We all know the phrase “we are what we eat”. If we eat sugary, processed foods we typically feel a quick sugar high followed by a period of fatigue – our mood may swing downward and our energy may crash. Conversely, if we eat fresh, whole foods we feel energized, vibrant and healthy.
Sometimes it is hard to know what to eat but it is all about choice. This is why I like the words of Michael Pollan, author of, In Defense of Food, who keeps the choice simple by saying, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” (p. 9).
I love the concept of “you are what you eat” and I feel we are also what we think. For example, if I think I’m smart, I’m going to ask more questions, seek more knowledge, contribute more to the conversation, and feel more confident in my intellect.
I feel girls need to choose healthy foods and I also feel they need to choose healthy thoughts!
Wouldn’t it be great if we could help them do both – so their bodies and their minds are healthy and nurtured and they feel restored, renewed, and rejuvenated to navigate their days?
When girls know they have the power to choose their thoughts and that what they think becomes who they are, they change. It’s that simple. But, how do we help them do this?
Here are some ideas:
Awareness: we cannot change what we do not know. So, either ask her what she is thinking or have her spend time each day free writing out her thoughts so she can become more aware and see what she is thinking.
Positive affirmations: when girls have a few easy phrases to hold on to, they are reminded of who they are and they are less likely to let negative thoughts (their own or others) influence them. Create these affirmations together, write them out, and put them where she can see them! Examples can include: I am brave, I am confident, I will take risks, and I will take care of myself. Talk about powerful!
Questions: ask her what she is thinking about or what thoughts seem to be recycling in her mind. Explore what is happening for her with curiosity, not criticism. Ask her to check in with her own thoughts with these prompts: is the thought helpful, healthy, and helping her move forward? If not, her thought is holding her back and keeping her stuck.
Reframe: once you help her clarify what she is thinking, and can identify any negative, fearful, or worry thoughts, help her get unstuck by shifting to more positive thoughts. For example, “Keisha didn’t like me anymore” can become, “My friendship with Keisha feels different lately so I’m going to invest time in other friends right now.” A shift in friendship doesn’t mean she is a “loser” or will never have friends again. Her noticing the shift is amazing and the reframe helps her keep perspective, stay positive and true to herself, and moving forward!
Action: with a newer, healthier thought, ask her what she can do to act on a newer, more positive thought. If she feels worried she’ll do poorly on a test, help her write out a series of steps she can take, starting today such as: gathering her materials, creating a study plan and deciding what to study and when, spending 1/2 hour each day studying a week before the test, and fun ideas for studying such as mind maps, cue cards, and mock tests where she pretends she’s the teacher.
Positive playlist: most likely, she likes music. What she may not know is that music can actual generate those “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine to help boost her mood and to decrease the stress hormones called adrenalin and cortisol. Help her pick inspirational, uplifting, positive songs to do the trick. Here are some songs on my positive playlist: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Up We Go” by Lights.
When we teach girls that they choose their thoughts and their thoughts can lead to a series of right actions, we provide them with a very valuable life tool – the tool of empowerment. They are not stuck, helpless, or victims of circumstance. In fact, they are as powerful as they choose to be.
Just as choosing good foods feels good, so does choosing good thoughts!