Episode 214: Giving Kids Hope in the Age of AI

Mindful Living in the Age of Tech, Nurturing Resilience, Equipping Kids with Emotional Tools | Insights from Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf


This content was inspired by a conversation with Dr. Leaf, an expert in mental health and author of “Your Mental Mess.” You can listen to the podcast here.

My thesis would be to say, if you don’t do this, that general angst that is the majority of your daily life because of the speed of life currently, if that is not managed, that will throw you into the into the zone where you feel like you burnt out. Overwhelmed, can’t cope. That’s why there’s so much move to listen to birds go into nature.

Go for a walk. I would say very strongly, it’s okay to be a mess. I’ve said this a few times now and don’t stay a mess. Learn to manage your mess, but give yourself permission to be messy and then make a plan to manage your mess, and that can open up a whole world of freedom and empower people to really feel like they get my autonomy back.

Empowerment is key in self-regulation.



​Mindful Living in the Age of Tech, Nurturing Resilience, Equipping Kids with Emotional Tools | Insights from Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf

You may remember our previous podcast episode where we delved into Dr. Caroline Leaf’s enlightening book, “Your Mental Mess,” which provided invaluable guidance on managing stress and anxiety for adults. What sets Dr. Leaf’s work apart is her exploration of the intricate relationship between the mind and the brain. While many of us assume they are the same, she reveals the distinct drivers behind each and equips individuals with practical systems to navigate life’s challenges. Whether it’s temporary stress or overwhelming emotions, her methodologies empower people to take control of their mental well-being. 

But her latest book holds even greater significance in today’s noisy world, focusing on helping children thrive amidst constant distractions. Even those of us who grew up without technology struggle to understand the unique difficulties young people face. How can we be effective role models and provide the necessary tools for our children and the youth around us? Dr. Leaf addresses this pressing question by emphasizing the importance of embracing the full spectrum of emotions at all ages. From anger to anxiety, she empowers us to manage these feelings without being overwhelmed. 

The Impact of Technology on Children’s Mental Health: A Shift in Perspective

We all recognize that technology impacts mental health, but it often feels like we have little control over its influence. Despite our efforts to prioritize sleep, nutrition, and overall well-being, the pervasive presence of technology makes it difficult to escape its grasp.

Technology is here to stay. But rather than constantly reacting to the mental health crisis caused by technology, we need to change our perspective.

For the past four decades, the mental health establishment has simplified the complexities of life experiences and adversity into a set of symptoms that must be eliminated. There is a tendency to search for external factors to blame. However, throughout history, every generation has faced new challenges, whether war, plagues, or technological advancements such as television and radio.

The core of the problem lies within ourselves, not solely in external factors. It comes down to managing and balancing various aspects of our lives. When we fail to find equilibrium, mental health issues arise. That’s why we are currently witnessing a major mental health crisis. Instead of blaming social media or technology, we must look closer at our actions and choices.

Merely reducing screen time is not the ultimate solution because it is unrealistic to expect people, both children, and adults, to completely abstain from using their cell phones or engaging with social media. It’s similar to the white bear effect – if you tell someone not to do something, they are more likely to do it. Instead, we need to understand how technology affects us and recognize that it is just one factor among many in our lives.

It is time to stop assigning blame to a single scapegoat. As a society, we need to focus on teaching ourselves and our children how to manage our minds and adapt to the changes of this era. We must equip ourselves with the necessary tools to navigate the challenges brought about by technology and ensure the well-being of future generations. We can forge a healthier relationship with technology by shifting our perspective and taking responsibility. Let’s empower ourselves and our children to thrive in this technology-driven world while maintaining mental well-being.

Navigating the Intersection of Technology and Teaching in a Changing World

We find ourselves in a technological revolution these days. The impact of technology on our lives, especially on children and young individuals, cannot be ignored. But alongside this wave of technology, an interesting element has been added to the mix – societal teachings that emphasize self-worth, emotional sensitivity, and validation.

As we navigate the challenges of growing up and forming our identities, it can be overwhelming to do so in a world saturated with technology. On top of that, there seems to be a cultural inclination towards coddling and indulging every emotion we experience. It raises the question of how we can balance embracing our emotions and understanding that, as humans, we don’t always have to act upon every feeling.

This perspective resonates deeply with Dr. Leaf’s proactive approach to mental health, particularly in supporting young people and advocating for mindful parenting and teaching practices. Dr. Leaf emphasizes the importance of finding balance and taking responsibility for our own minds. It’s not about blaming technology or external factors; instead, it’s about recognizing our choices and how they shape our well-being.

To dive deeper into her teachings, Dr. Leaf introduces the concept of geodesic information processing theory. This theory explores the intricate connection between the mind, brain, and body and how we can influence this network. It highlights that our minds drive our thoughts and actions while the brain acts as the receiver and interpreter of energy. Together, the brain and body store experiences and shape our overall behavior.

The key is understanding how we show up in each moment and recognizing the patterns and influences driving our actions. By doing so, we can gain insight into our own behaviors and make intentional choices about how we engage with technology and navigate the challenges it presents.

