Have you been working toward a big goal, like starting a business or forming a healthy new habit? We bet you’ve found it ultra-helpful to track your progress and regularly evaluate how you can continue to inch closer to making it happen. Though it’s easy to forge ahead when things feel good, it’s just as common to have moments when you compare yourself to others or get discouraged when you stack your story up against people who have already achieved success. Since knowing how to push the negative thoughts away is key for keeping your motivation, we recently rounded up eight expert tips that’ll help you keep darkness out of your self-reflection.

A woman sits thinking on a park bench

1. Choose the right environment. Selecting an intentional environment can make a difference in the quality and vibe of your self-reflection. Rebecca Brown, a certified life coach and laughter yoga teacher, swears by getting outside for a dose of calm: “Consider taking your questions and your reflections out for a walk in nature. Sit in a park, under a tree, or by a stream. Sometimes it can be easier to connect to our true nature when we are surrounded and supported by nature itself.”

2. Set time boundaries around self-reflection. Just like where you reflect, when you reflect is key. “The end of the day, when you are most tired, is not a great time for self-reflection,” explains counselor Jaime Malone. “You might notice your most critical voice comes out at this time of day.” The best time for healthy reflection and introspection, according to Malone, is whenever you have plenty of mental and emotional space. Not sure when that might be? Try early morning, during a mental health day, or a weekend afternoon.

3. Remember the things you’ve done well. Georgian Benta, the founder and host of The Gratitude Podcast, reminds us that it’s our brain’s natural tendency to focus on what we did wrong. Instead, he suggests balancing this out by counting your accomplishments too! “At the end of each day, go through what you experienced and find three things that you did right. It can be something as simple as driving to work and back safely, putting the final touch on a project, or being able to respond better to a difficult situation.”

4. Write down your reflections. While reflecting, do your best to document the things you’re thinking and feeling. “I find that self-reflection is best in writing,” Benta shares. “When you’re only in your head, it can be hard to make sense of things and easy to drift away; in writing, thoughts become real, and you get a better perspective.” He observes that having a written record can also be useful when you track progress — you’ll know exactly where you’ve come from and how far you’ve gone.

A woman looks out her office window

5. Track your progress. “When we work toward goals, it’s easy to see what you still need to do. This is valuable and motivates you to keep moving forward toward your desired outcome,” Malone notes. “When reflecting, be sure to consider what you’ve already done that’s specific to where you hope to go. For example, if you’re striving to be a more giving person, it would be helpful to record all the moments and choices you made that are in keeping with that goal.”

6. Stick with a set of questions when you reflect. Malone tells us that while self-reflection is super-healthy and a valuable thing to do, going about it in a vague or non-specific way might not be as productive. “Use the same consistent questions to guide yourself so you have a benchmark you can always come back to,” she advises. “This will work for goals, habits, or traits you’re reflecting on.”

7. Consider the expectations you have for yourself. “Where are those standards and expectations coming from?” Malone asks. “Are they external and from social media or from what you see around you? Or are they connected with your inner values and what’s most important to you?” To keep your introspection positive, she recommends keeping your standards in line with what matters most to you.

8. List things you appreciate about yourself. Since our brains want us to survive and improve, it’s natural to see all of your own flaws, whether they’re physical or mental. To stay upbeat, Benta advises that you come up with a quick list of things you like about yourself. “Make a list of your qualities, whether they’re on the inside or on the outside. This will help you achieve a healthy self-image and give you confidence.” He proudly quotes one of his podcast guests, Rino Soriano: “The more value you find in yourself, the more appreciative you are of your life and of everyone else.” Perfect!

How do you keep your self-reflection positive? Share your secrets with us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)