When was the last time you spent time thinking nice things about yourself? Our brains are filters, and biologically they’re programmed to notice what is “off” or wrong in a situation. They are attuned to be critical about the world. A primordial stop-over meant to help keep us safe. But as our lives have evolved and we aren’t faced with the same inherent daily dangers, this safety measure has developed into some form of anxiety for most of us. Always looking for what went wrong, or waiting for the bottom to drop out.
Here are some suggestions we use in our home to help reframe our thinking, and to stay in a more positive mindset:
- Get to know yourself. Be direct. Recognize your talents. If you’re having trouble, ask someone you love to share some of their favorite things about you. Keep a handy list or a “sunshine folder” where you keep nice notes/cards, things that make you feel good. Pull it out often, and especially on hard days.
- Put yourself in the way of good thoughts. Notice what you like about others. Notice what you like about yourself. Notice when things go well. Mark the moment. Even a little inner voice recognition works. “This moment feels so nice.” “I feel really happy right now.” “I love being your mom.”
- Make a note in your phone. Write out a few short sentences about what you love most about you, or what makes you feel happiest and safest. Then when you notice your brain moving into a fear or anxiety spiral, open that note and re-read until your brain stops thinking and moves into what it’s reading. This little trick actually reprograms your brain over time. It creates new neural pathways that are prioritized over the older negative ones. It works specifically because you are doing it in the moment. Don’t just write affirmations on your bathroom mirror; take them with you into your day itself.
- For particular situations that replay often, script out for yourself a best case scenario. We do this with our kids all the time. If they are feeling picked on at school, we ask them to imagine the situation with the outcome that would feel best to them, and include as many details as they can. Then we help them really sit with and imprint the feeling of it happening that way. If they can feel it, they can replicate it. Then the next time someone picks on them, they’re reminded to sink into how they want the situation to go, and the energy and new expectations they then bring to the situation helps it turn out really differently that time.
I hope some of these ideas feel fun and easy to incorporate. We’d love to hear other ways that your family supports happy, positive thinking!