How to Use Positive Reflection Before Your Healthiest New Year

Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

Oftentimes, people rush into the New Year and set new health goals for themselves.

Goals can be great.

However, when we don’t first learn from the past, we often repeat the same mistakes.

This year, let’s reflect, learn, be grateful, and then move forward with new goals and joy.

No insanity of repeated mistakes.

Here is a 5-Step Guide to Healthy 2021 Health Goal Reflections.

5-Step Guide for Positive Reflection Before New Year’s Health Goals

First, you’ll need:

  • pen or pencil
  • 3 piece of paper or a journal
  • 20-30 minutes
  • an open mind and grateful heart

The Value of Positive Reflection

Why is positive reflection important?

There are 3 distinct positive outcomes:

1) New insight when learning from both challenging and positive past events

2) Gratitude for the positive events and opportunities ahead (there are many benefits for gratitude)

3) Increased sense of control, preparation, and peace for the future.

These are important outcomes before setting new mental and physical health goals.

In fact, a 2018 study of 70 adults found that positive reflection and journaling can reduce mental distress, increase well-being, and enhance physical functioning (1).

Step 1: Prepare Your Heart and Mind

First, there’s some mental and spiritual work to do.

It’s important to go through this exercise in an objective mental state. You don’t want to be overly emotional, too high or too low. You want to be objective and truthful with yourself.

Pray for this. If you are not able to be in this mental state now, continue to pray and wait until you are.

Next, pray for a grateful heart. No matter what 2020 brought, your ability to be truly grateful will shape your reflection experience and goals for the future.

Step 2: Page One, Accomplishments and Challenges

Accomplishments and Positive Habits:

  1. First, write down 1-3 things you accomplished in 2017 of which you are proud. There’s always something positive you can take away, so find it!
  2. Under each accomplishment, write down 1-3 habits you believe led to this accomplishment.

For example, if you lost 5 pounds, write down how this occurred. You began a keto zone lifestyle, you increased exercise to 3 times per week, you got 8 hours of sleep on average per night.

Challenges and Opportunities

  1. Next, write down 1-3 mistakes you feel you made. Instead of categorizing them as “mistakes” though, use the heading Challenges and Opportunities. Just calling them by a different name can change your outlook.
  2. It’s extremely important that you keep momentum here and don’t stay on this step. Be as objective and take the emotion out of this one as possible. We all make mistakes and face challenges. In order to turn them into learning opportunities and avoid repeating them, it’s important to momentarily reflect on them. But, it’s a dangerous place to stay. So, just 1-3, in objective terms.
  3. Next, write down 1-3 negative habits or circumstances that lead to the challenges.

For example, if your blood sugars went up, you may have 1) included too many carbohydrates in your diet, 2) did not exercise consistently, or 3) were sedentary throughout most days.

 Step 3: Page Two, The Learning

  1. Looking at page one, under the heading “Positive Learning,” write down 1-3 things you learned from your accomplishment and positive habits.
  2. Next, under the heading “Opportunities to Learn,” write down 1-3 things you learned from your 2020 challenges and opportunities. Do not dwell on the event, circumstance, or challenge itself, but turn it upside down into a learning opportunity.

Summarizing events into learning lessons is the most important part of reflection. Life is about progress, not perfection, and the best way to progress is to keep learning. So, what did you learn?

In James 1:2-4, James admonishes us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let’s learn with a joyful and grateful heart.

Step 4: Page Three, The Action

Next, take out your 3rd page. The last step allows you to take what you’ve learned and put them into actionable habits.

  1. First, write down what you’d like to do to continue the positive habits and outcomes from 2020. You may think you won’t forget how you got here, but it’s easy to forget if you don’t write it down.
  2. Next, write down what you need to do to avoid or reverse the negatives from 2020.
  3. Third, write down 3-5 things you’re going to “let go of” moving forward. This is sort of a decluttering of your mind and any unrealistic expectations. It can be a perfect house, a toxic friendship you’ve been trying to salvage, or an unhealthy body image goal.
  4. Lastly, write down 5 things you are grateful for from 2020. The more you can begin and end with gratitude, the better you’ll learn and move forward. God has given us gratitude as an amazing healing emotion.

Step 5, Throw it Out

Now, it’s time to let go of page one. You don’t really need it anymore.

You’ve used it to summarize what you’ve learned, and what you need to do to move forward.

So, if you’d like to throw it away or burn it, do so. Or, you can tear it in half and keep the proud moments and just discard the mistakes portion. This act of letting go of the past things that hold you down is important.

It’s symbolic. Learn from the past, but don’t live there.

The Joy to Come

Next, you’ll need to think about setting goals for 2021. These goals will be habit and action-based. They will not rely on the ups and downs of motivation, but a rewiring of the brain that leads to discipline. Pray for the goals you’ll set.

Learn and be grateful for the past. Then, look and be grateful for the future.

In Philippians, 3:13-14, Paul says:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Onward to your healthiest year!

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