At the close of the year, many take an introspective look at their lives. Often, time is spent taking a personal inventory of shortcomings and how life and self can be improved. That might look like setting New Year’s goals for performance, self-improvement, or achievement.
There is nothing wrong with improvement, but a constant awareness of falling short can impede the acceptance and mental health benefits of focusing on what is right in the present moment. What if this year the goal was to shift your mindset from one of “fixing” to adopting the attitude of “accepting” the human you already are?
As you look towards 2023, we’ll tell you:
- why being overly reflective can be damaging
- how to shift your mindset
- how to account for your strengths (not just the things you need to work on)
Reflection and introspection are important and effective tools to help us learn from past behaviors and events. Steve Forstner warns there can be times during which we become stuck in a reflective mode and may use this as a way to escape taking necessary action.
Dr. Kylie House tells us that being “too reflective” might manifest in a form of OCD called hyperawareness OCD – where even mindfulness can be turned into a mental compulsion (automatically invoking a thought pattern to help lower a sense of distress). An example of faulty thinking which could lead to something like this is: ‘If I stay very present and mindful of how I behave or impress upon others, then people will like me, and I will never have to worry about the awkwardness/uncertainty of social situations.’
Having another person such as a therapist or coach to keep your thoughts in check can be extremely helpful. If that isn’t your thing, Dr. Steve Rondeau suggests a men’s or women’s group that you can reflect and connect with to help you keep things in perspective. He says, “We aren’t our best when we are islands!”
Finding a support system can be helpful when you are shifting your mindset from one of fixing to one of accepting. It’s important to be self-aware and feedback can be helpful in that way. For instance, Dr. House says, “I have a rule in my life that if I hear the same message more than once from people, then it’s probably worth reflecting on. I try to reflect on the validity of the message as it applies to my life as well as what barriers/resistances I am harboring which have prevented me from seeing the message for myself. One may assume that this only pertains to ‘negative’ messages, but it can also apply to positive messages, such as accepting compliments! Compliments – and accepting compliments – are a great way to discover one’s personal gifts.”
Beginning with awareness of one’s mindset towards fixing, which is so common in our culture, Dr. Joe Martindale encourages patients to set an intention that is reinforced often if not daily to utilize acknowledgement and acceptance as one’s default way of being.
“You might try pairing every complaint and shortcoming you identify in yourself with a positive affirmation of your strengths and essential goodness. Keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful practice for cultivating greater compassion and appreciation. This creates an opening in the heart for acceptance of our struggles and charts a path towards positive change. We all have the capacity to create a life worth living, full of joy and satisfaction,” says Stephen Thomas.
In addition to journaling, meditation is also a helpful tool on the path to acceptance. It helps greatly with difficult transitions both before and after. There are no rules about how long or how many times per day. Dr. Rondeau uses the Focus Calm app as a reminder to stop and refocus on what’s going well during the day.
Consider these questions as you are cataloging your strengths either through meditation or journaling:
1. What did you do to makes someone else’s life easier today?
2. What did someone else do for you that helped you?
3. What made you feel good about yourself today?
All it takes is flipping the questions you are asking yourself from the focus of self-improvement to the focus of acceptance.
As we come to the close of another year, Stephen Thomas reminds us, it is a fruitful time for self-reflection and setting goals for the future. Some helpful ways to explore this include journaling, making art, spending time in nature, meditation, and connecting with close friends and loved ones. Many of us have a tendency to focus only on the negative aspects of ourselves in this type of exploration. While acknowledging our areas for self-improvement and growth can be very useful, it’s important to do so with gentleness and generosity. As Marsha Linnehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, reminds us, we are all doing the best we can in any moment — and we always have room to grow and learn from our mistakes. However, learning from our mistakes does not preclude learning from our successes as well. Finding the balance between the two is a very valuable strategy.
Wholeness Center a variety of mental health tools to assist you. If you live in the Northern Colorado/ Ft. Collins area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs the Wholeness Center has to offer, please call 970-221-1106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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