I have found that happiness can be like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I do all kinds of things in life in pursuit of it. I went to college so I could get an amazing, respectable job. I stood in line for the newest iPhone. I bought a shiny, new red coupe. I got married. I traveled. I moved. I volunteered. I donated to charity. I got a puppy. I believe in a higher power.
I guess some may say I have accomplished a lot. Yet, I was still searching for that one thing that was going to make me the happiest version of myself. So, I had a child.
The funny thing about having a child is that life become less about personal happiness and more focused on the children. My worry about how I will be happy as a mom suddenly became about how to be a good mom.
There is a weighing responsibility on our hearts as mothers to ensure our kids have a fulfilling childhood which will shape them into kind, productive adults. Our attitude as moms can potentially to shape the way our children view on the world.
But sometimes I find when I am in the thick of it, negative thoughts creeping from the back of my mind.
“I still haven’t lost those last 10 pounds.”
“Man, I am tired. I can’t remember the last time I had a moment to myself.”
The other day I was in the car listening to the radio and every song that came on one of the local top hits stations I had never heard before. It was in that moment that I realized my youth was behind me and I was the only grown up in the room. It’s funny how things hit you at random times.
So in the midst of trying to get dinner on the table, trying to lose the impossible last 10 pounds of pregnancy, and trying to be the best mom, we have to figure out how to be happy.
We have to look beyond the horizon of the day and realize that our life matters. Our happiness matters.
But no one is going to give it to us on a silver platter. We have to get after it each day.
Here are # habits that happy people emulate each day.
1. They choose happiness on a daily basis
Happiness is a daily choice! One experience is not going to become the golden nugget at the end of the rainbow.
We have to make a personal daily decision to be happy. I have to decide to be happy regardless of the circumstances.
When an uncomfortable situation presents itself, we have to change our perspective on it. Everything that happens is apart of the great adventure that is called life.
Life isn’t happening tomorrow. Happiness won’t be here once we have done something in particular. It’s right now.
Some mornings I wake up at 5 am and have to drive 45 minutes to work to be on my feet for 13 hours straight. On those days I often have to be a part of families losing their beloved, as I am an RN in a cardiac ICU.
Other mornings I wake up knowing it is the last time I will see my husband for months, and I drive him to the airport to deploy. I know I will be taking care of my son by myself for the foreseeable future. Some days I get no other adult interaction, no personal time, not even a shower.
I say this not for the intent of making my life seem grim. I have a wonderful life. But circumstances are circumstances and they way I experience them directly correlates with my mindset. I tell myself while going through them, I am happy.
I am purposeful about this. I say it OUT LOUD.
As I am experiencing things that frustrate me, like listening to my child scream, or cleaning his hands and face for the 4th time today, I say to myself, one day I won’t have small hands to clean. One day he may not even want to hold my hand. Then I take a second and admire the beautiful little lines on his perfect little 5-fingered hands.
Thinking about the moment in terms of the big picture allows me to live presently. I can appreciate the good instead of focusing on the bad.
Yet even when I am super vigilant to be mindful, sometimes it still isn’t enough. When I start to feel not happy as a mom, and my mind tricks aren’t working, I go to the next best thing…
2. Eat food that nurtures your body
We all have those one-foot-in-front-of-the-other type days. When I am having one, I try to only focus on the actionable steps that will better my life.
When I wake up in the morning, I eat a healthy breakfast. Quality nutrition is a key element in keeping our hormones in balance. This really is a key part of being happy. If you are loading up on sugary, processed garbage, your entire body will be out of whack.
The mind and the body are connected. When one is off it can drag the other down.
I take my vitamins everyday. There are actually certain supplements that can help optimize brain chemistry and elevate mood. These include:
- St John’s Wort- an herb used for centuries to elevate mood.
- Omega 3 fatty acids- one of the most important nutrients for overall brain health and function. Our body does not produce this naturally so it must be consumed.
- Vitamin D- The sunshine vitamin, has been shown to help with seasonal affective disorder. I take this in the winter
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)- an amino acid that is a serotonin precursor.
- B vitamins- an essential nutrient for neurotransmitter production and central nervous system maintenance.
- SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)- for depression associated with low energy, helps to boost serotonin and dopamine levels.
3. Get out and get moving
Do some form of exercise at least 3 days a week. Even something as simple as going outside for a walk can get your happy endorphins up.
I like to put my little babe in a running stroller, strap his butt in tight, and listen to something upbeat or uplifting. Whether I walk or run it doesn’t matter, getting outside and moving lifts my spirits.
(As a side note, don’t forget an endless amount of snack for the little ones!)
Another great thing to do is plan outings such as getting together with friends or simply strolling with your little one around target.
