Robert Brault said, "In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too." I feel that this is such a meaningful sentiment. Our children's happiness does rely, at least in part, on our own, and yet modern day mothering is making joy harder and harder to grasp.
As we become increasingly lonely, busy, and stretched too thin, our own happiness suffers, and with it, so does our children's happiness because the emotional connection between mother and child is a strong one. Our own stress, sadness and negativity trickles down to our children, and we usually see the effects of it in their behavior.
The good news is that there are simple, effective strategies we can do to increase our own happiness levels. Here are just three of them.
1. Create just 10 minutes of joy
I used to tackle big goals for increasing my own happiness. Determined to feel more joy, I'd promise to exercise, meditate, listen to music, sleep more and spend lots of quality one-on-one time with my kids. The problem was that life never really slowed down enough to make way for all of my new happiness habits. Yesterday's responsibilities were still present today, and I'd end up feeling frustrated because there simply wasn't enough time to check off all of the boxes that were supposed to make me feel happier!
Then, one day, I decided I'd just start small. No overwhelming to-do list and no guilt for not adding (and finishing) more on my already overflowing plate. I'd just keep it simple. I chose to start with 10 tiny minutes a day. I decided that for 10 straight minutes, I'd simply put everything aside and focus on being present with my family. That's it.
This small plan yielded big results. When I began to focus on intentionally noticing the good things in my life and on feeling joy from being with the ones I loved, even for just ten minutes, I started feeling joyful and more connected to my family. Those 10 mindful minutes a day made me a happier mom, and I think this strategy will help you, too.
2. Define what you want
We live in a society that fills our heads with voices and opinions day in and day out. Everyone has an opinion on how we should mother our children, and they will share it with us freely and frequently. Gone are the days when a few family members and close friends offered their advice. Today we are bombarded with a never-ending stream of information and opinions.
The problem is that it has become very difficult to separate fact from opinion and to separate your own voice from everyone else's. It's easy to second-guess every decision and feel like you're messing everything up when your head becomes cluttered with all that noise.
Mama, a simple strategy to clear out all that clutter is to get crystal clear about what it is that you want and need, about what you believe and why, and to learn the sound of your own voice again. After all, you cannot align with your truth until you know what your truth is, and living your truth will make you feel more content and happy in your life.
Begin by taking a few minutes a day to shut down the internet, put away your phone, and sit in silence. Just three to five minutes of stillness can bring clarity. Pay attention to which thoughts feel right to you. Which ones energize you and which leave you feeling depleted? Which bring on feelings of stress, and which bring on feelings of peace? When you determine what you want, need, and believe, hold to your truth, mama. Don't let the opinions of others rock you easily.
3. Fill your cup with mini indulgences
There's lots of talk about how mothers need self-care, but so much of the advice for doing it is impractical. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't "sleep when the baby slept." I couldn't "get up hours before my children" so I could have alone time because we co-slept, and getting up always woke them up. I learned an important lesson about self-care during my early years of motherhood—that I could decide what self-care meant for me.
I had to examine the ideas I had in my mind about what self-care was supposed to look like because, honestly, part of what left me feeling deprived was my unrealistic expectation that self-care had to be stolen hours from my previous life when I could take weekend trips with just my husband or read a novel while soaking in a tub of bubbles.
Date night didn't have to be a two-hour movie followed by dinner out. It could be sitting across from each other in the living room with a couple of Hot Pockets. What truly mattered was that we were connecting.
Catching up with friends didn't have to mean a book club meeting or going to the café. It might look like a 10-minute FaceTime chat to catch up with each other. I could be as rejuvenated by the nightly laughs with my kids as we went on pretend adventures into space as I could with a deep-conditioning treatment and polishing my nails. It was really a matter of perspective and of gratitude.
So I let go of unrealistic ideas about self-care and focused on mini indulgences—small, practical acts that nourished my mind, body and spirit. Decide what self-care really means for you. What small ways can you indulge yourself and fill your cup?
These three simple strategies for happier mothering have been adapted from my upcoming book, The Gift of a Happy Mother.