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Last Updated on February 22, 2021

Self-Introspection: 5 Ways To Reflect And Live Happily

Self-Introspection: 5 Ways To Reflect And Live Happily

I think we can all agree that we could all use a bit more happiness in our lives, especially when we are isolated from others and in the middle of a global pandemic. Although watching Netflix, taking walks, exercising, and video chatting with friends all bring us moments of happiness, they feel temporary—they are fleeting.

At the end of the day, when we lay our heads down on the pillow, we are still stuck in our own heads—ruminating negative thoughts, the argument with our partner, friend, or coworker we keep replaying in our head, our constant self-judgment “you’re not enough” conversation that we have back and forth, fear, and hopelessness. Then we wake up and do it all over again. Can you relate?

The good news is that there is a simple practice that can help. Introspection and mindfulness (self-introspection) can actually increase your happiness permanently.[1]

What Is Introspection?

To begin, we have to first define and understand the word “introspection.”

Dictionary.com defines introspection as:[2]

observation or examination of one’s own mental and emotional state, mental processes, etc.; the act of looking within oneself.

Introspection is a thinking, analytical process. It is the deliberate process of reflection. We don’t do this because frankly, it isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work!

Many people are often caught in the state of reaction and ego and do not actually take the time to reflect. They are clouded by emotions and are unable to see things clearly. For introspection to be helpful and effective, it requires self-awareness and the ability to put aside the ego and the need to be “right.”

Let me share an example from one of my clients.

Mandy has a long stressful day working from home while juggling her kids’ distance learning, goes grocery shopping, and comes home and begins to prepare dinner. Helping the kids complete their homework while cooking dinner, her husband comes home and plops himself on the couch. He turns on the TV and begins laughing at the sitcom that he’s watching.

Mandy is a bit annoyed and wished her husband would help out, but she holds her tongue knowing that he needs to unwind from his long day too. After dinner, Mandy gives the kids a bath, reads them a book, and puts them to bed. She finally has a chance to sit down for the first time in hours and asks her husband if he could help clean up and do the dishes. He says, “I’ll do it later honey.”

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A few hours later, the dishes are still not done, he’s still watching TV, and Mandy begins feeling irritated, angry, and resentful. After all, this seems to happen quite frequently. She mentions the dishes again and he responds with an annoyed tone and harshly says, “I ALREADY told you, I will do it later.”

Mandy gets angry and begins to complain about how she has to do everything around the house and that he never helps with the kids. It turns into a full-blown argument and she retreats to her bedroom fuming. Mandy replays the argument over and over in her head and goes to bed stressed, angry, and in tears.

Introspection Alone Is Not Enough

Introspection uses a lot of “why” questions. “Why am I angry?” “Why do I feel this way?” with the well-intentioned goal of understanding self. The problem with this is that it keeps us trapped in our own perspective and oftentimes, in the past.

Introspection also has no clear direction of where it could go depending on what you’re looking at, how you’re looking at it, and where you’re looking.

As my mentor and friend Dave Potter eloquently put it:

“Introspection is like looking through the microscope and the slides keep changing.”

Introspection is the tool, the process—like in Dave’s analogy, it is the microscope. The slides (self, emotions, thoughts) keep changing.

Another downfall of introspection is that it is very ego-focused and self-centered and often results in either:

  1. Growing the ego and reinforcing the need to be “right” – In the previous example, Mandy can observe her emotions of anger and resentment and understand why she feels the way she does. She gathers evidence and past experiences and understands that this anger and resentment comes from years of feeling this way. Examining her feelings and experiences further causes her to feel even more entitled to her feelings of anger.
  2. Causes self-judgment, self-blame, and suppressing of emotions – Mandy can observe her emotions of anger and resentment and understand why she feels the way she does but feels bad. She tells herself “I shouldn’t be angry,” “I overreacted,” “I was stressed and I took it out on him,” etc., and begins judging herself, blaming herself, and ends up feeling even worse.

So, if introspection alone is not helpful, what else do we need? A touch of mindfulness (self-introspection)!

What Is Mindfulness?

There are many definitions for mindfulness, but I define it as non-judgemental, present moment awareness. Mindfulness opens our minds to observe our thoughts and feelings, acknowledging and accepting them without judgment.

