12 Ways to Practice Self-Reflection (and What It Is)
Leigh Weingus •
Self-reflection is one of the most important parts of personal growth. Self-reflection allows us to look back on past experiences or decisions we made, good or bad, and apply them to the future and what comes next. As we come to understand exactly what led us to certain points—from extreme highs to excruciating lows and everything in between—we can make better decisions about what comes next.
Here’s everything you need to know about self-reflection, including what it is, why it’s important, the benefits of self-reflection, and how to practice it.
What is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is defined as meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives. Self-reflection means taking a step back and looking at the way you’re living your life, the way you’ve lived it in the past, and how you can live it going forward. It means gaining a deeper understanding of whether or not you’re living your life in a way that aligns with your core values.
Why is Self-Reflection Important?
Self-reflection is important because it can help us better process past experiences and the way we’re currently living our lives to understand if it aligns with how we want to live our lives going forward, and what changes we need to make. In a way, the very essence of Silk + Sonder is all about self-reflection: Through journaling and tracking moods, habits, and more, we can reflect on where we are now in terms of our character, motives, and actions, where we were in the past, and where we want and need to go next.
What Are the Benefits of Self-Reflection?
Some of the top benefits of self-reflection include:
- Facing your fears
- Getting a better understanding your core values
- Improved sleep
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Stronger relationships
- Better decision-making
- An ability to set bigger and better goals
- Understanding your purpose
- A more positive mindset
How to Practice Self-reflection
Here are 12 ways to practice self-reflection:
1. Take a moment each day to ask yourself a question
This can be just a single moment, and just a single question. It doesn’t have to be written down anywhere, it can be a simple moment of introspection. Ask yourself a question like:
- Am I putting enough effort into my relationships?
- Am I taking care of myself physically?
- Am I doing enough to alleviate my anxiety and stress?
- Am I on track to achieve the goals I set for myself?
- When I think about the future, what do I worry about most?
2. Ask loved ones for support
Sometimes, self-reflection can be tricky, because there’s only so much our own minds can tell us. As you work through self-reflection, ask someone close to you questions that can help you better understand your own issues.
Do you ruminate a lot? What motivates you? What brings you joy? Sometimes, the people close to us can help us understand ourselves more easily.
Journaling is a crucial tool for self-reflection. While prompts are great (and can certainly be useful as you reflect!), taking the time to free-write can also be a helpful self-reflection tool. So set aside 10 minutes (five minutes is great, too) to work on self-reflection.
4. Talk to a mental health professional
Mental health professionals like therapists are trained in helping people reflect on past experiences and helping them to better understand themselves. A mental health professional can provide you with the tools you need to get a better grasp on yourself and who you are and start to look toward where you’re going next.
5. Take a long walk
Walks are great thinking time. While high-intensity exercise like running or a HIIT workout can be great when you’re overthinking, a long walk can help you reflect on your motives, core values, and so much more, anxieties and fears, and more.
6. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
It’s hard to think clearly and reflect adequately when you’re exhausted. So work to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night as often as you can. That will leave room for better reflection time in the mornings, as we’re often at our most clear-headed when we first wake up—especially if we’re well-rested.
Meditation is an excellent tool for self-reflection because it allows us to take the time to pause. It takes us out of our racing thoughts—also known as the “monkey mind”—and provides us with the space to simply pause, breathe, and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.
8. Talk to yourself
Sounds a little crazy, right? But talking to yourself out loud, or having a conversation with yourself, can help you better reflect on your motives, past experiences, and where you want to be going forward.
9. Examine your negative thoughts
It’s not always fun to examine the negative thoughts that plague us, but doing so can be a crucial tool in self-reflection.
As you work to better understand negative thought patterns, you can flip the switch to help make them more positive, or at the very least more neutral.
10. Do things that take you outside of your comfort zone
Sometimes, taking yourself out of your comfort zone is exactly what you need to do for self-reflection.
Whether it’s putting yourself in a new social situation or taking on a new physical or mental challenge, doing something outside of your normal activities that scares you (even just a little!) can really help.
11. Try breathing exercises
Similar to meditation, breathing exercises can help you think a lot more clearly. When you breathe in deeply through your nose and out through the mouth in a slow, rhythmic way, it can help bring some self-reflection to your life.
12. Do anything you can to reduce stress
It’s really difficult to practice self-reflection when you’re stressed out. So do what you can do to reduce stress: Get enough exercise, work to reduce stress and burnout at work and home, sleep enough, take rests, and practice self-care.
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