Dr. Guy Winch presented an excellent TED Talk based on the idea that if we learn, and if we teach our children psychological hygiene and emotional first aid, we will be more successful, happier, live with fewer illnesses and enjoy a longer life expectancy.
In his TED Talk he said: “We all know how to practice physical health … but what do we know about how to maintain our psychological health? Nothing. What do we do to teach our children about emotional hygiene? Nothing.”
And: “How is it we spend more time taking care of our teeth than we do our minds?”
And: “Why is it that our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health?”
And: “It is time we close the gap between our physical and our psychological health.”
Here are some key takeaways to consider as you teach your child psychological hygiene and emotional first aid:
Chronic loneliness is as dangerous for your health as cigarettes. Chronic loneliness increases your likelihood of death by 14%. It causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and it even suppresses your immune system. Studies have shown that rats avoid dangerous addictions if they live in an environment that builds social connection vs. are kept alone in a cage. Find ways to connect in meaningful ways with others. Help your child feel connected to your family, and his or her friends. A sense of belonging goes a long way to promoting mental health.
Know How You React to Failure
You need to be aware of how your mind and your child’s mind reacts to failure, because the mind tricks you into thinking you cannot succeed when you actually can. So many people function below their potential because of this problem. It’s natural to feel demoralized and defeated when things don’t work, but you have to fight feelings of helplessness, and you have to gain control over the situation. Work with your child to learn how to recover from failure in a healthy, active way.
Learn to Manage Rejection
It is natural to immediately start focusing on our personal failures and faults when we are rejected by someone else. But this behavior only makes the situation worse. If you accidentally cut your hand, you wouldn’t dig into it and make it worse. You would put a bandage on it and protect it from further damage. But when we are rejected, and our self esteem is damaged, we react in the opposite manner. We dive in deeper and remember all the terrible things about ourselves that we think led to the rejection. You need to train your mind and your child’s mind to respond compassionately to rejection, protecting, soothing and supporting the hurt rather than digging into it deeper, increasing the pain.
To ruminate is to chew over a situation over and over again in your mind. When something goes wrong, you keep replaying the scene in your head. This is a habit, and it can easily become a costly habit. Spending time on upsetting thoughts puts you and your child at significant risk for developing depression, alcoholism, eating disorders and cardiovascular disease. The urge to ruminate can feel intense, and can be very hard to stop. But there is a solution! Studies have shown that a two-minute distraction is all it takes to stop ruminating. Every time you start ruminating, concentrate on something else for two full minutes and it will pass.