Over the last few weeks I have done several podcasts and workshops with various groups and this question keeps coming up. At times I hesitate to share because I believe that much of Mindfulness, Meditation, Breath Work and Yoga are about finding what feels authentic and genuine to YOU. What works for me is not going to work or feel good to the next person. Sometimes when we share routines or habits this can breed comparison and feelings of unworthiness. People sitting in the audience don’t have the capacity or time to carry out your specific routine and so they walk away just feeling defeated.
I don’t want that.
I am a FULL advocate of finding practices that work FOR YOU and WITH the phase of life that you are in. I guarantee that when I am married and have kids running around, my Mindfulness practice will look monumentally different.
However one thing that I am a firm believer in is the practice of Self Reflection.
Self reflection is incredibly important for being able to look inwards, gauge your emotional and mental state and see how you are relating to the world around you.
One of my favorite ways to do this is a simple check in each night.
I am a journal junkie. There is something about taking pen to paper that is incredibly soothing and healing to me. Throughout 2 inpatient stints I was only allowed a pencil and notebook so it was me, my thoughts and the ability to write. There have also been several research studies showing the benefits of writing down thoughts and feelings. Specifically Bessel Van Der Kolk (2014) in his book The Body Keeps the Score discusses how trauma survivors who had a consistent journaling practice show significant psychological benefits both short and long term.
Below is a typical self reflection practice that I partake in each night along with some suggestions or prompts so that you can begin to adapt this to make it work for you.
Yes. Feels. I typically begin by addressing how I am feeling. This is important and cannot be overlooked. I believe that a daily emotional check in is crucial. Why? Because so often we DON’T do this and then we allow our emotions and feelings to build. We then crash and burn. What we are doing with a daily emotional check in is allowing time and space to tap into our everyday experience. This way we stay on top of what we are experiencing so that we can address it in real time. This is HUGE! A few questions you can ask yourself here:
What am I feeling right now?
What were a few emotions I felt today?
What was my overall mood today?
Did anything happen that I want to talk about or bring up?
Is there anything I DON’T want to talk about or bring up right now?
Is there anything that is troubling me?
Is there anything that went really well today?
If I could give today a color what would it be? Why?
This can be as short or long as needed. Sometimes, my response to Feels is: “I am tired and don’t want to talk today.” And that’s valid and perfectly OK. What is great is that I am still taking the time to accept and validate my experience. This is key.
I don’t think I would be a good Mindfulness and Meditation teacher if I didn’t address this. Especially when you are trying to build a mindfulness practice it is great to be able to check in with this at the end of the day. Oftentimes for me this looks like reflecting on times when I simply found my breath throughout the day. By reflecting on this at night I begin to solidify and reinforce this habit so that finding my breath becomes a consistent and automatic process for me in the hustle and bustle of daily life. This is what being Mindful is all about: translation to everyday moments.
How was I mindful today?
What was my Mindfulness practice?
Were there situations where I was mindful?
Were there situations where I could have been more mindful?
What might be my goals tomorrow with my practice?
Again, this can be as short or as long as needed. The key for this part of my reflection is to avoid judgment. This is Mindfulness! Often times we reflect on our day or moments throughout our day and judge ourselves for what we did or did not do. My goal for this part of my reflection is to USE my mindfulness muscle and simply observe and reflect without the added judgment. Easier said than done but this is a phenomenal space to practice this skill.
Before we attempt to fill the pages of a single notebook with ALL THE THINGS you are grateful for lets take a look at gratitude. Gratitude is a wonderful practice that has many benefits for health and well being however, I think many people get gratitude wrong. What we are NOT looking to do with Gratitude is make rainbows and butterflies out of real life painful situations. We need to make sure that Gratitude is not overriding thoughts, emotions and experiences that need to be expressed and felt. This is very much inline with the Toxic Positivity movement. It can be extremely detrimental to your health and wellbeing to always find the positive and to attempt to find something you are grateful for in every situation. (I will save this in depth explanation for another blog post).
Please note.. There are experiences in life that you do not need to be grateful for.
So in light of this I like to keep my Gratitude practice EXTREMELY simple. This can be as simple as your cup of coffee in the morning or the bed you lay down in at night. There is NO need to overdo this.
Name 3 things you are grateful for at this moment.
I hope you enjoy this and begin to use these 3 things as guides not directives. Ultimately you know YOU better than anyone else. So make your self reflection practice all for YOU. My hope is that more days than not you begin to enjoy this time spent with pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) reflecting.
Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score. Penguin Books.