Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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First let’s consider an introspection definition. I would define it as looking inward inside yourself and considering what you see, this may be followed by thinking carefully about this.
As with most things people do, there are positive and negative aspects to introspection and reflection. Sometimes it is very important for us to reflect on our inner thoughts and feelings, but too much can be unhealthy. The positive side is that in order to become a better person it is necessary to reflect on your behaviour and values. Also, in terms of mental health, some form of self analysis is beneficial. This is where self help books can be helpful if carefully selected and used properly. They can point you in the correct direction and through some form of self evaluation you can decide to change your behaviour and attitude to certain situations in your life.
Introspection advantages and disadvantages are many. For example, you might focus on your successes or your failures, your correct actions or your failure to act adequately. You may focus on your strengths or your weaknesses, what you have achieved or what you have not achieved. For this reason you must be careful that introspection does not become self hate.
When you have a problem, what do you do? Do you talk to a friend or loved one and seek support, or do you take the problem on yourself and begin to think about it and try to handle it yourself? The second course of action is introspective and doesn’t involve others. Some people who are not very sociable and who have few friends have no choice but to deal with problems themselves. This is very difficult. Introspection is not a sociable activity and too much of it can actually do you harm.
If you have a decision to make or a problem that you just can’t seem to solve and you are running it through your brain, this can be extremely tiring. You may be at risk of not only stressing yourself unnecessarily, but also of exhausting yourself. This becomes a real problem when you get physically tired from work or other activities and then when you should be relaxing, you are thinking and thinking. This is the time to stop. If you have a supportive friend this is the time to share your thoughts. Maybe all you need is a different perspective.
Sometimes your brain may be so drained by introspection that it needs a break. Take a short holiday or a day where you do something you enjoy. Spend your time somewhere new or with someone you love being with. The trick is to divert your mind away from your thoughts and then come to the problem again later. A fresh look at a problem often helps.
When is introspection OK?
In small doses, in order to make a decision or deal with something, maybe get over a loss in the family, a death or a shocking event some form of introspection is fine but it is not an answer in itself. Talking things out and seeking support or different viewpoints is healthy. As I said above it is fine to run things over in your mind but don’t dwell on it too much or make a habit of filling your mind with analysis and drain yourself of any joy.
When is introspection a problem?
If you are feeling very tired or have no energy and can’t find a solution as things keep rolling through your mind over and over then it is time to stop. Put the thinking off. Do something enjoyable – sport, exercise, reading, spend time with friends actively, anything that occupies your mind and stops the thought process. Even I find when all is quiet a puzzle or two will fill my mind with something else to think about. A relaxing tape or music can soothe your mind and change your mood.
Too much introspection can disturb your sleep, so watch out for that too. Disturbed sleep will make you tired and can lead to depression. In fact, there is a connection between negative inward rumination (going over things in your head) and too much dreaming which causes exhaustion due to lack of relaxing sleep.
Introspection is also associated with unsociable behaviour if it happens excessively. As with anything you can realise that obsessing with problems and analysing everything can have a huge negative impact on your life.
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Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.