Why mamas need mindfulness (and 3 ways to get started now)

Your baby barfs. The dishes refuse to wash themselves. Work emails pile up. And before you know it, you're lost in a cloud of disorienting stress, unable to feel at peace or to be the type of partner, mother and woman you want to be. Sound familiar?

The gift of mindfulness --being aware of what we are doing, as we are doing it ---is profoundly restorative and resourcing. In fact, this act of refusing to be distracted by negative thoughts or endless multi-tasking is one of the most important gifts a woman can give herself--and her family. You might have heard about the powerful impact of small moments of mindfulness, but do you know why it's so important to incorporate a mindfulness practice into your mothering? Here's a few reasons why you'll not want waste another moment, and a few ways you can start incorporating practices right now.

Reasons to be more mindful:

1: Because You Love Your Children

A landmark study in 2010 by Dr Robert Epstein and Shannon Fox found that the most important things we can do for childrenis express love and affection by supporting and accepting them, being physically affectionate and spending quality one-on-one time with them. I often think of this as I reach to check my texts and tweets…..and pause.

Quality time is attention. Mindfulness helps us train our attention skills so we can give this more easily, no matter how busy we are. As Rick Hanson said in an interview, children benefit from highly attuned, responsive, sensitive, engaged, emotionally-positive parenting.

Over the marathon of motherhood, how do you sustain that kind of presence? You need to keep resourcing yourself, and mindfulness is a core process for doing just that.

2: Because Motherhood is Tough

Yes, let’s be honest. Even though you try keep up with that busy life and still be the best mother you can be, maybe also the most productive worker, the best partner and friend you can be, this constant striving is exhausting. The parenting part on its own is exhausting, let alone the pressure you place on yourself to do more.

And emotions are incredibly contagious. You can probably remember a time when you were stressed and grumpy .... and all of a sudden, so were your children; I know I can. But now I find there is more often a background or foundation of calm that stays with me even at the most challenging times --or that I return to far more quickly.

Interestingly, the second thing on Epstein and Fox's list of the most important things we can do for children is: "take steps to reduce stress for yourself and your child” which is also helped through practicing mindfulness. Children of happy parents thrive.

Practicing mindfulness meditation creates a steady, calm space so that what used to overwhelm me is far more manageable. I understand from my own observation that what I am feeling in the moment is like a passing cloud. I don't have to deny what I am feeling or push it away. Or feel guilty. I am more accepting that it is normal to experience the full range of emotions in mothering -- that if I do get upset or even say something I wish I hadn't, I am not a "bad mother." It's like I have rediscovered my own caring, strong, best self again. Not every moment of every day, but often enough that I know I can find my way back again and again.

This is clearly of great benefit to me, but also to my children because I find myself reacting less and making better choices about how I respond to what's happening.

3: Because Mindfulness is a Happiness Habit you can Grow.

The key insight is that taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. For your own sake and that of your children. And it IS possible to feel better. More resourced. More connected. More joyful in your role as mother. Just as there is a negative cycle of overwhelm, exhaustion and depression which is almost inevitable if you DON'T prioritize your own well-being, so too there is a positive cycle if you do.

I interviewed the leading researcher in this area, Barbara Fredrickson, (who has twice been invited to present her work to the Dalai Lama) and she explained that positive emotions continue to grow upwards --if we know how to get it happening--so we can rewire our brain for better well being. It’s a bit like building our strength in the gym --we lift a small weight, often, and gradually our strength grows and we can lift weights more easily --we get stronger --that’s what we can do with our brains. So let’s choose to give our brains experiences that increase our happiness, like mindfulness.

Okay, so you want to be more mindful. How can you start today--right now--in the midst of the madness?

Here are three small weights you can lift to work your "mindfulness muscles" every day:

1: Pause.

The wonderful Tara Brach says that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in the midst of busyness is to pause. She says it gives us a chance to come home to our hearts again. In the context of parenting and self care it has so many benefits. First: It’s achievable. We can all take a moment to pause. To interrupt the chaos and just stop. Be Still. Breathe. Regroup. That in itself is restorative. It also opens up the possibility of choice --In parenting it might mean choosing how to respond rather than reflexively react. In terms of self-care it is an opportunity to tune in to how we are and gently ask ourselves: What do I need? Try that right now. Stop whatever you are doing and tune in to how you are holding your body. Can you let some tension go? How about your feelings? What do you need? And your breath: Can you pause and just breathe in and out slowly for four breaths? Arrive in this moment again now and choose to be 100% here. We can do this anytime we remember to during the day.

2: 'Kindfulness'

Sometimes forgotten is how integral our attitude of kindness is to mindfulness. This is what drew Sarah Napthali to the idea of “Kindfulness.” She connects to the love she feels for her children and then deliberately turns it towards herself, filling herself up with that healing and restorative warmth and affection. It isn’t something that comes easily or natural to many of us but it is transformative if we choose to give it a try - and it only takes a few moments. Give it a go.

3: Savoring

Take two minutes whenever something good is happening to be 100% present and soak it up like the warmth of the sun - you are feeding your brain with the restorative “happy-juice” it needs to be there for you and resource you for the marathon of motherhood - so don’t let an opportunity go by unnoticed. Every time you choose to turn towards the sun you are building your resources. Our brains have a negativity bias so to be in the drivers seat of our own happiness we need to deliberately redress that imbalance.

Do each one of these every day and you will notice the difference both "in the moment" and over the coming days and weeks. Happiness is dose specific - what does that mean? The more of this you do the better. And all the better for your family's health today. Happy-mind-ing!

Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.

This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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