The benefits of self-reflection

The benefits of self-reflection

by Jennifer Brown
Stripes Korea

Editor’s note: At Stripes Korea, we love to share your stories and share this space with our community members. Here is an article written by Jennifer Brown, a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. If you have a story or photos to share, let us know at korea@stripes.com.

 

While it is a common practice to vent to our friends about our day or our troubles, I have personally found that reflecting on everyday experiences is also beneficial. As humans, we constantly try to make sense of the world around us, why things happened the way they did, and also what we want to do in the future. In doing so, we have naturally developed a practice of self-reflection of our everyday life experiences. Not surprisingly, I have found that this way of coping with daily life has major benefits including stress relief, promoting new problem-solving skills, and providing a new point of view and compassion for myself and others.

I personally use self-reflection as a way to reduce my stress. Generally, I have found out that self-reflection has helped me in similar ways a venting session with a friend does. That is, whether I think it through or talk with someone about it, my anxiety about a situation decreases significantly when I’ve given myself the opportunity to release stress. Additionally, I have discovered this also helps me create a game plan on what my next move will be.

Whether you decide to reflect alone or through speaking with someone, what I do suggest is doing so in moderation. In other words, let yourself reflect on an experience for a short period of time, but not for too long that you’ve begun to dwell on it. For example, I allow myself to think through whatever my mind goes to during short 15- to 30-minute walks. For me, this is just the right amount of time, as I know that too much time in my own head does more harm than good. The “right amount of time” is different for everyone, so the key will be in finding what works best for you.

Taking the time to reflect also increases my problem-solving skills. Perhaps the best way I can explain this is the feeling when you complete a difficult task and receive various amounts feedback from your audience. Whether it is friends and family, or your coworkers or employers, both the positive and negative feedback you receive from sharing your experiences can spark new ideas not that you would have not normally considered. For instance, talking with someone at work about the lack of volunteer options during quarantine led to me seek online or virtual volunteering opportunities. I would not have even considered that as an option beforehand; that is, until someone mentioned it!

Another added benefit is that self-reflection provides a new point of view. While new experiences in general can do this, I have noticed that when we intentionally reflect on prior or current experiences it can help us see the bigger picture. I remember after running my first marathon, someone said I looked disappointed with my overall finish time. Though I hadn’t said anything, my nonverbal cues gave me away. At the time, I felt confident and satisfied with my performance, but others could tell that I wasn’t happy about it. I had trained for months to run the race under five hours, but my time was over, and I was in fact, ultimately disappointed. Reflecting on my first marathon has given me the insight to foster new and accomplishable goals, but also not to be so hard on myself if I don’t at first succeed.

This draws me to the next benefit of self-reflection: self-compassion. In particular, I have pinpointed two opportunities that self-reflection provides us that can foster self-compassion. The first is that when we begin to consider various viewpoints, reflecting on past and potential outcomes of future experiences can help us understand the frame of mind we were in during an event versus where we are currently. Likewise, when we start to do this, we are more open to take steps towards being kinder to ourselves. In my experience, stopping to think about a situation allows me to better understand why things are the way they are and helps me formulate the next steps needed to move forward. From this, I have ultimately learned to have more compassion towards myself, especially in regard to my past decisions, and looking forward to how I will make future ones.

While these are just a few reasons why self-reflection can be an important part of your daily life, it certainly is not a comprehensive list. In fact, there are probably so many benefits to reflection that they cannot even be listed! Taking the time to journal about your day, post a reflective and meaningful post on social media, or have a heart-to-heart conversation with a loved one can also do the trick. However you do it, I hope you can benefit from reflecting on situations more often.

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Jennifer Brown is a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. Originally from Florida, she joined the Navy in 2018, and has been on island for over a year. During her free time Brown enjoys spending time with animals, running, rock climbing, and hiking. She is an alumni of the University of Central Florida, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her professional interests include social work, animal welfare, and children.

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