Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up every day with a fresh curiosity and lust for life, with no emotional ‘hangover’ from the day before? Just energy and zest. Like a toddler.
Toddlers often forget about things that happened five minutes ago, let alone what happened yesterday. They are too full of the excitement of new experiences to be held back by negative thoughts and emotions. If we could learn to be more like this, the positive effect on our mental health and the wellbeing of our brains would be huge. Next time you’re in the company of a toddler, just watch the way they approach life, with enthusiasm, curiosity and absolutely no concept of failure or ‘I can’t do this’.
Toddlers don’t hold grudges. They move on. We may not always realise it’s happening, but negative experiences we’ve lived through can influence our experiences and affect our future decisions. Our brains learn to take difficult situations and play them on a negative loop. Not surprisingly, continually replaying negative experiences can seriously hurt our ability to live a positive and happy life. If we could learn to let go of arguments and experiences which no longer serve us, we would be opening ourselves up to more positive experiences and ultimately, more contentment and happiness.
We can often see the effect of these negative cycles in kids, with subjects like maths or art. They develop an inner dialogue of ‘I can’t do this, I’m not good at this’. My 12 year old used to approach maths like this, until a really enthusiastic teacher taught her a different way, and now, she wants to be a maths teacher too! It’s all about reframing negativity and looking at things in a different way. During lockdown, we’ve spent some time chatting about art, because comments from a teacher had led my daughter to believe she’s ‘no good’ at it. Reframing what we consider as art she realised, it’s not all about drawing portraits, there are other possibilities. WIth this new mindset, she’s taught herself to sew which has given her a great creative and, yes, artistic, outlet.
It’s really hard to let go of negative thoughts once we’ve allowed them to become a mantra in our heads. It’s hard for us as adults, and it’s hard for our kids too. We can help them by teaching them strategies to reframe negative experience into something positive. For example, when they make a mistake, it’s an opportunity to learn – remember that some of the worlds greatest creations were made because of mistakes (hello penicillin). What active strategies can we give our kids to help them to do this? We can help to open them up to different viewpoints by talking situations through with them, challenging them on the way they look at things, and helping them to change that perspective. This is a great skill to carry through life with them.
So let’s be more toddler, let go of yesterday and look at each new day like it’s the most glorious thing we’ve ever seen.