When you were a child, did your parents ever leave you little notes in your lunch box? I’m not in the habit of leaving daily notes for my kids, but one day this year I grabbed pen and marked “I ♥ U” on my child’s napkin. I had pretty much forgotten about doing it by the time we were out the door on the way to school, so I was surprised that my kindergartener was bringing it up weeks after.
It’s not like this was the first time I had told him that I loved him. I tell him many times every day. But to him, there was something special about the written note – maybe it was because it surprised him. Maybe he liked that he was getting a message from me during a time of the day when he’s not with me. Or his friends might get these notes and he was just glad to be included. Whatever the reason, my seemingly insignificant gesture was very meaningful for my kindergartener.
We’ve all heard about the importance of positive thinking – and positive affirmations. When we think happier thoughts, our outlook is more positive. When we have positive mantras that we can recall when we are in a tough spot, we can keep ourselves from going to a dark place. These ideas are expounded all the time in self-help literature, so what I am saying here is nothing new.
But I did learn something from my kindergartener. It’s not just knowing the mantras or keeping positive thoughts in mind that matters. There’s something special about seeing the words written down – and put somewhere that might catch us off guard – that has great power to influence us for the better. How, then, can we combine these ideas – the experience I had with my little lunch box note and the research about positive affirmations?
One idea is to continue leaving little notes for my child to find. I can also go a step further and leave notes for my husband to find. Even sending someone a quick email or text in the middle of the day just to share kind words can boost his or her mood. And maybe, once we start leaving positive notes for our loved ones, they will return the favor (as long as they know how to write ☺). We can even think creatively and leave random affirmations in books at the library or on a table at the coffee shop. You never know whom you will reach with a positive message.
To leave surprise notes for yourself is a bit harder. One trick I used in college was to write on a mirror with dry erase markers. Once you go to bed, you usually forget what you wrote, and you enjoy the surprise message in the morning. Or, if you are more tech savvy, there is a FREE app for the iPhone called “HiFutureSelf” that lets you send messages to yourself or to other people.
In any case, it’s important to see positive messages IN PRINT. Send them to yourself. Send them to other people. Thinking good thoughts can get you far, but writing them down and seeing them can reinforce the mental muscle. It takes lots of lunch box notes to instill a positive life outlook, but if we all start taking lunch box sized action, perhaps together we can feed the souls of this world.