Have you ever thought ‘I can’t understand technology’ or ‘I am not good at maths’ or ‘I give up’ or even ‘I am not good enough’? Can you remember how you felt after having those thoughts? I bet you didn’t feel the best, right?
Our mindset can shape our reality and most importantly it can have a massive impact on our mental health.
Our mental well-being is our feelings, our thoughts, how we deal with stressful situations, and how we interact with other people. Our mindset is our thought patterns and beliefs that shape our view of reality, our world.
Why mindset is important from early on in life.
Mindset is believed to be created in the first place by two primary sources: praising and labeling. Both take place during early childhood. When children are praised or labeled as ‘clever’ or ‘talented’, it has been found that it promotes a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is when a person thinks that they are who they are and no matter what they do (practice, work hard) will not change anything.
Every child, as a human being, is born intelligent. We all have different abilities for several different things. So, it is pointless to differentiate children based on what we believe to be their “inherent intelligence”. From as early as three years old our children start to form beliefs about themselves. These beliefs are known as mindsets and they involve their own intelligence, their talents, and their abilities, and together they influence children’s motivation, self-regulation, and achievement.
For example, you have a young boy who keeps hearing from his parents that he is great at maths and boys are naturally better at maths anyway. This thought is saved in the boy’s mind. The more he thinks the same thoughts over and over, the more ingrained they become into his mindset. So, he thinks he is great at maths. These thoughts literally form pathways in our brains by connecting neurons repeatedly. It’s like a well-worn path through a field. If you walk the same path over and over, you’ll wear down the grass in that particular path. The same thing happens in our brains as we emphasise certain neural pathways through repeated thoughts.
Understandably, you are thinking now ‘Why is that bad’? Why is it wrong for that boy to think that he is great at maths?
Because unavoidably he will have to deal with harder problems, and he will at some point struggle. By listening and believing that he is great at maths, he doesn’t focus on the process, and he does not have the skills to cope with the harder challenges. That is why is important for parents and educators to praise the process instead of the skill. For example, ‘You really tried your hardest in finding a solution for this problem’ instead of ‘You are the best at maths’.
Mindset and Mental Wellbeing
What does all of this have to do with mental health?
Your mindset works as the basis for your experiences in this world. The same events can happen to different people, and everyone will react differently – based on the mindset they hold.
You are the one who is responsible for your mindset and the thoughts you think in response to your life. Simply think:
Does your mindset support you and your life, or does it depress you?
Does your mindset empower or disempower you?
Does it create anxiety?
Does your mindset help you learn from your experiences, or does it convince you that “you are not enough and that is why…”?
If you answered yes in most of the above questions, fear not! The good news is that you can change your mindset. You can challenge and replace your underlying assumptions about life. You don’t have to stay stuck where you are now.
Even though it’s not easy, you can take responsibility for your life, and move past the difficulties you encounter. When you understand your mindset and challenge your thoughts, you liberate yourself from being controlled by what you think. You realize that your thoughts are just thoughts: they don’t determine what is, you do.
In the blog posts to follow, I will be sharing with you more about growth and fixed mindset and how you can promote it to your children but yourselves as well!
With anything I share, please remember that you can contact me with any questions you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org