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Inception: My experiences with Self-reflection, Appreciation and Affirmations (By Jamie Styles)

Have you ever watched the Christopher Nolan 2010 film Inception? The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief, stealing information from the subconscious of his targets. Heisting a target's subconscious requires a kick, something to return the person to reality. As my kick, I think of well-being exercises to jaunt me back from the chaotic chasm of a negative spiral.

For me overthinking, leads me down this chasm. Maybe it was an interview or a conversation with a friend, which chases me until the "bad situation" makes me think I am the problem. However, taking a breath, whether working out, running, going for a walk, or even just having a coffee, always allows me to reflect.

Personally, reflection has become part of my routine because I am available for it. I get up early and sit and have a coffee, or I go out for a walk. However, the issue I initially had was being harsh on myself. Of course, there is a time and place to push yourself. However, when you're reflecting, you need that painfully realistic inner dad. The part of your brain that is a bit like "I told you so" yet is ordinarily right. He may be the dull half of my brain. But, sometimes, when I was harsh on myself, this part of my brain rationalised the negative thoughts I was having.

Additionally, I found that doing a task like working out or running helped stop these self-destructive thoughts. Simply because, for me, I could not say, "Wow, you're a massive failure", as I was at least doing something! Reflecting is not just about what I perceive wrong or what could I say better, as this can be just self-sabotage in disguise. For me, self-reflection is about finding the way out of the maze. A dot to dot, of clear and realistic impressions of yourself and your experiences.

A big lesson I learned from self-reflection is that I am a sincere person, sometimes bluntly so. Even though I find working out helps me. I think sometimes; I do not have the time with essay deadlines. Yet, I make the time; I give myself 10/20mins of time to think, look out of the window and have a coffee to make my catastrophising brain wake up.

Another part of not having time is journaling. I found it was such a rigid routine to stick to, so I became more sporadic with it. I would write in it when I felt my heels slipping, and my mind started to spiral. If you're bad at expressing your emotions like I was, it's not an alternative. However, it is a way of having those much-needed conversations in the privacy of a passworded word document.

I try to keep track of my emotions. How am I feeling today? Is this just morning grogginess? Then I vomit it onto my document. I try to think of something I have loved about my day or at least appreciated at the end. A journal is a best friend, someone who listens to you whenever you need it. No one has to see it, and it can be as simple as a passworded word doc.

In my opinion, I got the best out of it even when I used one word, as long as it was honest. I use it as a punching bag when I am frustrated and a bed when I am emotionally drained.

Nothings better, however, than a human conversation. I never spoke about anything to do with emotions as I thought it showed weakness. Especially not to my friends for a long time. The question I ended up asking myself is, do I even trust these people? Would I tell them anything personal? The answer for me was no. Over the years, I found as I matured that the appeal of these people was superficial. So, I ended up cutting them off. They did not inspire me or want me to be better. Direct action for me has been another big saviour of mine. As I started College and University, I did not want to make the same mistake, so I was honest. I talk to all of my friends very honestly, so when I compliment them, they know I mean it, and when I say I am not too fond of something, they stop. I think creating this space within my circle has made me grow closer with people. I feel I can trust the people around me. I can have genuine conversations with them to appreciate their company.

Appreciation is something I was never good at. The rarity of appreciative people stands out to me. The first step for me was appreciating what I had. I go out into nature, or I walk around the city for a bit. I do not listen to music but go to new places. I keep track of good experiences, so when I have bad experiences, I can say, well, this is not what life is.

However, most importantly, I am sincere. I make sure the people in my life know I value them. I found it is sometimes awkward to give genuine compliments, especially if your conversations tend to be less severe, like many of mine were and still are. Notably, during the pandemic, you realise how much family and friend's matter. I think when you leave home, you are excited and hopeful. However, this pandemic made me want to go home and appreciate what I had as what you have is what got you to where you are now. People do not know how much you appreciate them until you take the time to tell them.

However, this does not have to be through words, and sometimes people appreciate it more when it is your actions. It can be the small things, like cooking a meal for your housemates or offering to do something you are not obligated to do. These things go a long way and make you more aware of other people and what they have done. I think other people see this, making you stand out as someone who cares deeply.

Positivity is a hard one, however, and I understood it most when I tried affirmations. I found them cringe and could not help laughing at myself a little. I always dismissed affirmations. I tried them once and could not find anything to affirm. I remember watching Evan Almighty as a kid and Evan played by Steve Carrel, speaking to himself in a mirror. I always thought this was strange. He would say, "I am successful, powerful, handsome and happy". However, the character fails to understand how to use affirmations or what they even are.

When I started, I had nothing good to say about myself. I was constantly self-sabotaging myself by saying a quality I thought I was and then finding any way to say no, I was not that.

Now, this is the crucial part that worked for me. I went into my notes and wrote them down without really thinking too hard, things I can prove I am. For example, I know I am funny as people laugh at my jokes. Then I went to a trusted person in my life and asked, do you agree? By the end of the dialogue I had with this person, I had a long list.

I think for me, in the past, when I feel a bit down, my brain loves to overwhelm me with negativity, and it wears me down until I feel like I am useless. But, of course, this is not the case, yet I could trick myself into thinking this way. Though, now, I have a list of affirmations, a sentence which states something such as:

I am a fantastic interviewee. (Very true btw)

I found that linking the affirmation to memory personally helped me, so please give it a go.

I hope you enjoyed this blog entry! We would love to hear your experiences and what you think about my own. Can you relate?

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