Starting 2020 with Mindful Self-reflection Practices
By: Kimberly Nenemay, Psy.D. | January 2, 2020
The end of the year and the decade presents a natural pause to take time for self-reflection. One can reflect by asking questions such as “did this go as planned?” or “did this go right?” We may find ourselves thinking in black and white terms such as “did I have a good year or a bad one?”
What if we use mindfulness instead as a tool for self-reflecting? Mindful reflection allows one to reflect without judgment but with curiosity and openness to our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness originated in Eastern thought and philosophy espousing the idea of being fully present and in the moment to one’s experience with acceptance and without judgment. Within psychology, practitioners utilized the concept since the 1970s and became more mainstream over the past several years. In the mindful state, one does not worry about the past or the future but does accept the present moment’s experience. As a psychologist, I often work with clients using mindful practices to ease the stress and anxiety of everyday life or worries about the past or the future.
So, how would we use mindfulness when we reflect on our past year and decade while looking into the future? Hello 2020!
We define self-reflection as a “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives” or “careful thoughts about one’s own behavior and beliefs.” Adding a self-reflective component to a mindfulness practice can enhance the experience of assessing our thoughts, behaviors, motives, and the resulting consequences in our lives.
Learning from the Past
Essential components to growing and learning include the ability to learn from our past. Adding a mindful concept to the practice of self-reflection adds a layer of acceptance and non-judgment. Not in the sense of accepting one’s own behavior to rationalize away the need for change but rather changing through more acceptance and non-judgment. In this way, we enhance our ability to move forward without shame or guilt.
Enhancing Relationship with Self
Change can only start by looking within. Through mindful self-reflection, one begins to live a life more in line with one’s value system. How often do we hear about those who felt joy and freedom after taking the leap to leave a soul-sucking job or an unhealthy relationship that no longer served them? Brené Brown writes in her book entitled Rising Strongly about the process of “being brave, falling and getting back up.” Through extensive research, she learned that people who rise “are not afraid to lean into discomfort.” Through self-reflection, we can begin to lean further into these areas of discomfort and perhaps lead more authentic lives.
Through mindful self-reflection, we can not only enhance our relationship with ourselves but with others. Through questioning, you can begin to assess your relationships with others. “Do I treat others as I would want to be treated?” When looking within, and when there are points to change, one can then begin to take action and change how we interact with others. In turn, relationships can become more fulfilling, in turn making ourselves happier. Relationships wherein you can trust and lean-on others have proven to enhance the sense of happiness in life.
Questions for Self-reflection:
- Do I live up to my value system? If not, why not? If so, what allowed me to do this?
- Do I surround myself with people who uplift me and my values? If not, what holds me back? If so, how do I express my gratitude to the people within those relationships?
- Am I a model of behavior and value systems for my children? If not, what can I do to change this?
- Are there areas of my life that have not worked well for me? Are there areas of my life that HAVE worked well?
- Am I happy in my career? If not, how can I make my work experience better for me? Do I need to start the process of changing careers?
- Do I take care of myself? If not, why not? How can I add self-care to my daily practice?
These represent only a few examples of questions to ask yourself. By being in the moment with a daily mindfulness practice, you begin to become more in tune with yourself and others. We often live on auto-pilot with the pressures of modern life. Only when we slow down can we fully appreciate those little moments. With self-reflection we can make changes or continue the practices that lead us to live happier lives.
As we begin the year 2020, I invite you to pause, reflect, and reset. An enhanced mindful practice can surely lead you to a healthy, happy, peaceful New Year and decade to come!