What if we gave children the analogy of likening the mind to big hunk of playdough? Essentially that is the case. Brain research is exploding with tales of neuroplasticity and our awareness is expanding with the knowledge that our brains are continually developing and changing based on what we are programming them to do. Therefore, we have a giant opportunity to be very mindful, pun intended, about what we are putting into both our own and our children’s minds.
So, I encourage you to remind your child this week, that they are the masters of their thoughts. They have the power to program their minds for feeling good, for feeling calm and relaxed whenever they want to. And it is as simple as differentiating the feel good thoughts from the ones that don’t feel good and making a choice to practice the feel good thoughts if they want to feel good. In my house, when we entered a period of negative thought, we would say, “no more stinking thinking, I choose to feel good.”
Because the concept of positive thinking is often a little abstract for children under the age of six, you can make it more concrete by creating fun activities around planting positive thoughts. Here is one idea:
Get out your colorful playdough and shape it into little brains. (This can be an excellent opportunity to discuss cerebral anatomy as well). Take a toothpick and carve in little grooves so it will look like a real brain. Then talk about how our brains respond and are shaped around the thoughts we have. The more we think calm, relaxing, feel good thoughts, the more we feel calm, relaxed and actually feel good. The brain is trained by what we think. And our feelings are related to how we think. If we think lots of stressful thoughts and repeat them over and over, our brain will be trained to think stressful thoughts and then we will begin to feel more stressed a lot of the time. But, if we catch our brain thinking stressful thoughts, we can say “STOP” to our brain and give it a better, more positive, feel good relaxing thought to think. If we practice these relaxing thoughts over and over, then we will begin to feel more relaxed. Here’s an example of a relaxing thought: “I remember to take a deep breath and count to three when I feel angry.”
Discuss how we can pay attention to our thoughts and shape our brains around positive, feel good thoughts. Have some little slips of paper with both positive and negative thoughts written on them. Pass some out to each person and share how you would feel if you were thinking that thought. Your mind is your playdough! Feel good as you shape it around positive, calm, relaxing, feel good thoughts!
An excellent book that addresses the difference between positive and negative thoughts, is Meet Thotso, Your Thought Maker by Rachel Robb Avery, Nancy “Fern” Bennett Phillips, and Rebecca Davie Hazen. You can buy it on amazon or visit their website at www.smartthot.com. Kids love the interactive nature of the book and the fun way it depicts sunshine thoughts, boo boo thoughts, and bandage thoughts.