing rumination. Avoiding rumination is important to keep your time for introspection constructive while becoming more in tune with your emotions and what you know to be true to yourself.
The Value of Introspection
Introspection is a skill, and like most skills, it takes time and practice to develop the best approaches that fit you. The more time we spend being introspective in our lives, the better our self-awareness will be as well as our overall well being, happiness, and focus. Tapping into introspection periodically adds unquantifiable value that leads to a more fulfilling life.
Written by Eleni Zaptses
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