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As one year ends and another begins, we often find ourselves reflecting on the year past. It gives us a chance to think about our highlights, our personal growth, and what wish to achieve in the following year. Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a difficult year, to say the least. As we leave behind 2020, it is as important as ever to reflect on the hardships which we have faced.

Mirror mirror on the wall, what does 2021 have in store?

While we can not control the circumstances around us, we can control our attitude.

What Can Reflection Help Me With?

This is now especially important as 2021 has the potential to become a euphoric year. Soon we will be able to see our loved ones, begin to travel, and also dispel fears of contracting Covid-19. By reflecting on the outcomes of 2020, we can identify what we will want for the year 2021.

But what exactly are the benefits of self-reflection? In this article, we’ll teach you how to do it, and how it can improve many aspects of our lives.

Fostering Creativity

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

Creativity is often seen as a mystical quality which some of us have, and others do not. However, scientists don’t tend to agree with this idea. In a study where participants had to come up with original uses of conventional objects while having their brain scanned, researchers interrupted their ideation sessions with one of two options. One group was asked to reflect on their ideas, whereas another group of participants was given a random distraction.

As you might expect, participants who reflected on their ideas showed heightened attention and efficient memory retrieval, helping them to become more creative with their ideas for object uses.

Looking After Our Mental Well-Being

Reflect upon your present blessings; of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens.

Self-reflection can help us better understand our mental processes if done correctly. Research has suggested that reflective pondering can help us cope during difficult times, by problem-solving or distracting ourselves. However, it is important to make sure that our self-reflections are kind to our own minds. The goal of self-reflection is to help us see our present opportunity and potential, not to beat ourselves up for what has happened in the past.

Forming Healthy Comparisons

Our time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

This nicely brings me onto my next point. Self-reflection can help teach us how to compare the present version of ourselves to the version we want to see in the future. Oftentimes, we tend to compare ourselves to our siblings, friends, colleagues, and even lovers. This can lead to a feeling of insecurity when we realize that we might not have what they do. However, instead of coveting what others have, self-reflection helps us see what is truly important to us. It helps us compare our present selves to our past selves, letting us focus on the progress we have made along our own journeys.

Becoming A Better Learner

“Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.” – Confucius.

In many ways, reflection is learning and learning is reflection. However, did you know that we can hack the efficiency of our learning with a greater focus on active reflection? 

When we reflect on what we learned and how it affected us, the brain revisits previously formed memories and consolidates them. This makes them more “sticky”, and is the process behind the saying “practice makes perfect”. However, simply thinking about what we have learned and the impact that it has on us can help us more likely to remember it in the future. This phenomenon is called the “self-reference effect” by cognitive psychologists and can be used as a simple way to help us become better learners.

Improving Productivity

“Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.” – Richard Carlson.

Self-reflection is fundamentally a practice of careful and intentional thought. Since it is always about ourselves, it can be used to analyze what we consider to be doing well, as well as what we can improve upon. When framed in terms of productivity, self-reflection helps our brains identify the self-imposed obstacles to our success which we might unknowingly put in front of ourselves. In a study investigating the benefits of learners working at a call center, it was observed that all employees who reflected for at least 15 minutes at the end of the day would later perform 23% better during the next week, as opposed to those that did not self-reflect.

How Do You Do It?

So, now that we know of all the marvelous ways in which self-reflection can help us become better people, one question remains. How do we engage with self-reflection?

Self-reflection is all about asking yourself the correct questions, so here we have devised a handy acronym to help you cover the right areas! Just remember, self-reflection can often lead to worry and self-rumination. If you find yourself falling into a vicious circle of thought, be sure to speak with a loved one or try reading some of the insights offered on the uMore app.

The COSH Self-Reflection Starter Kit

  • Challenges: What are the obstacles that you currently face? Be sure to focus on the ones that are within your own control. Remember, while we can not control the circumstances around us, we can control our attitude.
  • Opportunities: What can you do to overcome obstacles and improve your personal circumstance?
  • Skills: What are your strengths and abilities that can make this happen?
  • Happiness: What are the things that make me most happy? Are you giving yourself the time to reward yourself?
Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders
Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Alejandro is the Chief-Scientific Officer of uMore, the AI-powered mental well-being tracker.

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