Getting Away for Perspective and Reflection

July 29, 2019
One way to relieve anxiety and get in touch with your truest self and your real needs is to get some distance. But you don't have to get on a plane to do that. Sometimes all you need to calm down and "see more clearly" is a long walk by yourself.

Getting away can be a great way to gain perspective and temporarily move away from things you’re close to. It can help you make better decisions and clarify your thoughts, desires, and emotions. It’s not always easy to do, because we tend to be attached to our immediate reality. However, it’s truly worth giving it a shot.

Here’s a fact we find interesting: human beings are experts at creating distance at just about every moment of our lives. But that often leads to a hyperactive, distracted mind.

It’s the kind of thing where you get lost in the maze of your worries, wandering thoughts, and memories. Those kinds of mental processes don’t help. They’re not useful, and they can easily start to exhaust you. 

In his book, Focus, Daniel Goleman talks about how we need to train our attention. As strange as it might sound, one great way to do that is by getting a specific kind of distance. The kind where your brain can reel in the anchor of pointless mental noise and travel to a calm, silent sea. It’s about going to a place where you can focus on what’s important.

Keep reading to discover the steps that will help you do it.

“Marshalling emotions in the service of a goal is essential for paying attention, for self motivation and mastery and for creativity. Emotional self control-delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness-underlies accomplishment of every sort.”

-Daniel Goleman-

A woman sitting in the forest with her hands on her chin in thought.

Getting away for perspective is a key to better decision-making

A new term is emerging in the world of psychology. It’s called “self-distancing”. This is a fascinating concept related to things such as improving stress and anxiety management. Part of that involves making better decisions and giving your creative process the space to explore.

There are several studies on the topic. Members of psychology departments of important universities across the U.S. published this study in 2018. Dr. Michael Duckworth and Dr. Al Kross stated that the simple act of looking at a relaxing, eye-catching landscape can help you get away from your immediate reality and connect with yourself.

In other words, getting away for perspective doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pack your bags. You don’t even have to go more than a mile to physically separate yourself from your daily life and surroundings. In most cases, learning to mentally distance yourself is enough. This can have a ton of unexpected benefits.

The art of seeing the world in second-person

If there’s one thing we talk a lot about in terms of psychology is the importance of learning to be present. We also focus a lot on how important it is to be able to synchronize your thoughts and needs. In some cases, that takes the form of getting away to gain some perspective. One way to do that is to see yourself, and the world, in second-person.

You might be wondering what the point of that is. Well, it’s a great way to turn down the volume of your emotional noise. It means being able to talk to yourself in a kind but direct way. It also allows you to objectively, calmly, and mindfully analyze your inner world. What better way to do that than going to a calm place? Here are some tips for your dialogue:

  • What’s bothering you?
  • So, what do you think your best option is right now?
  • What can you do to solve this issue?
  • Remember: you deserve to be happy, but you have to be brave. Everything is going to be OK. 

Self-distancing is a way to momentarily turn off your self-centered inner monologue. From there, you can evaluate your life from a calmer emotional place, set apart from your ego.

A woman holding a cloud in her hands.

Psychological distance as a tool for wellness

As you can see, you don’t have to go miles away to gain perspective. In many cases, even going halfway across the world won’t help you avoid your worries and problems. That’s a simple fact. The thing that can truly help you is learning how to create psychological distance.

“Psychological distance” is a term backed up by different studies. Dr. Yaacov Thope, a psychology professor at New York University, conducted an interesting study on this. Here’s what he discovered:

  • Sometimes, you have to take yourself beyond the here and now. This means taking your mind to a calm place where you can be more objective about moments of stress. This is also a way to keep specific circumstances, behaviors, and stimuli from affecting you too much.
  • Psychological distancing can help you establish a healthier dialogue with yourself. It means saying things such as “Don’t let that affect you“, “Think about what’s best for you“, and “Choose the thing that’s good for your well-being“.

In conclusion, it’s important to understand how much of an impact getting away for perspective can have on your psychological state. Training yourself to get away mentally can help you manage day to day stress much better. That being said, a genuine physical distance, such as going on a trip, can also be very therapeutic and fulfilling.

  • Trope, Yaacov, Liberman, Nira (2010) Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review, Vol 117(2), Apr 2010, 440-463 https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0018963
  • White, R. E., Kuehn, M. M., Duckworth, A. L., Kross, E., & Ayduk, Ö. (2018). Focusing on the future from afar: Self-distancing from future stressors facilitates adaptive coping. Emotion. Advance online publication.