Towards cultivating positive thoughts


We all have an “inner voice” that guides us.

Sometimes is it goal-directed and motivating, while other times it tempts us to stray off course, procrastinate, or make choices that do not serve our long-term goals. It becomes a constant see-saw or battle between doing what is best and doing what may be easier or more comfortable.

These voices, which are actually thoughts, are amplified during adolescence due to the relative under-development of the frontal cortex, which is the executive functioning control centre of the brain. For this reason, young people require consistent guidance as well as the tools to help them cultivate positive thoughts.

It is these thoughts that direct supportive actions and behaviour.

It is important for young people to understand where negative thoughts arise from. Although they appear to arise automatically, they often stem from fear, longstanding habits or the desire for immediate gratification.

Procrastination is typically associated with laziness, whereas its root cause is more generally anxiety related. Fear of effort or poor outcomes leads many young people to delay and avoid actions. That can become catastrophic and lead to challenges in social functioning, school and academic attainment.

The teen brain is dominated by the impulse-generating pleasure control centres. Young people will naturally drift toward actions that feel good and may prioritise them over things that are required to be done.

While some teens have personalities that are goal-directed, most will have to be taught how to delay gratification, focus on priorities and create a positive mind-set surrounding the things that must be done. Parents can achieve this through anchoring their values systems, teaching proper goal setting and leveraging them against their long term visions for personal growth and success.

In order to generate consistent positive thinking, young people need to identify the triggers that may distract them.

Through mindfulness practices and self-awareness they can be guided to recognize the words, actions or circumstances around them which trigger negativity. These may include conflict, stress or boredom. By identifying triggers young people are better able to anticipate and manage them efficiently.

Once recognised, the next step involving challenging negative thoughts and then replacing them with more supportive positive ones. This may include affirmations, visualizations of success or even acknowledgement that rest is needed.

Young people who are chronically fatigued or struggle with quality sleep inevitably become irritable and have reduced functioning. Improvement in sleep habits yield significant improvement in mental clarity and positive thinking in adolescents. It is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of holistic adolescent health.

After recognising triggers and adjusting health habits, young people need to establish routines that support your goals and minimize opportunities for the “bad” voice to take over.

By structuring their days with activities that promote productivity and well-being there will simply be less opportunity for negative thinking to intervene.

Through all these processes young people will require parental supervision to provide both the accountability during times of decline as well as the accolades during times of improvement.

By applying these principles consistently young people can be reinforced with positive habits which they will take forward into their years of emerging young adulthood.


"Towards cultivating positive thoughts"

More in this section