My husband and daughter recently discovered a show on Netflix called Old Enough! The premise of the show is simple: young children (think five years old and under) in Japan go on errands all by themselves. Unbeknownst to the child, a camera crew follows the child as they navigate their way from home to a store or shop and back again. The show is so beloved in Japan it has been on the air for over 30 years.
Each fifteen-minute episode is a fascinating glimpse into another culture and into the minds of toddlers. Many of the episodes take place in rural Japanese communities while others are filmed in Tokyo. The children are usually sent on the errand by a parent. Sometimes they are accompanied by a young sibling or friend and other times they go alone. The children generally do not notice the three or four crew members following them with cameras or the fact that they are wearing a microphone. The crew inevitably catches adorable and often hilarious conversations the children have with one another or even themselves.
In addition to the fascinating cultural differences between Japanese and American children, what makes the show so interesting is observing how children navigate the world on their own. Some kids are extremely confident and happy to set off without a parent to go buy tofu or fruit juice from the grocery store. Other children are clearly more nervous or scared without their parents.
Each child has a unique way of completing their mission. In one episode a nervous little girl pretends to talk on the phone with her mother while she is walking. In many episodes children talk to themselves during their journey – often encouraging themselves out loud along the way. While I have only seen a handful of episodes, I have not once seen a toddler give up on their task. Their ability to encourage themselves and persist is captivating.
According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is a key component of effective stress management and thus associated with many health benefits. While positive thinking is usually associated with optimists, pessimists too apparently can train themselves to learn positive thinking skills. The art of positive thinking does not mean ignoring anything that is negative. It simply means adjusting how one views an unpleasant situation.
Like the toddler self-soothing with a fake phone call to mom, according to Mayo Clinic researchers positive thinking starts with “self-talk.” While adults don’t tend to verbalize all our internal discussions as a toddler might, our brains have an ongoing stream of thoughts that may be positive or negative. Taking control of these thoughts with the goal of making more of them positive then negative is a way to manage stress and be more productive. Rather than catastrophizing (automatically assuming everything is the worst), magnifying all minor issues into giant ones, or seeking impossible standards of perfectionism, research suggests we should focus on how we might turn a negative thought into a positive one.
I know my fellow pessimists may be rolling their eyes. But hear me out! According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can increase your life span, lower your rates of depression and physical illness, and even help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, etc. So why not try it? What do you have to lose?
Thinking positively is like developing any other good habit. It takes time and practice. Focus on the things you are thankful for. Work hard to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. Encourage yourself and others around you. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t forget to laugh.
In my work at Community Foundation of North Louisiana, I am fortunate to be surrounded by positivity every day as we work with our many nonprofit partners to make our community stronger. I am also thankful our generous community supported those nonprofits this year on Give for Good (May 3, 2022) by donating a record $2.39 million for 214 organizations. In total, our community has raised over $16.5 million since Give for Good began in 2014.
If you are looking to keep that Give for Good positivity going, I invite you to reach out to a nonprofit of your choice to donate your time and talents. Giving back to your community is one great way to create more positive thoughts both in your life and in the lives or citizens receiving those services. For a list of local nonprofit organizations, visit giveforgoodnla.org or cfnla.org/grants/recentawards/.
This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: Toddlers know the power of positive thinking