It is tempting to want to hole up in your house, especially when you are a new mom. But too many days alone isn’t good for you are your baby.
4. Simplify your life
Stop and smell the roses. That is why someone out there busted their bum to plant, prune, feed, and water them.
The little things that life offers us can actually have a large impact on our serotonin levels. Serotonin is one of the brain’s happy hormones and the main chemical that antidepressant drugs manipulate. Get outside in the sunshine. Feel the breeze. Drink coffee on your porch.
As mamas, we have to make time for these simple things. We have to savor every sip. Time passes so quickly and soon we will be looking back and hopefully remembering only the good parts. While in them it is important to sneak a little bit of personal pleasure in!
Simplicity is not only great way to spend some days but it is also a good framework for your mind.
Only focus on the 24 hour period you are in. That’s it.
You just have to get through 24 hours. Do not look past it.
Tomorrow’s problems will come, yes, but there is nothing I can do today for the challenges of tomorrow.
Now I don’t mean not to plan. I love planning. In fact I love having a schedule. It helps me stay productive in the margins my son gives me.
Just don’t spend too much time dwelling on something you can’t do anything about.
5. Stop wasting your money on crap you don't need
I used to seek for happiness in the immediate gratification that shopping provides. Which of course would necessitate my being at work in order to pay for the things I bought.
Can you imagine a life where you didn’t have to worry about money. Where it is coming from, how much of it is left, how to get more of it?
There are honest to goodness people out there retiring at a young age. I am talking 30s and 40s these people are totally financially independent.
None of these people were trust fund kids, they just worked hard and saved their money.
The one thing all these people have in common is once they got to the point where they didn’t have to work, they realized there was more to happiness than having money and having things.
It seems to me that in order to truly enjoy life, more time to build relationships with loved ones is necessary. I would like to do this while my kids are still under my roof.
Stop wasting your money on stupid stuff that the world tells you you need. The Joneses are broke with massive amounts of debt. Don’t be like the Joneses, be a happy person who drives an old car.
6. Read more
Get out of the habit of filling the small amount of free time you have with hours of TV. There is always another show to binge watch.
Life is so short. There are so many people who have done extraordinary things with their lives and write to tell about it. Humans have told stories through written words for years.
A study done in 2015 by Cerebral Cortex showed that watching too much tv can actually alter the composition of the human brain. Increased TV exposure is shown to cause psychological difficulties in children.
The beauty about reading versus watching TV is reading is the quietness of it. You are only using one of your 5 senses. Sight.
Take time for yourself early in the morning, or late in the evening to read something fiction or my favorite, nonfiction. The quiet relaxes your body from the overstimulation of the day and the story can provide inspiration, or at the very least, escape.
7. Embrace change
I follow a pretty strict routine with my kid. He can pretty much anticipate what is next and this works well for both of us MOST of the time. Kids really thrive in routine. Their little bodies and minds can only take so much change in a 24 hour period and it allows them to learn and grow in a safe framework.
But every now and then (realistically once or twice a week for me) when routine becomes mundane, I have to challenge myself and my son by completely mixing it up.
The wonderful thing about not bombarding yourself and your kids with new experiences every single day is that when you do have them, their eye light up in a way that is indescribable.
The only way I can describe this is imagine you love cookie dough ice cream (who doesn’t really?). Imagine eating cookie dough ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or maybe not even that dramatic. Just imagine eating it Every. Single. Day. It isn’t that special anymore is it?
On the flip side keep in mind that change is good for happiness. It puts the spark back in our lives and makes our hearts race a little.
Don’t spend your life year after year doing the same thing. It can be scary to make a huge move to a new job, new neighborhood, or even leave the country. But if you will not let fear get in your way of trying something new, you may find that something that was missing all along.
Why you should work for happiness
Being happy is less about circumstances and more about learning to be intentional and content in life. Why is this important to me? Because I am a mom. I have a responsibility to teach my kid how to navigate this life and be happy doing it.
I have to teach my son that the world is not going to give us everything our heart desires. We have to create the life that makes us happy, and be unwilling to accept anything less.
You know the old saying, “happy wife happy life.” Well I propose, “happy mom happy family.” We mamas are the life source that makes the home thrive. I don’t mean this in a non-feminist way (girl power all the way!). But it is amazing how our emotions transcend to influence our household. We are the keepers of our family’s hearts. Our children look to us for strength.
I personally had to take a close look at what makes me truly happy. Once I figured it out, I simply designed a life around it. No more keeping up with the Joneses. No more allowing society to define what I should do with my time and money. Just the plain, wonderful family life I have created, being content with the simple things. Being intentionally thankful, yet taking action when I am having an off day.