By Sydney Cormier
Sometimes life goes by so quickly that you don’t have time to take a minute and think about how you’re doing. No, I don’t mean how you’re doing in school, or at your job, or with your workout routine. I just mean, simply, how YOU are doing.
I hit a point in my life where I became so busy that days were flying past me, and I had little time to reflect on how I was feeling. My family noticed how completely run down I was - I had lost a lot of weight, my skin and hair became dull and dry, I was irritable and on-edge… but I was moving so fast that I barely had time to notice. Once I took a second to reflect, I realized that I was not happy, productive or satisfied with my current life.
After hitting this point, I knew it was time to make a change. I made a promise to myself that I’d pay attention to what made me happy, and what drained me - right down to the little things in each day.
Self-reflection sounds like an easy thing to do on paper, but making it a consistent habit was more challenging than I ever anticipated. The hardest part, of course, was just getting started. But after about a year, I can tell you that this habit has made a considerable impact on my self-confidence and my mental health.
In this article, I’m offering a little insight into my self-reflection technique, and how I’ve managed to incorporate this practice into my daily life. I’d like to challenge you to try it out. See for yourself how a small practice can change the way you think and feel. Here goes…
1. Set aside a place and time for self reflection and stick to it each day.
- I incorporate self-reflection into my schedule as a part of a quick 10-20 minute yoga practice on my bedroom floor each night before going to bed. This works because it’s a small time commitment - anyone can find 10 minutes in their day, so there’s no excuse for skipping it.
- Think of it as a hygiene practice, similar to brushing your teeth or showering. After all, it’s important to take care of both the mind and the body.
- For me, it also helped to associate self-reflection with yoga, just because yoga is something I enjoy doing. If you do too, I’d highly recommend combining the two, because then you’ve got the added benefit of getting your body involved.
- Set reminders for yourself at first - I’d set an alarm, or leave my yoga mat and candle in the middle of my floor so I would remember my promise.
2. Meditate on your day - Starting with the bad.
- Start by mentally going through all the things that were challenging or difficult for you that day. As you do this, think carefully about WHY you found these things difficult. Understanding the ‘why’ is something we don’t often make time for. It’s important, though, because once you have the cause of your unhappiness identified, you can work towards creating a solution in the days to come. Remember that we’re talking about small things here, specific just to that day and that day only.
3. Promise yourself a solution.
- Take the problems from part 2 and promise that you’ll try to find ways eliminate them in the future.
- The important thing here, though, is that you’re going to do this for you - NOT because you have to, but because you want to and deserve to. You’re entitled to be your happiest, most productive self, so tell yourself this until you believe it.
4. Think about the positives, and thank yourself for them.
- After you’ve thought about what made your day not-so-great, think about something that was good. And you CANNOT skip this step - there is always something. Even after the very worst day, you can at least thank yourself for getting to the end of it.
- At the beginning, you may feel silly saying “thank you, me”, but just try it. After a little while, it doesn’t feel so weird.
- By mentally highlighting your own successes, you get into the habit of realizing how well you are doing. It’s easy to get down on yourself and focus on the negatives, but you are usually doing a lot more great things than you think. You owe it to yourself to reflect and recognize those things.
5. Make a positive statement about your qualities as a person.
- After you’ve thanked yourself for something, provide yourself an explanation for the good thing that happened with a positive “you” statement. For example, if you’re thanking yourself for getting a good grade on an assignment, tell yourself that it’s because you’re focused, intelligent and dedicated. Maybe at first you don’t believe these statements. Maybe you think you got that good grade because you got lucky. Doesn’t matter - tell yourself otherwise. Make it about you. Eventually, you’ll start believing the things you hear, especially since you may not be used to hearing them from yourself.
6. Finish off with some breathing and a mantra.
- Come up with a mantra. Take 10 deep breaths and repeat it to yourself. Again, another one that sounds totally silly, but I promise it works.
7. Keep doing this.
- Force it on yourself if you must. It’s going to feel weird at first, but you’re not going to feel different if you only do it once. Making this a habit is key!
Okay, now here’s an example — on any given day I usually find I set my goals a little too high. Let’s say I wanted to go over 5 chapters of studying, and when the day is through, I only ended up finishing 3. I used to go to bed thinking, “damn, I really wish I had been more productive today. I didn’t meet my goals and now I’m behind…” This kind of thinking left me feeling disappointed and unaccomplished. When that happens day after day after day… It can be incredibly draining.
Instead, through this self-reflection routine, I’ll say this to myself -- “I only got through 3 chapters instead of 5. This left me feeling unproductive and stressed. It happened because I was distracted and didn’t focus, so tonight I’ll get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow I’ll come in ready to kick some ass, because I’m awesome and I deserve to kick ass. I’m thankful that I got through those first 3 chapters though. It’s a step in the right direction, and it happened because I’m a dedicated person who sets goals and works hard to achieve them.” I’ll then finish off with 10 deep breaths, along with my mantra — “You are in control, and you are blessed.”
So go ahead, try it yourself. Over time, I’ve found that these little daily reflections have transformed the way I think about the greater picture and my life in general. I’ve built my faith in myself, and I feel mentally stronger and more positive than ever.
It’s a small habit that makes a big difference. What have you got to lose?
Here’s a small disclaimer. This is simply a list of things that have helped me to keep my mental health in check, and I’m encouraging you to try them. But they might not work for you, and that’s okay. Just keep trying until you find something that does. And if you just can’t seem to get on track, reach out for some help. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves, and we need some support and guidance, whether that be from a friend, a counsellor, or a doctor. Just remember that no matter who you are or what you’re doing, you deserve to be happy.
About The Author:
Hi, my name is Sydney Cormier and I'm a 2nd year dentistry student at Western University in London, Ontario. I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and I love traveling, chasing adventure, and trying new things. But some days, I just like to relax and hang out with my cat. Before dental school, I worked with Jack.org on various youth mental health initiatives, and still have a passion for mental health awareness. You can follow me on Instagram at @sydcorm, or check out my travel blog: www.sydneysadventures.com.