One thing that I have recently been trying to practice is doing self-reflection on not just negative events that happen in my life, but also the positive and happy ones. One would often stop to think and reflect only when something bad happens because they do not want to experience the same hurt or frustration again. But we often overlook to reflect on happy events; why is it so easy to take happiness for granted at times? Do we not want to identify things that can keep us feeling happy?
Reflection, for me, is not just an activity that I do on a daily basis to identify problematic actions that I do not wish to repeat; it is also an exercise that keeps me humble and grateful for all the wonderful things that I experience daily. I would go as far as to say that I have not only improved my relationships with my friends and family, but I have also created the best relationship with myself too.
Keeping a detailed reflective journal has helped me identify patterns between events and my actions. I started doing this when I was going through a very stressful time in my life and to my shock, the patterns in my actions showed me that I have been having issues in controlling my emotions and feelings at times that it ends up in anxiety and emotional outburst that would spoil my day, and even my whole week at times! When I think about these incidents again, a few days or weeks later, it would not seem like a big deal at all; that would leave me wondering how did I allow myself to react with such intensity for something so trivial in the first place?
And then, I found my answer in my own question! All this while, I had been wasting so much time and energy REACTING to incidents, instead of RESPONDING to them. Many reactions that I have regretted in the past have been impulsive in nature. If only I had taken some time to process the events and quickly reflect, I would have come up with responses that are thoughtful and reasonable. I am no expert in psychological narrations, feel free to look up articles and write-ups on this matter for more accurate information if you are interested. But all I can say is, the day I realized that reaction is based on emotions while a response is based on emotional intelligence, my life changed.
I am not saying that I have achieved a Zen-level mindfulness, but something tells me that I am on the right path to creating a better life for myself. I am somewhat more in control of actions as I find myself taking lessons from my self-reflections. The good traits, I continue with, and the bad traits, I improve on. Understanding my own purpose and potential has definitely made me a more functional member of the community that I live in. In fact, even Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
I truly wish more people would take on performing self-reflection as a daily exercise because it is not just our bodies that need daily workouts, our minds too!
Sarala Thulasi Palpanadan
Centre for Language Studies
Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)