To put more simply, it’s not about fixing or changing your thoughts or emotions but about noticing and accepting them as is.

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So, how does this help exactly?

Let me first start by saying that mindfulness is a practice, meaning it is not an innate, automatic behavior or process that we do. It is a practice—it takes practice. It is a learnable skill and actually doesn’t take much time at all.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing attention to the emotion that comes up, not identifying it as part of self but simply noticing it and getting curious. When there is curiosity, there is no space for judgment. When there is no judgment, acceptance is much easier to follow.

It’s kind of a funny thing. When we are not so tied to our perspective and clouded by our emotions, it opens up a horizon of possibilities. We can see things as an observer, remove ourselves from our identity of the emotion, the intense feeling, and can take a step back. When we can do this, the emotion no longer has a hold on us.

Many research studies show that mindfulness meditation is effective at reducing stress and can improve physical and mental health by changing the brain and biology in positive ways.[3] Researchers reviewed more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people and found that mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

As someone who was diagnosed with “Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder” since high school with many trips to the ER and inpatient stays at a psych unit, I have not had another recurrent depressive episode since I began practicing mindfulness and meditation. It has saved my life, and I am truly grateful.

Five Ways to Practice Self-Introspection

You may be wondering, “Great! How do I do this?” As someone who may be new at self-introspection, there are some key points to keep in mind to set you up for success.

1. Set Up Your Ideal Environment

As I mentioned before, “mindfulness is a practice” and it takes practice. Think of it as the rehearsals before the big show, the basketball scrimmages, or batting cage practices before the big game.

When we practice something, we make progress and become prepared for “the big game or show,” which is your life. Although mindfulness doesn’t necessarily require sitting and meditating for 30 minutes a day, this definitely helps train us to be still. When you are still, you are with yourself, your mind, and you can practice noticing the thoughts, the sounds, and the sensations.

This requires a quiet space without distractions or stimulation where you can be alone and undisturbed. Some noises or sensations are unavoidable, but trying to meditate, self-reflect, or think about things while the kids are running around, the TV blaring, or people talking is not an ideal environment.

If you have kids or a family and it is difficult to have alone time, waking up 30 minutes earlier in the morning, sitting in the car, or even while in the shower is an option. You might have to get creative. If you have difficulty sitting still, you could do a walking/moving meditation. If you feel stuck, being in nature and outdoors somehow helps bring us back to stillness.

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2. Journaling

Journaling is underrated. If you take a look at the most successful people in the world, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs such as Oprah, Warren Buffet, Einstein, and many others, they all have this in common: they journal.

Journaling has many benefits including increasing awareness and improving memory, self-confidence, communication skills, and self-expression. It also helps us keep organized, on track, and motivated.

What I personally love most about journaling is going back and seeing where I was just one year ago, what I was going through, the challenges, the learnings, and fast-forwarding to now—celebrating how much I’ve grown.

As one of my mentors, Ben Hardy, said, “You make progress on what you track”. Wouldn’t you want to make progress on yourself, your goals, your life?

Here are some helpful tips and ideas:

  • Free write any thoughts, emotions, feelings that come up. Keep writing for one to two pages—just a free-flow stream of consciousness, not allowing yourself to think. The first few paragraphs will be very conscious, but continuing to write another two pages nonstop allows for the unconscious to come through. You will be surprised at what you find.
  • If you are going through a really tough time and are unable to separate yourself from the situation or feelings (staying stuck in your story), try writing from a 3rd person’s perspective. This allows for more openness and perspective.
  • Use your journal as your to-do list for the day. Set goals and outcomes for the day. Set an intention for the day.
  • Journal your wins. Write down the things you’re most proud of accomplishing. We tend to not celebrate our wins and quickly look for the next big thing. Stop. Take a step back and celebrate your daily or weekly wins. You deserve some acknowledgment, don’t you?
  • Journal on grateful moments. There are so many things to be grateful for but we often write them down as a list. This is slightly different and a slight deviation but I like to journal “gratitude moments.” It’s a moment in which you can close your eyes and almost re-experience it. For example, the moments when I’m outside sitting on my patio drinking my coffee, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Take the time to engage in that positivity and all of the feelings that accompany it.

