Although the arrival of September may not feel quite as refreshing after the rather ‘nothing’ summer we’ve experienced, it’s still the perfect time to sit back and reflect on everything that’s happened so far this year.
It may seem a little ‘wishy washy’, but reflection can be incredibly valuable – not only is it a great way to stay on top of everything that’s going on in your life, it’s also an effective way to learn from your behaviours and forge new ones.
This is especially true when it comes to your mental health. Because your wellbeing tends to be affected by whatever’s going on in your life (including changes in the seasons), taking time to think about how you’re taking care of yourself, reflect on what is and isn’t working and make plans for what you’re going to do going forward on a regular basis can help you to respond to any unexpected changes.
“Reflection is great for increasing self-awareness,” explains Celine Erorh, assistant psychologist, mental health advocate and founder of Celutions UK, a website and Instagram platform dedicated to teaching people how to take care of their mental health. “It allows you to look at what is currently working and what you can improve.”
On top of helping you to be more self-aware of your actions and decisions, Erorh says that reflection can promote growth – because you can analyse and learn from what’s happened previously – and creativity, too.
“When reflecting, you are given the opportunity to think about other paths or choices you could have made,” she says. “These could be options you didn’t even realise were available to you before.”
Of course, there’s no one ‘right’ way to reflect – it’s all about finding a system that works for you. But if you aren’t sure where to start, Erorh recommends using the following reflective prompts. To get started, simply grab a pen and paper and jot down a couple of responses to the following points.
5 reflective questions for the month ahead
- When are you at your happiest? Think back to a time when you were truly full of genuine joy. What sparked that? How can you create more of it this month?
- What feels unresolved in your life? Write out a letter to the person or situation that feels unresolved and let everything out.
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself this month? How did you learn it? What happened?
- As you enter a new month, think about what you’ve learnt. What will you be doing more of in this new month? What will you be doing less of?
- What things can you start doing to improve your mental health? Be as detailed as possible, make a plan and then start doing them.
Once you’ve taken the time to work through the questions, you should have a set of learnings or potential actions to take into the month ahead. Perhaps you’ve realised that working out in the mornings has a positive impact on your mood? Or that you need to start taking more regular breaks from work throughout the day?
Alternatively, if you struggled with the questions and found it hard to come up with any lessons you’ve learnt or changes you want to make, Erorh recommends trying a spot of journalling instead.
“Journalling is a great outlet,” she says. “Many people cringe at the thought of what they think is ‘writing a diary’ but it can be really helpful in terms of processing how you feel. If you want to try, all you need to do is grab a piece of paper and a pen and write at the top: ‘How am I feeling right now?’
“Start answering it. You’ll soon find you’re writing down a lot more than you anticipated.”
If the idea of looking after your mental health and wellbeing has you feeling a little bit overwhelmed, reflection is a great place to start. It may not feel that transformative, but being more aware of your emotions and behaviours will help you to make positive changes in the long run. What’s not to love about that?
This article was originally published on 1 July and has since been updated throughout.