Step Two: Reflect (reading time: 7 mins)
This follows on from the previous Peachy Path blog, looking at step one of my approach to navigating wellbeing/life/health and happiness: observe. If you haven’t read this already I’d recommend reading it before you get your teeth stuck into the following.
Once we have learnt to observe our thoughts, habits and daily patterns, I’d suggest the next step is to reflect on what we have observed.
If the word reflection had two words which act as arm bands to keep the concept afloat and more likely to work in this context, they’d be honesty and simplicity. If we start to heavily analyse instead of reflect, it could be interesting. It could open a lot of things up, but it could also lead us down a rabbit hole we may not be ready to go down. Analysis has its place but I’d suggest that when you’re in a pickle or need a life-change, the lighter road of reflection could be better.
Reflection is a noun which means serious thought or consideration. We all know our thoughts can be a little mischievous, contextual and loaded with pre-conception and conditioning, so instead of you thinking as you, imagine you are a kind friend or guide – a separate person stood with you and helping you to reflect as you ‘look in the mirror’ (you don’t necessarily have to stand in front of your own reflection but you won’t be judged here if it helps!).
So with this in mind, now reflect on what you have observed.
In step one you took a look at what you are thinking, making a note of all the thoughts you have throughout the day – both the obvious, common ones, and the deeper rooted ones which you may not have even been consciously aware of.
Reflecting on which ones are constructive, which are neutral and which may be unhelpful can help you to loosen up your mind-knots and identify thinking patterns you need to mark for potential adjustment (more on this is step 3 – adjust). Or it may simply help you to bring them to your awareness and learn how they could be holding you back.
Often, unhelpful thoughts are rooted in fear. Questions to ask yourself are: is this thought rooted in truth? Is this thought coming from a place of love? Is it helpful and wise? Does this thought live in the past? Is it a thought you want to have?
In this process of reflection (if done in earnest) it’s not uncommon to feel your emotions come to the surface and sometimes you might even have a cathartic cry over how much pressure you’ve been putting on yourself to be perfect, or how stale things have become. You may not feel that deeply about it all, but the more honest you are the more you are likely to uncover some things which you may want to consider adjusting. It isn’t about becoming perfect, sanitising your mind or being a super positive holy person, it’s about reflecting on how these thoughts might be affecting your actions, the way you are towards yourself and others and your wellbeing. If you want to improve your wellbeing, which thoughts could be stopping you from doing this?
When observing your habits, you may have already identified the ones you want to change, or maybe you were surprised about the number of habits you have which might be standing between you and greater wellbeing. It may be you instantly don’t believe you can change them or maybe you accept them for what they are and don’t want to change them.
Part of reflection is deciding what is best for you – or rather what you want out of this. No one is there judging you or telling you what you should and shouldn’t do – it’s your life and you are the only person who can ultimately decide what you do with it.
At this stage I would suggest gently, and kindly, to be honest with yourself and keep it simple – which ONE habit do you need to address to begin with, to help you improve your wellbeing and happiness and what new, constructive or helpful habit do you want to swap it with?
Of course, this concept is complex and I’m simplifying it and generalising it for this blog. It’s individual and context dependent – but can you see a better way for yourself in terms of your choices, behaviour and actions?
The day to day
So after observing your lifestyle do you feel you’re active and getting your body moving in all the right ways? Do you feel that your eating and drinking choices are helping you feel well?
Are you giving yourself enough time and space to relax and get enough sleep?
These basics are our base-notes. Reflecting honestly on these elements of our living are the building blocks to everything else. Sometimes if we re-tune these, or even one element, it could be the answer to better mental and physical health before we even look at other help. So, on reflection, how could each of the following basics could be improved (even if a teeny-tiny bit?):
- What you’re eating/not eating, drinking/not drinking
- The amount of exercise you are getting
- The amount and quality of sleep you are getting
- Time to relax
I’ve kept all the above fairly general and there is so much to say about each element, but this is a high level overview. Everyone is different and has their own unique set of contexts, circumstances and challenges. I’m writing from my own experiences of how to navigate through life and grow. And for the record, I’ve been known to do my reflection in front of the mirror – keeps it more real.
So after reflection (i.e. standing back and honestly appraising your observations), the third step, if you should wish to take it, will be to adjust, and that will be the next blog topic. Well done for reading this far, time for a cuppa.