Nurturing Young Minds: Building a Healthy Identity in the Digital Age

As we journey through adolescence, forming our identities becomes a significant aspect of our lives. It’s natural to feel confused and uncertain about who we are and where we fit in. However, in today’s digital world, with its emphasis on curated body images and societal pressures, this process can be even more challenging for young individuals.

Consider the words of a 13-year-old who shares their struggle: “I don’t look like them, so I must have no value.” These feelings of inadequacy become amplified when constantly bombarded by social media and the unrealistic standards it perpetuates. It’s no wonder many young people find themselves consumed by these thoughts, causing their impact to grow and dominate their mental landscape.

To understand how we can support young people during this crucial stage of identity formation, Dr. Leaf’s proactive approach explores how information and experiences shape our minds, brains, and bodies and how we can actively influence this process. One key concept Dr. Leaf highlights is the power of our choices. While we cannot change societal influences or the existence of social media, we have control over how we choose to spend our time and what information we allow into our minds. As parents, caregivers, and educators, it is essential to provide supportive and facilitative environments that help children make intentional choices about the content they consume.

For children under the age of 10, creating rules and practices can be a valuable tool in shaping their environment. Whether you are a parent, a relative, or a caregiver, here are some practical methods to consider:

  • Curate their digital exposure: Monitor and limit the amount of time young children spend on social media or consuming digital content. Encourage age-appropriate and educational activities that foster creativity, imagination, and critical thinking.
  • Promote healthy self-image: Emphasize the importance of inner qualities, character strengths, and individual uniqueness. Celebrate their achievements, talents, and efforts rather than focusing solely on physical appearance.
  • Encourage open communication: Create a safe space for children to discuss their feelings, concerns, and insecurities. Listen actively and validate their emotions, helping them develop emotional intelligence and resilience.
  • Teach media literacy: Educate children about the manipulative nature of advertising and the curated reality presented on social media. Help them develop critical thinking skills to discern between authentic representation and unrealistic standards.
  • Engage in offline activities: Encourage children to participate in physical activities, hobbies, and social interactions that promote well-rounded development. This can include sports, arts and crafts, reading, playing outdoors, or volunteering in their community.

Perfecting the mind-body-brain connection 

Dr. Leaf advocates a simple yet effective method called the “neuro cycle” to help children understand and manage their minds. This process involves healing the roots of negative thought patterns and replacing them with healthier ones. This process focuses on transforming the mind, brain, and body connection. By altering how proteins form in the brain and directing energy specifically, we can influence neurophysiology and other complex concepts that affect our well-being.

To align with the workings of our psycho-neurobiological network, we must adhere to certain principles. It’s similar to using a computer correctly by switching it on and charging it instead of throwing it on the floor and neglecting to charge it. The neuro cycle is a tool to effectively utilize our mind-body network, allowing us to unconsciously implement strategies promoting growth and development. While many individuals may already engage in some of these practices, the key lies in understanding and following the correct sequence. This sequence ensures that energy flows smoothly through the network, breaking down stagnant protein structures that hold onto memories and thoughts.

Merely desiring change without addressing the underlying issues that drive our behavior will not yield lasting results. Identifying and fixing the root cause is crucial while simultaneously cultivating new thought patterns. Otherwise, we may find ourselves competing between old and new patterns, leading to inconsistency in how we present ourselves to the world.

However, sometimes the issue persists. It’s easy to regress into old habits. This is what Dr. Leaf refers to as the “black addiction.” It’s not a disease but rather a result of incomplete reconstruction. So, instead, focus on deconstructing and reconstructing.

Our minds and bodies constantly absorb information, but we must be selective about what we focus on. The overwhelming amount of content available online can quickly lead us down rabbit holes and contribute to feelings of anxiety. Taking a step back and consciously choosing what to pay attention to can help us manage this information overload.

To gain insight into your children’s thinking patterns, engage them in conversations about how they approach different concepts or situations. Ask them how they think, feel, and make choices in specific scenarios. This ongoing dialogue can help you tune in to their perspectives and better understand their customized thinking. Starting these discussions at a young age sets the foundation for ongoing dialogue and learning. As parents, it’s essential to stay informed about current trends and online platforms. Don’t hesitate to ask your children for advice or teaching moments, allowing them to share their knowledge with you. By acknowledging that you can learn from them, you create an environment of mutual respect and collaboration.

Ultimately, it’s about collaborative education and staying informed together as technology evolves. Rather than fearing the future, it’s crucial to approach it with a mindset of mindful management. We can navigate the digital landscape more effectively by equipping ourselves with knowledge and engaging in ongoing conversations.

Instilling hope in a digital age

In today’s digital age, instilling hope and managing emotions effectively can be challenging. However, some practices and strategies can help navigate these complexities. One approach is to acknowledge and process emotions rather than simply ignoring or suppressing them.

