Brain research is fascinating and changing all the time. Current research shows that our brains are growing, changing, and evolving throughout our lives—which brings me to something I like to call the "silver van effect.”
Currently, I drive a sliver van. I've had it for several years. When we got it, I knew there were many silver vans in the world; however, after I began to drive one, I started to see them everywhere. In fact, there were so many that I decided to put a distinguishing antenna ball on my car so I could find it in a parking lot where anywhere from one to several silver vans were parked near mine.
Now, were there all of the sudden more silver vans around? No. What happened was that my world view changed. And my world view changed because my thoughts changed. And my thoughts changed because I was driving a silver van.
I was seeing this silver van each day when I got into it, so my brain became quickly programmed to notice other things similar to this.
The really amazing thing about this is that attention changes the brain--and it does so quickly--within seconds, in fact. So, what we pay attention to, we will see more of in our surroundings. And this changes our thoughts, which changes our world view. Read more here.
Let's take this to parenting. If you want a better relationship with your children, then start by focusing on what you love about them, what you admire about them, what you appreciate about them. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning before interacting with them, and before you go to bed, so you are thinking about those things as you fall asleep.
In workshops, I give people a handout to make a list of 5 things they love about each child, so they can post it up somewhere they'll see it each day.
When you focus on these positives (I appreciate when she puts toys away. I appreciate that he is neat. I appreciate that she loves running. I appreciate his energy), your thoughts shift, and your brain helps you focus more on these things, so you will see them more. If we focus on the negatives (Arrgh! She always leaves her shoes in the middle of the floor!), then that shifts our thoughts and focus, too, to see more of what's out of place than what is in place.
Of course, no one is perfectly positive all the time. These thoughts--whether positive or negative--create patterns that literally and physically strengthen over time in our brains. The great news is that you can change the connections by repeating a new pattern.
So, what are you waiting for? Make that list today of 5 things you love about your child. Your partner. Your self. And give thanks for all of these qualities in your life.
Research also shows that if you write down as few as five things each day for which you are grateful, and you do this for a few months, your sense of contentment with the world will increase.
Go gratefully forward this month and let me know what happens!