It is soon approaching the one year mark of me leaving my job of almost 13 years. When I made the decision last year, I chose to take time off to focus on getting my life coach certification and to be able to just exhale for a bit. There were a number of things that led me to this decision; the main determining factor was, I felt like I was losing myself to my work.
During this past year, the question of whether I made the right decision has crept up occasionally, but it is always short lived. When I analyze my previous year, it was probably the smartest thing I could have done for myself in all aspects of my life. I was able to spend time taking care of myself mentally and physically. I allowed myself to enjoy the little things in life I used to miss out on because I was too busy focusing on the big things. This time was a huge reset for me, a time for major reflection of myself and what I wanted my life to look like moving forward.
The most significant improvements were in my relationships. My husband and I have more open and honest communication these days. I have been able to spend more intentional time with my extended family. I have enhanced my connections with the people in my life who are important to me. I’ve built amazing friendships with several fellow life coaches I met only a little over a year ago. I am more aligned with myself than I have ever been before.
However, the most meaningful relationship transformation from this past year is that with my two boys. I love all the moments I was able to spend with them. My older son is turning 13 this September and I have never felt more like a mom than at this point in my life. When my two boys were little, as much as I knew I was doing the best I could, I often felt lost as a mom. I was struggling to get back to a healthy mental state during both of the times they were newborns. I also had a difficult time taking care of helpless human beings. I now realize that doesn’t make me less of a mom; it just makes me someone who isn’t good with babies or toddlers.
During the tough stages of raising my boys, working at a stressful job, and having to play all the other roles in my life; I was not spending much time on reflection. I was allowing the circumstances around me to rule my mind. During this time, I experienced a ton of anxiety and hardly any peace. When we live our lives on autopilot and just go through the motions, we can feel empty inside and life can seem pointless.
In today’s society, we seem to be busier than any of the previous generations. We’re working longer hours, our kids’ school activities have increased, and social events seem to take over our lives. We are so bombarded with all the things we need to do in a day, it doesn’t cross our minds to take a few minutes to pause for our minds to catch up to our bodies. We keep moving, pushing through, not questioning if this is even the life we want for ourselves.
We are so busy rushing through our day to get to the end of it, we often overlook all the wonderful little details. Why are we in such a hurry to get to the end of our day, and on a grander scale–to the end of our lives? We seem to be missing out on the significance of the time in between. If we continue living this way, aren’t we forgetting the purpose of life? I would argue, the chapters in the middle of the book of our life are just as important as the ending, for it gives meaning to the entire story. Remember that we get to be the narrator of our own story; we get to write the current and future chapters and decide what we want it to be.
Brene Brown said the following in her Netflix special, The Call to Courage, which really resonated with me. “I get so busy sometimes chasing the extraordinary moments that I don’t pay attention to the ordinary moments. The moments that if taken away, I would miss more than anything.” Most of us are guilty of this. The practice of reflection allows us to appreciate the joy in these so called ordinary moments.
So what exactly is reflection? Reflection is defined as serious thought or consideration and self-reflection can be described as taking a step back and reflecting on our life, behavior, and beliefs. This practice can bring a sense of inner peace and presence to our lives.
Taking time to reflect has been my saving grace through the extraordinarily tough times. During my many phases of depression, journaling was incredibly powerful, when I actually had the energy to write. I didn’t think anyone else would understand what I was going through, but putting my thoughts on paper was incredibly insightful.
I used to only practice reflection every now and then, or when there were too many thoughts overpowering my mind. However, the exercise of reflection should be done when things are good, as well as when things are not so great. Reflection provides self-awareness of what creates certain negative feelings for you. Conversely, it lets you know what brings you positive emotions, such as joy and excitement that you would want to expand on. The practice of reflection helps you identify your strengths and build on them, as well as identify areas in which you can improve and grow.
Here are a few ways you can implement the practice of reflection, on a daily basis if possible. These are just suggestions, adjust it to how it can fit in your life. As you can see, they are all ways to allow your mind some space to be centered. The key for this to be effective is to actually do it. There is no right or wrong way. Make it as easy for yourself as possible so there are no excuses not to do it.
1. Reflecting while walking. I walk for about 30 minutes each day, 10 of those minutes I walk in silence. It’s quiet time for my mind to pause and think about a past situation, a future decision, or time for my brain to just be still.
2. Journaling, either on paper or the computer. I type faster than I write so I tend to stick with the latter. Don’t edit what you are writing. Don’t judge it either. This should simply be downloading all your thoughts onto paper or screen to allow your mind to analyze it without being critical.
3. Clearing negative emotions. When I feel a lot of anxiety (or any negative emotion) in my body, I quickly write down all the things that are possibly creating this feeling for me. Usually it’s a list of many little things. Just writing the cause of the emotion somehow lightens the grip it has on me. Having awareness of what created the emotion helps alleviate the intensity of it. This exercise can also be done to understand positive emotions and what created those feelings for you.
4. Taking deep breaths, feeling centered and present. This can be equated to mediation but you can use it in whichever way suits you best. Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted, take several deep breaths and just allow your mind moments of silence. You can use this exercise: to be calm and quiet; to seek answers; to understand a past situation; or to find clarity to make a decision.
5. Using the mindfulness app on Apple watch. For those of you who have an Apple watch, there is a mindfulness app which has two types of sessions, reflect and breathe. You are able to adjust the duration on each session from 1 to 5 minutes. This is an easy exercise to do without much thinking for those times when you have a few minutes of waiting during your day.
The power of reflection is immeasurable; the benefits are well worth the time you spend on it. I encourage you to give it a try for at least a week or two. You will have better mind management. As a result, you will: have a better sense of self-awareness; gain new perspective by looking at the big picture; be more proactive than reactive; improve your decision making skills; and have better relationships. Don’t let the thought that you don’t have time be an excuse. I will leave you with this quote I came across the other day which is humorous but also true. “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”