In today’s fast-paced world, we are seeing a large decrease in human interactions and empathy. Alongside that, the pervasive rise of social media, is ushering in an increase in narcissism compounded by lower self-esteem.
Especially in our kids.
So the question is, how can we raise well-adjusted, optimistic, happier kids.
The first thing we need to do is define optimism.
Most people believe that being optimistic is always seeing the positive. To my mind though, "optimism" has a more functional definition. I see an "optimist" as someone who holds two essential beliefs:
- Their problems (which they have just like everyone) are temporary;
- Their personal actions can either lesson or alleviate these problems.
To me, optimists have a positive attitude and see setbacks as temporary, while pessimists see them as permanent and of their own doing - which we know can be a hallmark of depression.
The good news is that we now know that the mind is like a muscle, it is elastic and we have the ability to reshape it at a neural level. Obviously genetics play a role and some minds are harder to train than others and some issues are beyond simple jedi mind-tricks but still, for the most part, there are some specific exercises we can do to train our mind-muscle to be more optimistic. It should also be noted that these apply to children and adults so do them together!
1. Meditation & Mindfulness
Teach your child the simple practices of meditation and mindfulness. You don't have to be a meditation expert to teach your child to simply breathe and focus on their breath for five minutes a day. Because sometimes that's all it takes to decrease stress and anxiety levels and help your child learn a sense of self-control and self-regulation - important factors for increased optimism.
2. Stay Active
Daily exercise or physical activity helps your child release endorphins, which are our natural way to increase happiness! And if you can combine the activity with some goal-setting, you will be helping them create a sense of self-mastery and achievement. This will then naturally spill into other areas of their life.
People who are kind to others with both purpose and mindfulness, have better mental health due to their increased self-esteem and generally more positive mood. Therefore, teaching you child to actively decide to do something kind, act on that idea and see the result, helps them to build empathy and a sense of control over their world - something that is short supply.
4. Be Grateful
One of my favourite daily habits is to write down one thing I am grateful for before I start my day. Being able to name your sources of gratitude allows your brain to boost positive moods. With children, it is usually easiest to make the task an interactive, group experience. Go around the dinner table and have everyone state one thing that makes them grateful and why. Not only does it allow us to understand ourselves better, but you will learn a lot about the people around you.
5. Gather Happiness
Similarly to the above, I also keep a daily happiness journal in which I name something that makes me happy. When you have to do it every day, you soon have to dig deep and as you do, you realise how much of life is all about the little moments that make up every day.
Teach your kids to breathe, appreciate, understand and give.
And try it yourself! :)