3. Use Positive Words and Phrases

We often identify with our feelings as if our feelings are who we are. We say things like “I am angry,” which keeps us identified with the emotion of anger making it difficult to let go.

We are not the emotions we experience, rather we are the experiencer of our emotions. Although we understand this in concept, our languaging and the words we use perpetuates the identification of the emotion.

As a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), I believe that language and the words we use affect how we experience the world. So, although we know that we are not our emotions, we speak as if we are—”I am angry”. Case in point.

If we want to use language that is congruent with our beliefs that we are not our emotions as well as a common mindfulness practice, we can use phrases such as “I notice that I am experiencing anger.” This allows for almost like a third person’s perspective and disconnects you from the emotion.

4. Ask Yourself Empowering Questions

Making a slight change to how you ask yourself questions while doing self-introspection makes a world of difference. Instead of asking yourself “why” questions, ask “what” questions.

Instead of asking “why do I feel so angry?” ask “what is that I am feeling?” “what do I notice?” “what is it exactly that I am upset about?” See how that opens up possibilities?

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Asking “why” questions also has an underlying sense of judgment. Imagine if your child accidentally broke a vase. Your automatic response might be “Why did you do that?” The child doesn’t know what happened but knows that you are angry and starts crying. Instead, if you asked “What happened here?”, they might be able to explain that the ball bounced and accidentally hit the vase. Asking “what” questions opens the possibility for understanding, empathy, and compassion at a deeper level.

5. Focus on the Good for Just a Little Bit Longer

A relationship psychology study by John Gottman of the University of Washington found that it takes at least five positive interactions to make up for just one negative one.[4] This means that negative interactions or thoughts have generally five times the impact than positive ones. Well, this is bad news and rings all too true, doesn’t it?

Rick Hanson Ph.D., psychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, has a saying:

“The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”

By ruminating on the negative, we strengthen the neural pathways for negativity and tend to see the world in this light. I bet you know these type of people in your life—the “Debbie Downers” and people who are always complaining, negative, pessimistic, and down about the world.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can almost counteract this by simply taking in the good for just a little bit longer. We can literally change the neurotransmitters in our brain to look for good things.

Rick Hanson says,

“Really savor the good. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.”

I had the honor of interviewing Rick on this technique specifically to increase happiness. You can watch it below.

And this is how we can begin to rewire our brains for positivity, joy, gratitude and overall become a happier person.

Final Thoughts

Introspection does not come naturally. Even if you have a great mindset and a positive attitude, introspection can still be difficult. For introspection to be effective, it requires mindfulness and awareness. If you follow the points in this article, it will give you a great place to start. From there, it is just practice.

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The combination of both introspection and mindfulness (or self-introspection) is the perfect recipe for creating lasting happiness—no matter the circumstances.

More About Self-Introspection

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Positive Psychology: 7 Great Benefits of Mindfulness in Positive Psychology
[2] Dictionary.com: Introspection
[3] American Psychological Association: Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress
[4] The Gottman Institute: The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

More by this author

Yurika Vu

Mindfulness Coach- book a complementary breakthrough session at www.yurikavu.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want

30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want

The weather will always change. Technology will always change. Trends will always change. We will always change.

In a world that is constantly evolving and taking new forms, it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to make sense of this thing called life.

One of the things that rarely changes in this world though and what can provide a guiding light for you throughout your life is your core values. This article will provide you with a core values list of 30 incredible values to adopt and use when all else seems to be changing.

What Are Core Values?

Core values are principles or beliefs that you hold most dear and that are of central importance in your life. When everything around you is changing, when the world is difficult to understand, and when you are riding up and down the emotion rollercoaster, your core values will always be there for you.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are important because they act like a compass to help you lead the amazing life that you want, no matter where you find yourself in this world.

Not only that, having the right core values can improve your decision-making, your productivity, your achievements and perhaps most importantly, your ability to love and be loved. They’re kind of a big deal. And it isn’t just us saying this, studies[1] have shown core values to have a whole host of other benefits.

