HOW TO FIND JOY AS AN OVERWHELMED MAMA
Did you know that in a recent study, only 14% of people said they considered themselves “very happy”?
Would you include yourself in that 14%? Or are you trudging through life–going through the motions with a chip on your shoulder while you wait for your situation to improve?
Good news: joyful living isn’t an accident, and it isn’t a destination somewhere in your distant future.
It’s a choice that you make every day to see what’s great instead of what’s missing.
And the best part is that through a series of intentional practices, we can make sure that joy finds us. So what are those intentional practices?
One of the most important components to feeling joyful is discovering yourself and those things that are important to you. So many of us become mothers and forget who we are.
Taking time every day to journal helps us in this discovery. Asking ourselves regularly, “what do I need right now?” assures that we’re listening to our bodies, our minds, and our hearts and not neglecting ourselves in this busy season.
Make Time for What You Need
Once we’ve asked ourselves what we need, we need to be sure to grant ourselves time and space for it–whether it’s time alone, a sandwich, or a good cry.
We may not feel like we have space in the day for ourselves, but we should ideally schedule this first. Knowing that we have childcare tasks, household chores, and sometimes even work outside the home to do, we need to remember to make ourselves the priority in our own lives.
When you don’t schedule this essential time for yourself, everything else suffers. You don’t have as much energy our clarity of thought as you go through your daily tasks. You don’t have as much patience when you interact with your children.
Remember that your health and positive outlook is the foundation that the rest of your day rests on, and plan your activities accordingly. You’ll want to make sure most days include time for the following pursuits.
Self-care is essential for ensuring that your “cup” stays full and you’re able to take care of your family without losing yourself. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.
There are actually seven types of self-care–it’s not all bubble baths and pedicures. So make sure you are indulging in all of them from time to time.
Life as a mom shouldn’t be all about drudgery and work. Having hobbies that we enjoy gives us a break from the labor-intensive world of raising children and helps us keep a little something “just for us” when life gets crazy.
Connections with People We Love
It’s easy to get so focused on the kids that we let our other relationships suffer. It’s essential, though to prioritize our relationships with our partners as well–keeping open communication and making time for each other.
We need to cultivate friendships, too, especially with other moms, so that we don’t feel alone on this motherhood journey.
Engage in Joyful Living Habits
Scientists have studied joyful living for quite a awhile, and it turns out, the things that make us happier aren’t all that mysterious. They just aren’t necessarily the first things we think of.
We assume things like having lots of money, a slimmer figure, or perfectly behaved children will make us happier. But, we probably know a few people with more money than us, a lower BMI than us, and seemingly obedient children that are still miserable.
Maybe we’ve even achieved these things ourselves and found that something was still missing.
This is because our minds are bad at guessing what will make us happier. But scientific studies have proven again and again that there are a few practices that are a slam dunk for making us feel better about our lives.
There’s a reason that most elite performers meditate every morning. If you’re a “mama who goes beyond”, you should consider joining them.
Meditation helps you feel less stressed and anxious, lengthens your attention span, and can help improve your sleep and lower your blood pressure. (And that’s just a short list of the benefits.)
And it’s really not that hard to get started. There are loads of apps with guided meditations available. Download one, decide on a time you’ll meditate tomorrow and make a Plan B in case life doesn’t go as you planned and your original meditation time doesn’t happen.
Sure, you might suck at it at first. Your mind might wander. You might be checking the clock after just a few seconds. That’s why it’s called a meditation practice. Every day, meditation will feel more and more natural, bit by bit.
Meditation helps you focus your brain in a removed, immersive setting. We usually try to be alone and with as few distractions as possible while we meditate. But could we have that same focus and concentration in the middle of a normal day?
Mindfulness is the practice of keeping your brain focused on the here and now as you go about your day. We mamas spend so much of our time beating ourselves up about the stuff that happened yesterday or worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Mindfulness, which I also sometimes call savoring, is an opportunity to focus on the here and now and enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer.
Positive Self Talk
We all talk to ourselves throughout the day, and for most of us, that self-talk is pretty shitty.
- We beat ourselves up over mistakes we made.
- We tell ourselves that we’re doing a terrible job–whether it’s in motherhood, in keeping our houses clean, or in taking care of ourselves.
- We convince ourselves that we shouldn’t try challenging things because we couldn’t possibly succeed.
The list goes on and on.
We can begin to take control of these negative automatic thoughts, though. We have the ability in the moment to say, “Stop” and change the negative statement to a positive one.
We can even begin purposefully filling our heads with positive thoughts about ourselves by repeating positive affirmations regularly. Although these can feel silly in the moment, our subconscious brains don’t recognize the silliness, and over time, they begin to believe these new positive thoughts. They’ll then use these positive beliefs to replace the old, negative ones.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
The quickest way to feel great about your life is to spend a few focused minutes every day reminding yourself how great it is.
You can do this mentally. I particularly like converting a negative statement I’ve just made into a reason for gratitude.
For instance, “I can’t believe how messy the living room looks right now,” becomes, “I’m grateful for creative, healthy children who make my life so full and rich.” (Sure, I might still call those creative, healthy children over, and ask them to take 10 minutes to pick up their toys, but my attitude about the mess changes almost instantly, simply by shifting to an attitude of gratitude.)
Practicing gratitude in the moment is transformative, but there’s also something wonderful about writing down all of the wonderful things you have in your life. Taking a few minutes in the morning or the evening to make a short list of the things you cherish in a gratitude journal can do wonderful things to improve your outlook on life.
If you find yourself having trouble getting started or repeating the same list every day, consider adding some gratitude journal prompts to your routine.
Some form of exercise should be a component of every day. But for many of us, it’s the first thing we drop when life gets busy, isn’t it?
Remember that exercise boosts your immune system, keeps your bones strong and relieves your stress. It’s one of those keystone kinds of habits that makes the rest of your day feel easier and better.
Consider scheduling it first before you start to give your time away to other pursuits. There are loads of ways to fit it into your day, even when you’re a busy mom. And between walking, dancing, yoga, swimming, and all the other zillions of ways there are to keep your body moving, there’s sure to be something you enjoy doing.
The Practice of Joyful Living
So, when you break it down, joyful living isn’t all that complicated:
- take the time to learn about yourself and consider what you need
- make time for those things that you enjoy by scheduling them first
- engage in a few specific happiness-boosting practices that you might have forgotten to include on the “What Do I Need Right Now” list
And as you do this stuff, you’ll gradually start to feel better. You’ll spend more time doing things you enjoy, and you’ll enjoy all the things you do a little more. Little by little, you’ll become a person who considers herself to be truly HAPPY.
What a wonderful gift to yourself, and what a beautiful example to set for your children.
Want to read more about joyful living?
Some of my favorite blog posts about joyful living include:
- How to Cope When Your Kids Are Driving You Crazy
- What I Wish I Could Have Told Myself On the Worst Day of My Life
- How to Create the Self-Care Toolkit You Need for a Rainy Day
- How to Make Life Fun Again When Motherhood Is Boring
- SAHMs: Use These 9 Simple Tricks When You Need a Moment Alone
Or, you could click the button below to view all of the posts in the “Live Happily” category.