As the year comes to an end, we often look back and reflect on the year as a whole. Did we meet the goals that we set out to meet? What surprises met us along the way? Reflecting on the year is a meaningful practice, but the power of reflection is greatly enhanced as a daily practice.
Much of our thinking is habitual, like driving a car. We slide in the driver’s seat and off we go, habitually engaging in a tremendously complex process without having to think through every step. Many thoughts and behaviors are much the same: they’re on autopilot. Our brain loves autopilot! It costs much less brain energy to operate habitually than to operate as if everything were novel. Thus, habitual thoughts and behaviors develop very easily and become imbedded in our life, regardless of whether they are supportive or destructive to our wellness.
Many of these imbedded “ways of being” can sabotage self-care. Personally, I have a horrifying need to be right. My brain can place almost any circumstance into the habitualized thought pattern: “You’re right and they are wrong and you should let them know it!” I’m sure this can be helpful at times, but honestly, there is NOT a right way to load the dishwasher…there is only my habitualized way of doing it and my habitualized rise in self-righteousness when someone does it differently. When this thought pattern operates in my life, it doesn’t yield a sense of relief at being right, it just ignites stress, which is my greatest threat to personal wellbeing.
Being willing to investigate our habitual patterns is called “reflection” because we are looking back at what we’re really doing and asking “how’s that working for me?” Reflection is the primary key to learning effective self-care habits, otherwise we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing and getting the same results.
The five fundamental areas of self-care that we must address are stress, sleep, relationships, nutrition and exercise. Caring for these five domains profoundly affect our ability to live a fulfilling life. For example, people often disregard the need for quality sleep, but poor sleep influences every facet of our wellbeing. How we get sleep is often the result of habitual behaviors rather than reflective responses. For example, many clients tell me that they sleep poorly AND drink a lot of caffeine. They are convinced that the two aren’t related yet have never openly explored the relationship.
What habitualized thoughts and behaviors will you find when you begin to reflect on self care practices? What will happen if you constantly ask “How’s that working for me?” Can you use reflection to help replace destructive behaviors with quality supportive behaviors? Caring for yourself this way can be the work of a lifetime, but hey, what else are you going to do with this beautiful life, except to try and live it as authentically, fully and honestly as you can.