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  • Writer's pictureDonna

Try This! The Calm Optimism Exercise

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

At Esteem, we spend a lot of time talking about strategies for success, like parenting styles, thoughtful conversations, and encouraging our kids to try new things that can help well-being and everyday life.

The Calm Optimism Exercise is a technique we've seen parents use with their kids - teaching them to try it out in times of stress or when it's just time to calm down.

It teaches children to head off any frustration or anger they may be experiencing and replace it with calm, and then in that calm state of mind, practice motivating themselves to do a task or activity - even one they don't normally enjoy doing!

1. It All Starts With Breathing

Deep, slow breathing is a simple, yet effective, way to calm yourself down. It is effectively a form of meditation and mindfulness, even though most people don't think of it that way!

The health benefits of breathing are well-known, and it can be especially effective for children with behavioral challenges, including kids with ADHD or autism.

In just 36 seconds of deep breathing, we can achieve a noticeably calmer state! Take three deep breaths, counting to six on each inhale and each exhale, and see how you feel. Keep on breathing to enjoy the calm longer! You'll forget you need to count after a few breaths.

2. The Power Of Self-Talk

You've heard of the power of self-talk before, but most people miss this key piece: the human mind holds on to positive statements much more than negative statements.

Negative statement example:

"I am not afraid of spiders."

Positive statement example:

"I feel calm and composed around spiders."

It might seem silly but our brains will 'remember' the positive statement more than the negative statement, and with repetition focused on positivity, we can actually change our perspective about certain things! Powerful!

The second amazing thing about our brains is that if you try this kind of positive self-talk and include other positive things as well, our brains can associate that positivity with all of the things you say.

For example: "I like puppies, playing soccer, and doing my chores!"

We don't promise your kids will like doing chores after trying this once, but whether it's chores, homework, or anything else, speaking positively can eventually help us shape a new perspective!

3. The Calm Optimism Exercise - Putting It All Together!

Try combining breathing and positive self-talk, the Calm Optimism exercise. Try it yourself first to practice, then try it out with your kids!

Step 1: Find a calm place to sit down.

Step 2: Take 3 slow breaths and count to 6 while breathing in, and count to 6 while breathing out. Keep breathing but stop counting after the first 3 breaths!

Step 3: Start saying positive "I like" statements in your head, or out loud. Try saying 2 things you already like, then say something you want to like more. Repeat!

Example: "I like relaxing, I like reading, I like answering work emails. I like my dog, I like massages, I like helping my daughter get ready for bed."

Don't focus on keeping track of time, but aim to stay in this place of calm optimism for 3-5 minutes. Then, try it with your kids!

"I like pizza, I like my friends, I like eating vegetables. I like baseball, I like art, I like brushing my teeth."

Exercises like this can help your child self-regulate their emotions and find calm. They can help your child 'level-up' their self control.

First try practicing this with your child regularly. If it goes well, you can tell your child that they can practice this anytime they feel angry, scared, or unmotivated/negative.

Getting to a place of calm feels good and is self-rewarding; some parents have been surprised to see their child practicing this on their own! This type of emotional autonomy and self-regulation is a wonderful skill for our kids to develop as they continue to grow and face new challenges in life.

We'd love to know how it goes with your child! And other activities like this one that you've found help you, your child, or your whole family find calm. email me!


Use Esteem to check in on your child's emotional well-being and other mental health areas, understand what they are experiencing, find more activities to try with your child, and find solutions that can help areas most important to you!

Be well!

Donna :)

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