By Christa Melnyk Hines
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
We know that happiness is an emotion that can come and go. But how do we recapture that bubbly feeling amid the challenges and stresses of parenthood? Here are a few tips from fellow moms for staying positive and feeling good.
Lean on community. Several moms polled for this article agreed that moms’ night outs with their friends help them feel more optimistic. And science proves it. Studies find that time spent bonding with friends boosts a woman’s level of oxytocin, a natural hormone that reduces stress. Check out mothers’ groups in your area if you are struggling to build a support network.
Commit to healthy living. Women who make time to care for their bodies enjoy a stronger self-image and feel more self-confident and energetic. Exercise, try to get adequate sleep, schedule regular massages and make healthy food choices to feel your best. “I know that when I am reasonably well-rested and happy, I am absolutely more patient, energetic and empathetic to everyone in my household,” says Erica Wilson, a mom of one.
Take time for personal pursuits. Whether you like surfing Pinterest, training for a 5K or simply taking a warm bubble bath, personal moments throughout the week contribute to our overall sense of well-being. “I try to take at least a few minutes a day outside. I close my eyes, take deep breaths, and listen to the sounds,” says Melanie Werner, a mom of one.
Nourish yourself. During the rush of the week, most of us throw meals together just to get our hungry crew fed. If you enjoy cooking, find a day when you can slow down and relish the preparation. The process of chopping and measuring ingredients is meditative and soothing. Create a feast to delight all of the senses by serving your meal on a table laid out with your favorite dishes and cheerful flowers.
Laugh. Family life can be funny. Kids say hilarious things. Pay attention and write those gems down. Next time you need a lift, read them. Need more ideas? Look at funny family videos or photos, hang out with lighthearted friends, watch a silly movie or read a humorous book.
Practice gratitude. In a gratitude study at Eastern Washington University, researchers found a positive correlation between gratitude and happiness. “We have found that grateful individuals tend to be happy individuals and that grateful thinking improves mood,” the researchers report. Try writing down three things you are thankful for each day––small moments count, too.
Get a groove on. Whether she participates in a Jazzercise class or switches on upbeat dance tunes in her kitchen, Jessie Mallicoat, a mom of three, says, “If I’m in a bad mood, I put on some ‘dancy’ music and it usually helps.” In fact, studies find that dancing boosts the body’s feel-good endorphins. Dancing has even been found to reverse depression and increase self-confidence.
Set boundaries. Moms who are happier make conscious decisions on a daily basis about who and what is allowed into their lives. Switching to this way of thinking is empowering. You don’t have to be harsh or hurtful to accomplish this goal. Politely decline invitations that don’t fit with your priorities and limit interactions with negative individuals.
Access good childcare. Seek reliable childcare in order to feel secure pursuing personal interests, maintaining routine health check-ups and for date nights with your partner. A positive marriage contributes to the overall emotional health and happiness of your family. Having trouble finding a sitter? Check out SitterCity.com, Care.com and ask other parents for references.
Avoid comparison. Parenting philosophies that work well in one family may not work well in another. Thanks to the influx of information at our fingertips, parents have no shortage of advice. Decide which strategies make sense for your family. And beware of spending too much time on social media if you’re starting to feel like you don’t measure up. “Being happy with yourself and how you parent is key to accepting other moms and how they parent, which creates a more supportive parenting community all around,” says Mandy Yokim, mom of two.
Freelance journalist, Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two boys. She finds happiness in historical romance novels, sunny days and chocolate chip cookies. Christa is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.