Four Ways Physicians Can Harness the Power of Reflection

September 2, 2016

Being able to periodically pause and reflect during the work day can make a dramatic difference in well-being.

Being able to periodically pause and reflect throughout the day can make a dramatic difference in how that particular day goes, how your week goes, your month, your year, and your career. Fortunately, the simple act of reflection is something we can all master in a matter of moments.

What is reflection? It is serious thought or consideration of a topic or selected topics. It is synonymous with contemplation, rumination, deliberation, and even cogitation. What benefits does it provide?

• The ability to view situations in a different light

• The chance to gain a new insight or new perspective

• A break from what came immediately before

• The opportunity to breath, center oneself, regain balance, or proceed anew

Most of us engage in reflection all the time, but it happens so quickly, and often goes unacknowledged, that much of the time we're not even conscious of it. If we engage in reflection more consciously - even deliberately - we come closer to drawing the full benefits that it can provide.

Here are four ways to harness the power of reflection, day in and day out:

1) Allow yourself periodic times throughout the day in which you'll do nothing but reflect for a minute or two. Establishing routine times can work exceedingly well, such as just before or just after breakfast, before starting the work day, before lunch or after lunch, near the close the workday, upon coming home, or upon retiring for the evening.

2) Rather than let all of the activities of the day with their associated thoughts swirl around in your head, focus on a particular issue, feeling, desire, or any singular thought that comes to mind. Let yourself be immersed in it. Even if it's only for one minute, notice what feelings come up. Let your mind take you where it will. When your reflection time has passed, you can act upon some of the thoughts that arose, or simply acknowledge them and return to what you were doing while taking no action.

3) Cultivate the habit of reflecting on an as-needed basis. If you need to make a big decision, if a tough situation has suddenly arisen, or if you're being bombarded on all sides by competing interests, a few minutes of reflection can help to quiet the mind, sharpen your focus, and help you choose a course of action. Regardless of your age, every cell in your body is brought to bear when you stop and reflect on an issue.

4) It's often best to reflect away from the maddening crowd, in a quiet place, but if that is not practical, reflection will still yield benefits. I have undertaken the practice in crowded airports, down busy office hallways, and even in shopping malls. The setting isn't nearly as important as the practice itself. Think of it, you can always grab a moment here and there to be still, perhaps to close your eyes, and, for a few moments, free yourself from the immediate trappings of the physical world simply by focusing on your thoughts.

The art of reflection is not difficult one to master, if you simply give it a little time and little practice, the benefits can start to accrue.