Building positive states in boys

Portrait of a cute little boy swimming underwater

The brain is literally hardwired to perform at its best when it’s positive. When your brain experiences positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love, you:

  • see more possibilities
  • bounce back from setbacks
  • connect better with others
  • are more likely to reach your potential.

Here are a few ways you can build and maintain positive states at home, which will help your son reap the rewards of positivity.

  1. Create ‘jolts of joy’

Create some ‘jolts of joy’ in your family – moments of heartfelt positive emotion. Inject a burst of love, awe, hope, pride, inspiration or just plain silliness. Perhaps a surprise ice cream, a family movie night, dancing crazily together to favourite song – whatever works to create joy for you and your son. You could even create a ‘joy jar’ full of ideas for when you need one fast.

  1. Practise kindness

Kindness has been found to help our brain experience pleasure, build trust and social connections. It triggers the hormone oxytocin in our blood stream, which helps lower our levels of stress and improve our focus. Help your son discover kindness as a super power by creating a ‘Kindness Challenge’ at home, awarding points for acts of kindness, and doing fun ‘kindness projects’. 

  1. Ask “what went well”

Our brains are hardwired to focus more on what’s wrong than what’s right. The bad seems to stick like Velcro, whilst the good slides off like our minds are Teflon coated, reducing our ability to savour what’s good in our lives. Raise your family’s positivity by tuning into what’s gone well at the end of each day. Ask your son what went well in his day and why. 

  1. Nurture your relationships

The importance of creating and nurturing good relationships is so strong and reliable that scientists have called it a necessary condition for flourishing. Prioritise connecting with others, in a heartfelt way. Notice what happens when you give your full attention to those you love. For help with this, try this loving kindness meditation.

  1. Take a positivity test

On a typical day, how much positivity does your family experience? Use this free two-minute survey to measure your positivity ratio at roughly the same time every evening for two weeks. Take note of where your ratio sits on your best days and think about how you can build more of these activities into your day and with your family.

This article is an edited extract from the strengths based parenting ebook by

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