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Power of positive thinking for you, your kids

May 26, 2015
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

It may seem too good to be true: Think positive thoughts and you can feel more positive. But it is true. Your thoughts form your character and how you view your world. You are what you think you are. Every thought you have releases brain chemicals. Focusing on negative thoughts slows down your brain's ability to function, and can create depression. Likewise, thinking positive, hopeful thoughts decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at its best. Role modeling this kind of behavior for your children will be giving them a gift to last a lifetime! People who are more positive have been shown to have stronger immune systems and healthier relationships.

Happy thoughts support brain growth, as well as the creation of new synapses, especially in your prefrontal cortex, which serves as the center of your brain-mind functions.You can retrain your brain to be more positive. Start by thinking happy thoughts, looking for the positives, and refocusing your brain when negative thoughts start creeping in.

This science is called neuroplasticity. It means that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains. This idea was first introduced by William James as long ago as 1890!

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Repetitive positive thought and positive activity can rewire your brain and strengthen the part of your brain that stimulates positive feelings. Every time a negative thought creeps in, retrain your brain to think a positive thought about your abilities instead. Begin taking small steps daily toward achieving your goal.

If you hear your child say, "I can't do it!!!" Reframe the statement by first acknowledging their feelings. "You feel frustrated that you are having some difficulty putting on your shirt." Then model a more positive, appropriate response. "I can do this, but need some help."

Sometimes it helps to choose one or two positive messages and say them to yourself several times days. You might choose to say, "I am a worthwhile person. I am deserving of love and respect" every time you go to the bathroom.

Look in the mirror. Say it out loud. Say it every time you are at a red light, or every time you see your favorite color. Make it your mantra. Put post-it notes around with the positive message.

You can also leave special notes in your child's lunch box such as "Mommy love you! We are so proud of you!"

As part of our bedtime ritual, I have each of my daughters close their eyes and repeat after me: "I am loved. My family loves me. I love myself. I am a good kid. I use kind words. I am a thoughtful friend. I use nice hands. I take care of the Earth and care for the animals and people in it. I am smart. I am strong. I am healthy."

Now that goes against what I just suggested in regards to just picking one positive message, but my girls are now getting very used to saying and thinking these many positives.

And it is helpful for me to be saying it aloud too.

You can tailor the positive affirmations to things you would like to see your kids improve.

For example, positive messages I have my children say include, "I use nice hands. I use kind words."

The truth is, it is a struggle sometimes stopping them from hitting each other or saying something mean.

But by using the positive affirmation of what I would like to see, and having them say they are using these positives in the here and now, it is helping change their brain, and making these positive behaviors much closer to a reality.

Changing your brain by learning to think more positively does not happen overnight. This takes much practice and repetition.

But stick to it! We can help change our brain and our children's brains for the better by thinking more positively every day!

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.



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