Thus far in our Brain In Love series, you’ve discovered how to develop brain habits of thinking that create the life, health and relationships you love.
Now, discover how to teach your children the best brain habits while they’re still young in highlights of my radio conversation for A Lasting Love with Dr. Sean Sullivan. He is a Harvard educated psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco. He guides people on Mind Master Journeys world wide.
Hadley: Earlier, we helped adults get unstuck from depressed, destructive ruts of thinking and develop the best brain habits of thinking. How do parents teach your children how to choose better thoughts to be more successful in relationships with your peers, your family, to get better grades, better focus. Do you have an exercise for parents to teach our children how to do this, starting at a young age rather than learning this as an adult?
Dr. Sean: Right. On difficult questions, I often revert to my philosophy, which can be explained quickly and simply to children.
The philosophy is this: In every moment you have two choices. One is to remember that you are connected to something far greater than you. And the other choice is you can forget that.
And if you carry that around as a philosophy, then all of the thoughts that flow out of the idea that you’re connected to something far greater than you, and for some people that means something different than to other people.
But as far as the brain science that we’re talking about, it’s been demonstrated over and over that we are hyper-connected to each other. That we’re really connected to the earth, and to the environment that we live in.
When we recognize that reality in our life, we are sharing our inner experience. That reduces the stress levels inside our bodies. And when we reduce our stress, we’re much more able to access our best-self emotions, that vision of our self as who we want to be.
But when we forget that we’re connected to other people, that we’re connected to something far greater than ourselves, then it becomes much easier to feel alone and small. These are qualities of feeling depressed, and they make it very difficult to make connections with people that are important for feeling good, for developing love.
Hadley: Einstein said something similar. The gist is there are two types of people, those who see everything as a miracle (or something greater like you’re saying), and those who don’t.
Guess who’s the happiest type of person? Those who see the beauty and the miracle in each moment, in each challenge. And you can teach yourself how to do that. That’s a mind journey.
Dr. Sean: That’s a wonderful quote by Einstein, that I’d forgotten. It’s a recognition that there’s something greater inside of us that produces results.
The reason I brought up that philosophy when you asked about children is because they can understand and absorb something simple like that. There are only two choices in each moment.
If your child is down and struggling, you can tell them that you have two choices. You can recognize that we’re all part of something together, that you’re connected to something greater than you. Or you can forget that. If you forget it, your thoughts can become very negative.
Another suggestion I have for children is to make sure that when they’re struggling, you’re actively helping them schedule activities in their day that have to do with other people.
They have difficulty enough when they’re down, but if you can get them around people they can connect to, people who can be supportive, you’ll find that the emotions of the other people infuse into your child. Just like they do with us, when we connect with other other people.
Hadley: Love and happiness are contagious. That’s why a positive, a happy outlook makes people want to be around you, because you make them feel good. That’s a healthy choice.
Do you have a final tip to help us change our thinking to change our life and love life?
Dr. Sean: As we’ve been talking, again the challenging thing for a lot of people is we can say we want our relationship to be a certain way. And we can start to imagine that. But when the going gets tough, we revert to old ways of behaving.
So I encourage people to make a commitment that lasts longer than a couple days or a week. Make a commitment that is ongoing, that recognizes there will be setbacks.
Often times it will seem like it’s not working when you’re trying to change, but that’s the definition of the process of change. That it takes time. It takes repetition. It takes really intentional attention.
So I encourage people to recognize that when you’re trying to make changes. That it works. It takes some resilience.
Hadley: It does. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Knocked down 7 times, bounce back 8.” You expect it, and you develop those muscles to get right back up.
Dr. Sean. That’s wonderful.
Hadley: Dr. Sean. Thanks for your generous sharing of ways to be aware of our thinking, and choose thoughts that create the life and relationships we love.
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