There isn’t one recipe for raising a child. However, psychologists have pointed to several factors that predict success, and many of those point to internal measures such as self-love, self-worth, and the ability to process and regulate emotions.
Evidence suggests that our thoughts and words are self-fulfilling prophecies all on their own:
- What you say to yourself – silently or out loud – influences who you become.
- What you say to your children – silently or out loud – influences who they become.
- What your children say to themselves – silently or out loud – influences who they become.
The overarching message here is that our thoughts and words matter, and the thoughts and words our children use matter. Literally, every single cell, the building blocks of self, are listening, and they adapt to what they hear.
What Are Positive Affirmations?
Research shows that the average person has around 62,000 thoughts a day, with most of those thoughts being the same thoughts they thought yesterday. And the really big bummer? About 80% of these have a negative undertone. How often do we - or our children - tell ourselves that we aren’t enough, aren’t worthy, aren’t capable, or that we don’t belong? And how do these underlying beliefs show up in our day to day?
Our brains are built to regulate our physical and mental selves. We have the conscious mind which consists of all the thoughts, feelings, and memories we are aware of in any given moment. And we have our unconscious mind, which is the gatekeeper to our comfort zone, constantly filtering and bringing in information and stimuli that affirms our beliefs as well as presenting us with thoughts and impulses that mirror what we’ve done in the past. When our unconscious mind drives our day-to-day, we find our present selves living in the same predictable past with the same limiting narratives.
Affirmations are short, powerful expressions meant to bridge the conscious and unconscious minds so that, in turn, they affect our behavior, thinking patterns, habits, and environment. In this way, our thoughts create our reality. When we bring a thought into our awareness and repeat it, over time, our subconscious begins to notice it, and new narratives can be written.
Neuroscientific research indicates that using affirmations increases certain neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex, our body’s higher-level learning brain. This leads to improved problem-solving, enhanced regulation skills and increased self-awareness, self-compassion, self-confidence, and overall well-being.
Getting Started With Positive Affirmations
1. Practice Mindfulness
When our belief system is toxic or rooted in poor self-worth or low self-esteem, our subconscious ultimately becomes a playground for self-sabotage. Yet when we slow down and bring awareness to the present moment, subconscious thoughts and beliefs surface to the forefront where we can confront and reconstruct them into healthier ideas that serve our highest selves.
We cannot heal what is not revealed, so this is an important step. Mindfulness activities could be journaling, doing a body scan, slowing down to bring awareness to everyday tasks like eating, going for a slow nature walk, or watching your belly rise and fall as you breathe. Building these mindful rituals into the day can help align the conscious and unconscious minds to cultivate a soil in which our affirmations can grow into self-truths.
2. Check Your Weather Thermostat
Our mindfulness practices gift us another opportunity - to notice our emotional sensations, which are informative and useful, not only in telling us about ourselves but the world at large. When we are able to pause and recognize our feeling states with curiosity, link them to an experience, and share them with another, we begin to shift our unconscious constructs and integrate our logical and emotional brains as well as our reactive and learning brains.
To do this, we can:
- Use “I statements” to share how we feel in any given moment or situation.
- Make a “to feel list” which allows us to focus on how we want to be as opposed to all the things we have to do. How do you want to feel today? Once you decide, look for ways to live into that emotion throughout the day.
- Create family rituals around sharing emotions through the use of feelings posters or SnuggleBuddies, taking turns to share when you felt happy, mad, calm and sad throughout your day.
3. Start Slow
For some, using “I am” statements off the bat feels overwhelming because we have a hard time believing the words that follow. And if our deeply held negative beliefs are not aligned with our declared affirmations, the gap between our conscious and unconscious minds widen, reinforcing our limiting beliefs.
Instead, start slow, with “May I.” So, instead of saying “I am worthy” when everything inside of your body says otherwise, say, “May I feel worthy.” This subtle shift offers a gentle invitation to where we want to go while honoring where we currently are. It is a powerful way to move the needle of our conscious and subconscious minds so that they are more in line with one another.
5 Ways To Use Positive Affirmations With Kids
1. Offer introductions
Talk to your children about using mindfulness practices and affirmations so that they understand what they are and how they work. Keep it fun and encouraging. You may say something like, “Affirmations teach you new and positive ways of thinking. They can help you believe in yourself, and help you to feel better when you are angry or sad. Let’s try them and see what we think!” Another way to introduce affirmations to your children is by using daily mantra cards and reading them aloud together.
2. Affirm your child
Take time daily or weekly to pause, look into your child’s eyes, and affirm them. You may say something like, “You are worthy,” “You are loved,” and “You are enough.” If your child is receptive to physical touch, end in a hug to further release those feel-good hormones.
3. Create an affirmation board
Grab a poster board, cork board or canvas and together find pictures of their values, things they want to achieve, and who they want to become. Also encourage your child to find positive words that they believe about themselves.
4. Jot it down
Draw affirmations on a mirror or sticky note to remind them of their value and that they make a difference in the world.
5. Encourage gratitude
Some studies have shown that exercises such as writing about the things we value can bolster feelings of self-worth. These exercises can be useful because it is less dependent on a person’s self-esteem and more anchored in gratitude. Use a gratitude journal or jar. Make it a family ritual where each member takes turns sharing.
Nurturing our children’s authentic selves helps them enjoy the magic of childhood. As we help our children on their journey, we further our own, too.
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Generation Mindful creates educational tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline.