Reflecting with Mindfulness
With each passing year it feels as though time passes faster and faster. As another year nears its end, it’s a perfect time to pause and reflect on all that happened in 2022.
It is interesting how especially challenging years are more easily recalled. For instance, 2014 stands out as a rough year personally. There are also the years a close relative or loved one passed away. Why are these the easiest memories to recall?
According to research, “negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories. These emotionally charged memories are preserved in greater detail than happy or more neutral memories” (Warner, 2007).
Additionally, “These benefits make sense within an evolutionary framework,” writes researcher Elizabeth Kensinger of Boston College in a review of research on the topic in Current Directions in Psychological Science. “It is logical that attention would be focused on potentially threatening information.” Considering “negative” events leave a stronger impression in our minds as a way to protect us, mindfulness when reflecting on the events of 2022, or any other year, is essential to be objective.
Since we can’t change how our minds imprint memories, what we can do is be mindful of these memories. Mindfulness allows us to learn from experiences that are viewed as negative at the time they happen. For example, in 2014 I permanently lost most of my sight. Those events are unchangeable. Through mindfulness, it is possible to acknowledge the events and also remember that I made it through them. The negative emotions attached to that event are easier to move through and let go of.
Bad Memories & Mindfulness
This is not to say it is always easy, and the greater the negative emotion, the stronger the imprint in our memory. “Bad memories may have evolved as an evolutionary tactic to protect against future life-threatening or negative events” (Warner, 2007). These memories are opportunities to learn and grow, but only when we acknowledge them in the first place. Mindfulness is what allows us to do this.
Remember “too many negative emotions can make us feel overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, or stressed out. When negative emotions are out of balance, problems might seem too big to handle. The more we dwell on negative emotions, the more negative we begin to feel. Focusing on negativity just keeps it going” (Mary L Gavin, 2018).
How is mindfulness able to help us focus on the positive when our brains are wired to more easily remember negative emotions? The answer: practicing mindfulness presents an opportunity to remember the positive and negative emotions.
The Practice Of Mindfulness
Going back to 2014; when mindfulness is practiced, I not only recall the loss of most of my sight, I also recall the outpouring of kindness I received. The wonderful care from doctors. My own resilience in the face of a huge challenge. Mindfulness presents an opportunity to remember vast positive emotions associated with 2014. Mindfulness acknowledges the seriousness of what happened and the numerous positive feelings that greatly outnumber the negative.
Our mindset matters. “When we feel more positive emotions than negative ones, difficult situations are easier to handle. Positive emotions build our resilience (the emotional resources needed for coping). They broaden our awareness, letting us see more options for problem solving” (Mary L Gavin, 2018).
In life, we control our actions and choices. We don’t control the things that happen to us. The most difficult decisions often involve something extremely challenging or difficult. Be mindful of all the events that occurred in 2022. Think not of just the challenges, but everything around the them.
New To Mindfulness?
If mindfulness is new to you, be kind and patient with yourself. It can also be a good idea to use tools like Headspace or The Daily Calm to guide through some mindfulness exercises. They offer many free resources to help make mindfulness a part of your daily routine.
Finally, it is generally a good idea to seek out a licensed psychologist, therapist, counselor, or another trained professional if serious trauma or other major events have occurred. Mindfulness can be helpful, but one should never attempt to handle serious trauma on their own.
Reflecting on the events of this passing year presents an opportunity to acknowledge both the “bad” and “good.” Being mindful while reflecting opens our minds to recalling things as they truly happened, and not strictly remembering the negative emotions experienced. We have an opportunity to learn and grow through mindfulness. This growth builds our resiliency; it makes us stronger.
As we all prepare for 2023, let’s remember that life is full of possibility, hope, and joy. We control how we think about the events that happen to us. Let us not forget, “Positive emotions feel good, and they’re good for you. Pay attention to these powerful tools and find ways to make time for them in your everyday life. Create room in your day for joy, fun, friendship, relaxation, gratitude, and kindness. Make these things a habit and you positively will be a happier you!” (Mary L Gavin, 2018).
By: Ken Meeker CPC
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are not medical advice. Please contact a medical professional if you are experiencing mental illness. If you or anyone you know are having suicidal feelings, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or call 800-273-8255 from any phone.
Prior Career Content by Ken Meeker
- The Multi-Tasking Myth
- Standing Out – How to Craft an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter
- 3 Things to Consider When Crafting Your Resume
- Career Exploration – 5 Important Things to do When Considering Careers
About The Author:
Ken Meeker is a Certified Professional Coach, owner of Vitality Career Coaching LLC, and member of the NCDA. He specializes in executive and career coaching with a special emphasis on differently-abled individuals who want to return to work. He is a DEI consultant, Public Speaker, and advocates for inclusivity of marginalized groups. Ken is a 2021-2022 AFB Blind Leadership Development Program Fellow and will serve as a Mentor for the 2022-2023 program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/kenmeekeraz, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vitalitycareercoaching.com
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- Mind full or mindful? Inspirational handwriting on a napkin with a cup of tea on a desk.
- Assorted Polaroid photos on a table.
- Memorial light is a lighted candle held in the palm of a hand on a black background.
- The phrase Practice Mindfulness Daily on a piece of paper pinned to a cork board.
- Author photo: A professional waist shot of Ken a white man with arms folded across his chest. He has short dark hair and eyeglasses.