February 28, 2019

I have a severe case of the “what’s nexts.”

I'm constantly searching for the next thing I can do to make my life easier—and, once I've accomplished a task, it's on to the next one without a breath in between.

I have good intentions—motivation experts consistently preach that we should "do things our future selves will thank us for." Why: When we do things for our future selves, we’re setting ourselves up for a less anxious mind, decreased stress, and an easier tomorrow.

But there's a flip side to this that often gets overlooked: Taking the time to actually thank our past selves for how we made life easier for present-day us.

Whether it's enjoy that overnight oatmeal we made last night, working through that to-do list we made, or even simply putting on pants we remembered to (finally) wash—we forgot to appreciate the ways we make life easier for ourselves. We're quick to skip a moment of self-gratitude and instead keep trucking through our to-do list. But thanking ourselves packs power.

Research shows when we practice gratitude, we tend to sleep better, it can ease depression, and it helps us make clearer decisions.

If those are just a fraction of the benefits that we experience when we thank others, imagine the results that come with taking the time to look back and thank yourself for the ways you made today easier.

The last day of the month is a perfect opportunity to do a bit of reflection and take a moment to thank you for showing up. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to thank yourself, but reflecting can help you process what worked well, what might have worked better, and where you can improve.

Need some help getting started? Here are some reflection questions and prompts I’ll be asking myself before the next month rolls around.

What’s something new (a routine or habit) you’ve done that has made a positive difference in your life?

In my day-to-day, it’s hard to find the motivation to try something new—but in February, I set out to make a small, new change: drink more water.

It isn’t the most exciting new thing, but it’s made a world of a difference in my own personal energy levels. When I reflect on it now, I'm so grateful that my reusable water became my BFF this month.

Reflect on something new you tried this month to improve your day-to-day. Maybe it was creating a new morning routine that actually makes you excited to greet the day or making that Spotify "Focus" playlist that helps you get into your flow at work.

Paying more attention to something you’ve been practicing can help get your gears turning about new ways to level up next month.

What’s one win—big or small—that you created this month?

This month, I hit the ground running (literally) more than I expected—and it's all thanks to small but consistent habits, like packing my bag of running clothes in the evening and having a new playlist ready when it's time to sweat.

What are the wins—big or small—that helped you make progress this month? Even super small habits—like pairing socks right after they come out the laundry—can make an impact on your day. Thank yourself for them!

Name 3 things that you feel grateful for today and reflect on past actions that helped those things come into fruition.

Taking a step back and recognizing the tangible things you’re grateful for—and how you made them happen—can feel really good. Whether these things are other focused or self-focused, find a few things you made happen this month and honor your effort.

For me, that looks like:

Today, I feel grateful for:

●︎ My personal email inbox hitting close to zero unread messages (at least of emails that matter!)

●︎ Watching friends flourish

●︎ The book I’ve just finished

With those in mind, I’m thankful to myself for:

●︎ Using an extra 15 minutes over the weekend to answer emails

●︎ Spending time with people in my community throughout their creative process and helping them bring their ideas to life

●︎ Chipping away at the book for a chapter or two at a time during my commute

How did I have fun?

One thing I’ve learned from self-reflection? It’s that growth doesn’t always have to be serious!

There’s power in the ways that we grow by trying something new and stepping outside of our comfort zones.

For exmample: This month I tried a few new recipes from friends. In doing so, I learned how to stretch myself in the kitchen. The next time Future Martha tries her hand at a new recipe, I know I’ve got what it takes to do it to the best of my ability, plus I’ve shed a bit of fear—all while having fun.

Watch out, Nailed It!

Read next: Use These 4 Questions For Your End-of-Month Reflection