30 Best Core Values to Live by

You might already have a few core values in mind or in your heart which is great. If you need some more ideas or haven’t really thought about your core values until now, here are our 30 favourite core values that you can adopt right now.

1. Acceptance

The ability to accept what you can control and what you can’t control. Being able to understand that on some days you are the hammer, and other days you are the nail. With acceptance as a core value, you can build either way and be happy while doing it.

2. Adaptability

Life is going to throw you curve ball after curve ball and if you aren’t ready for them, you are going to strikeout. Your life and the life of those you surround yourself with are far too complex to confine yourself to one mould.

Be adaptable and ready and willing to change when you need to.

3. Awareness

Awareness is one of the best core values that you can adopt. Period. Awareness means paying attention to yourself, to others, to the world around you, to emotions, to situations. It means being able to see everyone and everything clearly – most importantly yourself.

4. Balance

There are going to be times when you need to sprint in life, and other times when you are going to need to slow down. The yin and the yang.

Balance is one of the most important core values in many ancient cultures because it reflects nature for what it truly is: perfectly balanced and able to bend, rather than break.

5. Calmness

As well as being a sublime state of mind, many people forget that calm is a simple decision to make.

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You can be calm in any situation should you allow yourself to be. No amount of angry drivers, long queues or frustrating technology can penetrate you when you adopt calmness as a core value.

6. Community

Every one of us is a social creature, whether we believe it or not, and community has been a key core value for us as a species for thousands of years.

We are hard-wired to socialize; to eat, drink, gossip, laugh, tell stories, share ideas, give and receive amongst ourselves. Community also enhances the effect of other core values on this list, such as creativity.[2]

7. Compassion

Compassion is taking the time to understand the suffering of others and hopefully, being able to do something about it. There is a lot of struggle and suffering that can be alleviated in the world; with a core value like compassion you might be able to do help your fellow humans in some meaningful way.

8. Creativity

With technology taking most of the administrative jobs, creative people are going to be leading us into the future.

Someone who cherishes creativity is able to think up new and big ideas, see things that other people can’t and see the world around them through their own lens, not somebody else’s.

9. Discipline

Discipline will lead you to the life that you want, should you adopt it as a core value.

“Discipline Equals Freedom” is a term popularised by ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink, and what it means is that if you can be disciplined in the right things, you will be free in the right things too.

Discipline to workout means more freedom in your body as you age. Discipline to save means more freedom with your time and money in the long-term. And so it goes…

10. Empathy

There is perhaps no greater value on this list that will connect you deeper to not just the closest people in your life but to complete strangers too.

Practising empathy requires the understanding that other people have a nagging voice in their own head, just like you do. That they have a worldview different to yours based on their experiences. And that’s ok. It’s not easy to adopt empathy as a core value, but it is certainly worth it.

11. Freedom

Freedom comes in many forms and that is why it is one of the ultimate core values to have. The freedom to choose, freedom to speak, freedom to live on your own terms, freedom to love and be loved.

If freedom becomes a core value of yours, watch how your life changes for the better.

12. Gratitude

Gratitude provides a powerful perspective shift whenever you feel yourself get into a rut.

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You can become grateful for the big things like having shelter, food and great people in your life. You can also become grateful for the small things like the cup of coffee that you just drank or the soft sheets on your bed.

13. Happiness

Happiness is a powerful core value and is not just restricted to your own happiness but also friends and family.

When happiness guides your decision-making rather than superficial things like money and status, you will find yourself in a much more satisfying position than if you chase other people’s idea of happiness.

14. Health

They say that a healthy man has a lot of dreams and wishes whereas a sick man only has one – to be able to get out of bed.

Health is the precursor to every other core value on this list; if you don’t have your health, you can’t do much else until you do. Because of this, health has to be a core value in your life.

15. Humility

Humility

is the antidote to arrogance and selfishness and is a value to adopt if you want to keep your feet firmly on the ground. It is said that you are never as good or as bad as people say you are.

Humility recognizes this and keeps you moving towards your goal, no matter what anyone else says.

16. Innovation

The act of innovation involves taking one existing thing and making it better. Although images of whacky car designs and complicated technology can spring to mind when thinking about innovation, it doesn’t have to be that grandiose.

