A lot of us get into journaling as a way to reflect on where we went wrong and learn from our mistakes. In a surprising turn of events, however, research suggests that we might not be as self-aware as we thought.
The Pitfalls Of Introspection
The hours you spend analyzing a particular incident could actually be doing you more harm than good. Psychologist Tasha Eurich suggests that most of us fail at introspection despite the increasing emphasis on self-awareness. This failure stems from our inability to fully separate our emotions from recollections, which is why we tend to come to different conclusions each time we think about an incident. Eurich’s research also shows that further introspection can actually be detrimental to our mental health. People who reported themselves to be more self-aware were more likely to be anxious and stressed.
Despite such pitfalls, introspection is still key in furthering personal development and growing as a human being. Social psychologists at Maryville University note how much of our personal growth stems from interactions with other people, and these connections can only be facilitated when we start off by having a strong foundation within ourselves. Because introspection is a lifelong process, understanding how to do it effectively can save you lots of pain in the long run.
Writing Through The Pitfalls
If spiraling rabbit holes are the biggest problem with introspection, a strict time limit may be the answer. For example, think about all the times you’ve had to deal with a difficult problem at school. Chances are, you only spent a certain amount of time on it before moving on to your other tasks, regardless of whether you were able to reach a conclusion or not. This is the same attitude to cultivate when it comes to self-awareness — you need to know when to step away and put the pencil down. It’s not so much about creating restrictive habits as it is knowing when to rein it in.
One of the great things about journaling is that every entry has the potential to take you in an unexpected direction. Writer Sophia Gardner emphasizes that journaling is a great way to release pent up anxieties and get a sense of emotional closure. If setting aside time to reflect sounds too restrictive, another thing you could do is to time yourself retroactively. When you find yourself starting to mull over a tough issue, pull out a timer and set it to 5-10 minutes. Once the timer is up, that’s your cue to move on. It might seem a bit too simple, but you'd be surprised how it can actually be effective and make you feel in control again.
The Importance Of Leaning On Other People
Last but not least, the best way to get past over-introspecting is to reach out to others. Thrive Global underscores the importance of getting feedback from others, as they’ll be able to help you see your situation from an outside perspective. This feedback can also help you identify certain patterns that you might already be falling into when you’re thinking and re-thinking about a problem.
While we might not ever become fully self-aware, understanding just how difficult the process is allows us to be better prepared once a situation arises.
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