I love the January vibe. A fresh, new year has just begun and it is teeming with possibility and promise. It's a new chapter in my unfolding story of motherhood and family. As I'm thinking about the changes and additions I want to make to my motherhood story, I want to ask you a question, mama: What will you pen this year?
I invite you to journey with me into 2019 with a promise beyond getting in shape or completing a project to a real commitment to making the story we tell in this new year one that brings healing and hope to ourselves and to the hearts in our homes.
Here are three ways I believe every mother can have a more fulfilling, joyful year.
1. Consider what you feed your mind, and stop multitasking so much.
We take in so much these days, mama. Assess what and how much information you're ingesting and whose opinion you're considering. There is no shortage of negativity in our midst, but we do not have to keep letting it in.
We have the ability—and even the responsibility—to filter what goes into our minds and to make healthy, positive choices. If it drains you, shames you, or causes you drama, it's a good time to limit or cut it out.
It's not just about cutting out the bad, though. We need to cut it all back. According to Charmaine Perry on the American Counseling Association blog, "Continuous overload puts us at risk for mental and physical disorders and diseases as stress, anxiety, negative self-talk, and self-image escalates."
She goes on to say that "when we scroll pages of content daily, they bury themselves in our psyches and connect with the fears that we are all already struggling with and amplifies them."
Mulitasking and motherhood go hand in hand, but couldn't we do it quite a bit less?
Neuroscientist Earl Miller says that our brains are "not wired to multitask well." He says, "When people think they're multitasking, they're actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there's a cognitive cost in doing so."
Even though we think we are getting a lot done, multitasking is actually making us less efficient. In addition, "multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline which causes mental fog, but also creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation," says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. He calls it "the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy."
More research is needed on how information overload is affecting our brain—and to the point of this article, our mothering— but I believe it's safe to say that we could do with a bit of downtime. Perhaps quieting all of those voices will help us tune into our own a little better.
2. Focus on the light.
It is understandable to want to vent from time to time. We all need a listening ear. But what happens when we stay in that negative space, complaining about the trials of motherhood on a near daily basis?
When we focus on the hardships, they have a way of growing bigger. In the same way, when we focus on the negative traits in ourselves, our children and our partners, we tend to lose sight of their light. I previously discussed how we can see our children (and by extension, anyone in our lives) through a different lens and how we can change our language to amplify their light.
By focusing more of our attention on the joys and blessings of motherhood and the positive traits and actions of those around us, we can both increase our own feelings of happiness and contentment as well be an encourager to our loved ones.
We know that complaining is bad for your brain, according to science. Consistent negative thoughts physically change your brain to make it easier and more likely for you to have even more negative thoughts in the future.
Basically, you're training your brain to see the bad, and this could have a negative effect on your personality as well. In addition, this negativity weakens your immune system, raises your blood pressure, and increases your risk for certain diseases. It also, unfortunately, has a negative effect on those who hear your complaints, bringing down their moods as well.
In that negative mindset, you'll probably become overly critical of everyone, including your children. Research shows that parental criticism affects how children's brains respond to emotional information. Children with critical parents might avoid paying attention to faces expressing any type of emotion, and this could affect their relationships with others. Children exposed to high levels of criticism are also at risk for depression and anxiety.
Let's watch our tongues this year. I have two quotes pinned to my cork board as a reminder. "Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys." – Rita Schiano and "See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see." – Wayne Dyer
3. Embrace the season you're in.
Motherhood is a constant changing of seasons. Each season has joy to offer, and yet I've been guilty of getting caught up in longing for seasons passed or wishing for the next one to arrive. I've wanted to make them little again so I can rock them to sleep or make them older so they can be more independent. I believe one of the keys to joyful motherhood is learning to embrace the season you're currently in instead of looking to those ahead.
In my book, The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting, I wrote:
"Childhood is not a race. Neither is parenthood. Let's stop rushing through, looking only for the next season to come, and take time to savor the one we are in. The sand is slipping through the hourglass, and there is no slowing it down. Just a blink, and suddenly there is a bit less in the top of the glass than there was before. Time is slipping away. Although time cannot be slowed, it can be embraced. There is delight to be found in our ordinary days. While they may pass by seemingly uneventful and unimportant, there is no such thing as an unimportant day when you are shaping a child's life. Embrace the time you have. Enjoy the season you are in. Each season is sweet in its own way, and each one will be missed when it is gone. Don't miss the beauty of the bud while you're waiting for the blossom. Each stage of a child's life offers us a chance to know him a little better and to grow a little closer."
My hope for you and for me is that we can be more mindful during this particular season and that we might notice more joy, reflect more light and love a little deeper. Wishing you a beautiful year, mama.