Simply seeing something small and making it better in your own life is enough to make a world of difference.

17. Knowledge

Knowledge is power. Not power in the 14th-century medieval banker-sense but in the power to change your own life-sense.

Knowledge about yourself, others and the world allows you to understand everything that you see a bit better. When you see things for what they are, you can act accordingly and get to where you want to be.

18. Leadership

It take guts, determination, confidence and humility to lead. All of these qualities are both rare and admirable and are the reason why leadership is such an excellent core value.

The future is dark and unknown but also full of hidden treasures. We need someone to lead us, will it be you?

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19. Love

It can be argued that all of the core values on this list can be tied together by the one, all-encompassing value of Love.

When you value love deeply and try to show it in everything that you do, you make your world and the world of others a much better place.

20. Moderation

Forget this diet, that diet, eating there, eating then, working out before coffee or always in the afternoon. It’s all noise that works for some people some of the time – moderation is the key.

Not acting in moderation can also have some damaging consequences, especially for your health.[3] What works well for all people is everything in moderation.

Of course, life should be fun too so even ‘everything in moderation’, should be in moderation.

21. Peace

Peace is another core value that takes years of practice to perfect. However, its rewards are boundless with both the journey and destination full of rewards.

Peace enables clear decision-making, freedom in thoughts and actions as well as providing a deep understanding of the special life that you live.

22. Purpose

Purpose can be doubled up with ‘meaning’ as these are two values that provide the drive in any endeavour that you might pursue.

Purpose is what gets you out of bed every morning, it is why you sacrifice what you sacrifice and often entails something bigger than yourself. If you don’t have a purpose, it is unlikely that you will find much meaning in your life.

23. Responsibility

Nobody likes having to take the dog on a walk, having to clean the dishes or do things that they are reluctantly responsible for. However, responsibility can actually be an awesome way to add meaning and value to your life.

When other people depend on you and you fulfil your role as provider, not only are they better off but you get the satisfaction that comes along with it too.

24. Service

Similar to the responsibility point above, when you adopt service as a core value, you will have very little time to wallow in any self-pity, anxiety or existential angst because you will be busy making the world a better place.

Funnily enough, by serving others, many people find that they themselves are internally served with feelings of satisfaction and contentment.

25. Spirituality

Of course, there is the importance of physical health, mental health and emotional health, but spiritual health is just as important.

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Spirituality has nothing to do with religion, it simply means taking the time to listen to your body, to watch your thoughts, to connect with and appreciate the world and the universe that you find yourself in.

26. Trust

Trust is a core value on this list because it requires many other difficult skills that also help to develop you as a person.

To be able to trust and be trusted, you need strong relationships, an ounce of risk, a healthy dose of vulnerability and a smidge of humility. All of this creates a recipe for a very positive life with trust at the centre.

27. Understanding

Understanding comes from a place of acceptance of what is, not what should be or could be. It is the ability to recognise someone else’s viewpoint without trying to change it. It is learning that it is useless to fight against the way the world is and other people are, and to learn to dance with them instead.

28. Wealth

Not in the monetary sense but in the ‘having everything that you need sense’. Someone who is truly wealthy possesses great relationships, plenty of freedom, a life filled with joy as well as many of the other values on this list.

Adopt wealth as a core value and it will act as a magnet to other incredible things.

29. Wisdom

Contrary to popular belief, wisdom does not come with age but rather, experience. There are many young people with more wisdom than the oldest people that you know. What makes someone wise is their ability to see broadly and clearly, to use good judgement and to be decisive when necessary.

Wisdom is something that we all should seek.

30. Wonder

The final value on this list is wonder and it is the ideal place to finish.

Wonder is thinking about the possibility of what comes next, dreaming about how you and things could be better, pushing your own boundaries and what you think you are capable of each day.

Wonder is practical dreaming, and you should start right away.

Final Thoughts

Now you have a good idea of some of the core values that you can adopt, it’s time to not only decide which ones you like the best but also integrate and use them in your daily life.

Core values are designed to guide your decisions in your most difficult moments. Now you have everything you need to go and live the life that you want to live!

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Featured photo credit: AndriyKo Podilnyk via unsplash.com

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Reference

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