Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

You are here: Home » How To Be Happy » Happiness Tips

5 Strategies to Practice Self-Reflection (& Why is it so Important?)


In today’s fast-paced, busy world, it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities without leaving time for self-reflection. Though it can feel like finding the time is difficult, prioritizing time to self-reflect is so important. In fact, it’s necessary to be the best version of yourself. 

Self-reflection allows you to better understand yourself and grow as a person. Other benefits of self-reflection include reduced stress, better connection in relationships, and enhanced general well-being. With these benefits, you may be surprised how simple it actually is to practice more self-reflection in your life.

In this article, we will look at the definition of self-reflection, why it is important, and some tips on how you can practice it in your everyday life.

What is self-reflection?

Self-reflection means taking the time to think about and evaluate your character and actions. This includes reflecting on your thoughts, behaviors, values, biases, motivations, and desires. It is the process of uncovering the “why” behind your thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

Practicing self-reflection takes time and intentionality. It requires that you take a step back to think about your life and the reasons you think the way you think and do the things you do. 

Self-reflection can take many forms, including reflecting in the moment as well as after the situation has happened. Self-reflecting in the moment allows you to quickly understand your thoughts and behaviors and act on them in real-time. 

For example, you may be having a difficult conversation with a friend, and you feel the tension building. Self-reflecting in this moment can help you to keep your patience, acknowledge and understand your emotions and thoughts, and act accordingly. You can ask yourself:

  • Why am I responding this way?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • What is driving my behavior? 

You can also self-reflect after situations to grow and learn from experiences. For example, you can ask yourself:

  • Is there anything I would change about my behavior and response next time?
  • How can I overcome these challenges in the future?

Lastly, self-reflection can also be used as a tool to savor and be thankful for the enjoyable moments in life.

For example, you may think back to a special moment in your life such as a vacation, wedding, or memory with loved ones. Returning to these moments enriches life and allows you to appreciate its beautiful moments. 

Why is it important to self-reflect?

There are many benefits of engaging in self-reflection including reduced stress, improved learning ability, a better understanding of yourself, feeling more connected in relationships, and overall stronger well-being.

Self-reflection has been shown to reduce stress in various aspects of life including academics and athletics.  A 2015 study looked at the effect of self-reflection learning exercises for nursing students undergoing their clinical practicum. The study found that the exercises improved students’ clinical competence and reduced stress levels. 

When it comes to athletics, research demonstrates that practicing self-reflection is considered necessary in order to improve physical and mental performance. Athletes use self-reflection to better understand aspects of their performance that went well, and areas they would like to improve. They can then brainstorm solutions and a course of action to achieve their goals in the future. 

Studies also show that self-reflection is linked to personal growth and higher life satisfaction. When you are able to self-reflect you gain a better understanding of your strengths, areas of improvement, goals, and motivations. It opens you up to the possibility of positive change and allows you to learn from your past experiences. 

When it comes to relationships, experts say self-reflection is one of the most important boxes to check. When partners in a relationship are reflective and aware of their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, they are able to better understand themselves, listen to feedback from their partner, and recognize the part they play in relationship issues. 

5 tips to integrate self-reflection into your life

Now that you have learned why self-reflection is so important, let’s dive into some helpful tips to integrate it into your life. 

1. Ask yourself questions to prompt reflection

Try and think of some questions you can ask yourself to prompt self-reflection. Having pre-planned questions can help you create a routine around self-reflection. You can try to integrate this routine daily, weekly, monthly, whatever works for you!

This list is a great place to start, with over 80 questions to prompt self-reflection. Intentionally taking time to answer some of these questions thoughtfully is a great way to help you better understand yourself. 

2. Journal

Journaling is an excellent way to get your thoughts and emotions out. It can also be a useful tool for you to look back on and see patterns and changes in your reflections.

If you are having trouble getting started, or aren’t sure what to write about, there are lots of great resources to help. Try an online diary app or a print journal for self-discovery and reflection

3. Be able to differentiate between self-reflection and rumination 

Self-reflection is supposed to be constructive and beneficial, however, there are times when reflection turns into worry, negativity and rumination. Knowing how to differentiate between constructive self-reflection and rumination is important to ensure you are getting the most out of your reflections. 

Reflective thoughts are curious, but neutral or factual.

For example, you may think “What motivated me to do that? Why did I respond that way?” Contrarily, ruminating thoughts tend to be more negative, judgmental, and emotionally charged. For example, “I can’t believe I did such a stupid thing, what is wrong with me?”

When you find yourself ruminating instead of reflecting, take a break and try again another time. You can also try some of these tips to help you stop ruminating

4. Seek support 

Sometimes self-reflecting can be difficult to do alone. If you need help working through difficult emotions or situations, there is no shame in seeking support from a loved one, or a trained professional.

Therapists can help you to enhance your self-reflection skills in a safe environment. They can also assist if you notice rumination is an issue and explore any underlying issues that may be a contributing factor. 

Here is an article that explains the many benefits of seeking support in more detail.

5. Carve out time for reflection 

Make self-reflection a priority by intentionally scheduling time to do it! Life can get hectic with our phones constantly buzzing, new shows to binge, social commitments, work; the list goes on.

If you don’t intentionally take the time to self-reflect, odds are you may not do it enough to see the benefits. Start small by trying to do it weekly or biweekly, then work your way up to daily. 

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

Wrapping up

When we fail to self-reflect on our lives, we lose the opportunity to grow and learn from our experiences. Self-reflection is a skill that needs to be developed and nurtured. With a little time and patience, you will be able to integrate self-reflective practices into your everyday life and experience the many benefits that come with it. Start small by trying one of the tips in this article, and go from there!

What do you think? Do you find it difficult to practice self-reflection? Or do you want to share your experiences on how to self-reflect with our readers? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Jessie Faber portrait

Jessie Faber

Writer

Writer, athlete, social worker, and professional thrift shopper. Born in Canada, but currently living my dream playing professional soccer in Greece. Passionate about mental health advocacy, sewing, singing, and playing guitar.

Leave a Comment