What it actually means being a happy mum? That ideal picture with glowing lady cuddling her adorable baby? Not ever losing a plot shouting at your kids? Or having everything under control, husband that adores you and spotless house with well behaved happy kids running around?
If your goal is to be a happy mother 100 percent of the time, your goal is unrealistic. Nobody is happy 100 percent of the time.
Happiness is not an ongoing state. It is a state of mind.
And if you are not happy most of the days, you are not a failure!
It is a fact, that no matter how many healthy habits and systems you put in place, you will encounter small frustrations and annoyances every day. But you don’t want to go on a rampage just because you stepped on a LEGO your kid forgot to pick up. Letting the little stuff go feels exponentially better than knowing you could blow a gasket any moment.
Two Important Things Happy Moms Don’t Do:
Before we get to the list of positive steps you can take toward your quest of how to be a happy mom, we need to get on the same page with three important issues:
- Don’t try to simply deny that you feel frustrated or annoyed. Bottling up negative feelings just makes those feelings worse.
- Make sure you channel and communicate your emotions and feelings effectively without destroying everything that comes your way
- Let go of trying hard to be a perfect mum!
First of all, remember that even the happiest moms have unhappy moments. When you’re feeling a little off or even if you’re teetering on the brink of losing your temper, try these science-backed tricks to get back on track.
Some days you might need one of these quick solutions, and other days you might need a handful to find your happy again.
1. Label Your Feeling
Use a word or two to describe how you’re feeling, starting with “I’m feeling…” For example: “I’m feeling frustrated,” or “I’m feeling annoyed.”
Here’s why this works: When you’re stressed, your brain – or more specifically, the amygdala of your brain – becomes hyper-vigilant. Your brain interprets even the smallest of everyday annoyances as a threat against your ‘survival’. That’s the amygdala at work. But labeling your emotions in just a few words tells the amygdala to settle down.
One important thing: The phrasing “I’m feeling angry” is important compared to just “I’m angry.” The extra word “feeling” helps you separate the emotion you’re experiencing from your sense of self. It’s a lot easier to overcome anger when you label it as something you’re feeling instead of something you are.
2. Do Three Rounds of 3-1-6
To catch your body from unleashing a full fledged fight-or-flight response, do this:
- Breathe in for three seconds. Count out “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand” in your head to make sure you don’t rush it.
- Hold the breath for one second.
- Exhale for six seconds.
- Repeat steps 1-3 three times.
As you exhale, you may notice that you feel calmer. This is because this breathing technique stops your body’s stress response and lowers your heart rate.
3. Say, ‘It’s Not About Me’
Let’s say you discovered your child took money from your wallet and lied to you about it. Reframe the situation ‘it’s not about me – she must be having a bad day’.
It is not about excusing inappropriate behavior from your child. The goal is to keep your temper in check so you can deal with the situation in a productive way and calm manner. Because when you react like a sleep-deprived mad woman, there is a high possibility you will be introducing fear and stress into the situation. When these factors are involved, your child’s brain is incapable of learning anything from the situation. And my guess is that you’d rather your kid learn an important lesson than cover him/her with fear.
4. Hug It Out
When you experience a negative emotion, the amygdala of your brain comes to life like an over-reactive car alarm. Then your brain shuts down to logic and interprets every little thing as a threat.
To find happiness as a parent, you need your amygdala to chill out. One reliable way to do that is to hug a loved one. Because when you hug the right way, you get the happy chemicals oxytocin and serotonin flowing. Those are the chemicals that boost your mood and promote bonding. In particular, oxytocin reduces the reactivity of the amygdala. But here’s the important part: You need to hold a hug for at least six seconds in order to get this benefit.
5. Shake It Up
You’ve probably already heard that exercise boosts your endorphins, which is a chemical that helps you fight stress. Exercise also prompts your body to release a special protein called BDNF, which stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This protein is like a reset switch for your brain, so you typically feel at ease and happier after exercising. And after an angry outburst, physical activity helps flush the adrenaline from your system.
You’re a busy parent, so I’m not suggesting you go for an hour-long run every time your mood dips. But I have found one way to increase my daily physical activity that’s actually fun for me and my kids.
Research shows that music cuts your stress, for example by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What’s more, babies and toddlers get a big dose of happy when moving their bodies to a rhythmic beat. Next time you and/or your kids feel a case of the crankies coming on, fire up your favorite play-list and dance away the bad mojo.
6. Hack Your Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re missing out on a big win when it comes to how to be a happy mom.
Unless you happen to be part of the tiny, tiny percent of people who can thrive on less than seven hours of sleep a night, research has shown time and time again that lack of sleep will stand in the way of your happiness.
If you aren’t already napping as a way to catch up on sleep, you should be. But, but, but…, I can hear you thinking.
I’m too busy. I can’t fall asleep during the day. I have a day job. Whatever your excuse, forget about it for now. Just try a nap. If it doesn’t work out for you after you give it an honest chance, then so be it.
The optimal length of time for a nap depends on what effect you’re going for:
- For a quick boost in energy and focus, 25 minutes or less is best
- If you nap somewhere between 30 minutes and 85 minutes, you’ll likely wake up pretty groggy
- For a deeper sleep, set your alarm for 90 minutes because that’s a full sleep cycle
7. Challenge Yourself to 5 Good Acts
Science shows that in happy relationships, you need a ratio of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. If you’re feeling like your quest to be a happy mom is in danger, make sure to get five positive interactions on the books as fast as possible.
What counts as a positive interaction? This could be as simple as giving your child or your partner a hug, saying “I love you,” or telling a joke.
The truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, from winning the lottery, or from all your kids learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.
True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to frame your mindset and put the right habits in place.