How do you like quiet solitude?
If you enjoy it, that’s usually a sign of inner peace. If you’re comfortable with who you are and your life is broadly as you want it to be, taking time and space to reflect can be a wholly positive experience. Studies show that silence is good for the brain, and spending time alone helps us to be more creative. If you’re happy as you are, quiet solitude is an opportunity not only to recharge your batteries but also to daydream and to plan. It’s all good.
But what if quiet solitude is difficult for you? If you avoid it, this indicates you are out of balance and need to reconnect with your true self. Do you keep your diary full so you’re too busy to stop and reflect? When you do get some down-time, are you drawn to the television, the internet or some other place where your mind can hide? The more challenging it is for you to take time and space to reflect on yourself and your life, the more important it is for you to start doing this. Refusing to acknowledge the elephants in your room doesn’t make them go away. You may or may not be aware of it but ignoring those beasts is taking up an awful lot of energy – energy that you could put to more productive use.
Taking time and space to reflect on yourself and your life is a journey of discovery. Of course, this can be daunting – even scary – but, before you set off, persuade yourself to see it in a more positive light, as interesting – or even exciting. A lot of it may be stressful and disorientating, some of it may be horribly painful and you may feel as if everything is getting much worse… before it gets better. But get better it will. As you start to make progress and to become more comfortable with who you are, you’ll gradually feel more solidly and genuinely happy. When the going is tough, keep reminding yourself that the rewards awaiting you are enormous.
If you’ve been resisting self-reflection for decades, put some boundaries in place to keep yourself safe as you begin the process.
Choose your times. At the macro level, if you’re up against a deadline at work, you’re in the middle of moving house, or a relative is in hospital, this may not be the best moment to wade into the psychological swamp. Be honest with yourself about how busy, stressed and overwhelmed you really are.
At the micro level, think about how you’re going to find your way out of the swamp when you feel you’ve explored enough. What do you need to help bring you back to a place where you’re OK? Plunging into self-reflection late at night, for example, is usually a bad idea, partly because your options for activities to help you get back to normal afterwards are more limited.
Be positive and remember why you’re doing this. The purpose of taking time and space to reflect is NOT to flagellate yourself for your mistakes and stupidity! If that’s the way it’s going, stop. Apologise to yourself and give yourself some supportive affirmation, then go back with a more positive attitude. The aim here is to work out what changes you’d like to make to your life, what’s getting in your way, whether what you’re trying to achieve is what you feel you should do or what’s truly right for you.
In the past, you did the best you knew how at the time – and so did everyone else. Dwell on your history only in order to understand how it’s brought you to where you are now. Then focus on creating the present and future you want to live in.