Again, promoting open discussions about emotions and providing practical tools for managing them is crucial. Teaching individuals, especially children, to identify their feelings, understand their sources, and develop coping mechanisms can help them navigate challenging situations with resilience. Positive practices, such as gratitude, can also play a significant role in promoting mental well-being. Keeping a gratitude journal or incorporating daily gratitude exercises into one’s routine can help rewire the brain and cultivate a sense of appreciation for the small things in life.

Fostering a sense of community and connection is crucial in the digital age. Encouraging conversations and interactions that promote empathy, understanding, and support can help combat feelings of isolation and build resilience.

These processes can be applied to individuals of all ages, helping them navigate the challenges of the modern world.

Embracing Change: Practical Tips for Personal Growth

Change is a constant in life; if we want to grow and evolve, we must embrace it wholeheartedly. While countless techniques and practices out there promise transformation, the real key lies in putting them into action; it’s about effectively integrating them into your life. Whether it’s exercise, communication, or nurturing your mental well-being, all these practices are crucial in facilitating change. Remember, knowledge alone is not enough; it is through consistent practice that we truly experience transformation.

Controlling Reactions and Shaping the Future:

While we can’t control events and circumstances, we can control our reactions and shape the outcomes that lie ahead. Every action we take today directly impacts the future we desire. By consciously choosing our responses and aligning them with our aspirations, we pave the way for meaningful change.

Bringing Tomorrow’s Goals into Today’s Actions:

Procrastination is a common stumbling block when it comes to personal growth. We often fall into the trap of thinking that change can wait until tomorrow or some distant point in the future. However, true progress requires us to bring our future aspirations into the present moment. By taking action today, we actively work towards our goals rather than passively waiting for them to materialize. It’s about bridging the gap between where we are now and where we want to be.

Lifelong Mind Management and Self-Regulation:

Change is not a one-time event but a lifelong journey. The book emphasizes the importance of mind management and self-regulation. It encourages us to start where we are, even if we feel like a mess. Giving ourselves grace and being kind to ourselves throughout the process is crucial. By embracing our current state, we lay the foundation for gradual progress and growth.

Managing Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is a common struggle for many people, affecting their self-esteem, motivation, and overall well-being. It can be challenging to overcome these intrusive thoughts, but developing a new perspective can make a significant difference. Instead of viewing intrusive thoughts as disruptive and harmful, consider them as your new best friend. Take the time to listen and understand what they are telling you. You might find valuable information to help you reconstruct your perception.

Rather than trying to suppress these thoughts like playing a game of whack-a-mole, focus on the ones that keep popping up the most. These recurring thoughts might be key to understanding and addressing your negative self-talk. Embrace them and do the work to unpack their underlying causes.

Imposter syndrome is another aspect where negative self-talk often comes into play. When you doubt your abilities or qualifications, it’s crucial to recognize that the critical voice is connected to fear and self-doubt. Building a relationship with this voice can help you navigate these challenges and develop a healthier mindset.

Engaging Communities and Shifting Mindsets: Empowering Individuals for Lasting Change

Finding effective ways to manage various challenges is crucial at the community and individual levels. By addressing these issues comprehensively, we can create a positive impact from top to bottom. Educating parents and providing them with valuable insights is a decisive step toward helping them support their children’s well-being.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions go unnoticed. Instead of rushing to label and medicate, taking the time to understand and learn can bring about remarkable results. Rather than seeking quick fixes, we should invest in creating systems and support networks that benefit individuals and the community. This approach is not only fascinating but also yields long-lasting effects.

Our fast-paced culture often encourages instant solutions, but it’s important to remember that true mastery takes time. Just as athletes dedicate themselves to years of training and perseverance to excel, mental well-being requires a similar commitment to growth and resilience. We must resist the urge to medicalize or pathologize childhood experiences, avoiding a quick-fix mentality that perpetuates guilt and lifelong reliance on medication. Scientifically, this approach has been disproven, leading to unnecessary suffering.

To create real change, we need to involve the entire community. Engaging older generations, such as grandparents, can be a valuable resource within schools. Their presence can provide support and guidance, particularly in areas like reading assistance. Implementing practical initiatives that don’t require excessive funds can significantly impact individuals and communities alike.

This content was inspired by a conversation with Dr. Leaf, an expert in mental health and author of “Your Mental Mess.”


Resources Mentioned:

About Dr. Caroline Leaf

Dr. Caroline Leaf is a communication pathologist, audiologist, clinical and cognitive neuroscientist with a Masters and PhD in Communication Pathology and a BSc Logopaedics, specializing in cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychology. Since the early 1980s she has researched the mind-brain connection, the nature of mental health, and the formation of memory. She was one of the first in her field to study how the brain can change (neuroplasticity) with directed mind input.
During her years in clinical practice and her work with thousands of underprivileged teachers and students in her home country of South Africa and in the USA, she developed her theory (called the Geodesic Information Processing theory) of how we think, build memory, and learn, into tools and processes that have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), learning disabilities (ADD, ADHD), autism, dementias and mental ill-health issues like anxiety and depression. She has helped hundreds of thousands of students and adults learn how to use their mind to detox and grow their brain to succeed in every area of their lives, including school, university, and the workplace.