This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.
Practicing mindfulness is absolutely essential for moms who want to live joyfully. Learn why, and see how you can easily get started today.
Has somebody told you to “cherish” this time lately? Maybe some old granny who saw you trying to strap your toddler in his car seat while he screamed his head off and attempted to kick you in the face?
“They don’t stay young forever,” the wise, hasn’t-had-a-baby-around-since-Eisenhower-was-president lady will say with a smile.
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
When I had a baby and a toddler in the house, I always felt the urge to punch that lady.
I wished those years away and laughed at the suggestion that there might be a whole lot that was magical or even enjoyable about that busy season.
And yet, as my boys grow older and pain-in-the-ass toddler antics are exchanged for pain-in-the-ass grade schooler ones, I’m beginning to realize that wishing the time away or speeding through it doesn’t make motherhood any easier or more pleasant.
Mindfulness, instead, is the key to making life as a mom manageable in our child’s early years (and later years, for that matter).
What’s mindfulness, anyway ?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like the opposite of mom brain, you’re not alone.
And this is why you are going to cultivate mindfulness.
Because doesn’t being “not overly reactive or overwhelmed” sound better than being a raging hot mess?
What are some specific benefits of mindfulness for moms?
You’ll be less distracted
How often do you walk into a room and not know why you’re there? Open up the fridge and forget why you opened it? Start to say something, and suddenly it’s completely left your head?
Sure, sleep deprivation can cause this, too, but often, it’s just that we’re so focused on the million things we’ve done or have to do today, that we barely pay attention to what’s happening right now.
Mindfulness keeps us focused on the present and prevents distraction.
You’ll be less reactive
Mindfulness makes it easy to take things down a notch when you start to feel out of control
Often, the noise and the mess that seems to naturally come with motherhood (and life in the 21st century) gets to be a lot for me. I don’t even really notice it, but my shoulders get tenser. My breath gets shallower. My jaw clenches tighter.
On a bad day, I might explode.
But when I’m being mindful, I notice those tense shoulders, and I relax them. I consciously take a few deep breaths. I relax my jaw. Maybe I even help the kids find a quieter game or start a ten-minute pickup of the toys.
No explosions necessary.
Want some help practicing mindfulness in just a few minutes a day? Check out the “Be Present” session of Camp Happy Mama for 3 weeks of daily meditations, journal prompts, and fun activities, all delivered to your email inbox or in your favorite podcast player!
You’ll be healthier
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day is an easy way to improve your overall health.
Studies show that mindfulness helps you sleep better, recover more easily from chronic illness, experience better cardiovascular health, even lose weight!
That last point inspired me to eat more mindfully lately. I’ve been considering carefully what I choose to eat (not just the crusts of an hours-old PBJ) and remembering to put down my fork in between bites and chew each morsel completely.
In the process, I am making healthier choices, eating less, and enjoying it more. I’ve even lost a few pounds in the process.
You’ll be happier
I’m all about joyful living for moms on this site, and nothing can make you joyful like mindfulness.
Let’s face it, when you’re not in the present moment, what are you probably doing?
- Worrying about the future
- Beating yourself up about the past
(I suppose it’s also possible that you’re daydreaming about a trip on a yacht or a hookup with Chris Hemsworth, but I’d bet it was one of the first two.)
I can shut up my inner Negative Nancy when she’s complaining about how I shouldn’t have snapped at the kids this morning, and calm my inner Anxious Annie when she’s worrying about whether the kids will be scarred for life because of it by walking over to those kids and snuggling them in a hug. Enjoying this moment. Right now.
It makes me happier. It makes them happier. The mood in the house becomes exponentially more positive. All because I got out of my head and lived in the moment.
How to Practice Mindfulness for Moms
So if you like the idea of this mindfulness stuff, how can you get started?
Of course, making time to meditate quietly for a few minutes every day is terrific, but you can also easily bring mindfulness to all the stuff you’re already doing throughout the day.
Set an intention for the day
Living mindfully starts right when you wake up. Set an intention for how you plan to interact with the world today. Make some choices about how you’ll spend your time. Remind yourself of some of the tricks you can use when life starts to feel ungrounded. (We’ll talk about those now.)
Tune into your breath
Paying attention to your breathing is one of the quickest ways to bring yourself back to the present. During the course of a day—especially one filled with toys everywhere, kid tantrums, and sibling arguments—our breathing can get shallow.
Forcing yourself to breathe deeply while feeling it enter your nose and feeling your chest and abdomen expand is incredibly grounding and calming. Listening to the sound your breathing makes brings another level of mindfulness.
Consider setting a breathing alarm on your phone to remind you periodically to stop and breathe.
Turn your day into a celebration
How can you ritualize all that little stuff you do all the time to make it special? Often, we focus on the future because we’re unhappy where we are currently. There’s usually a way, though, to enjoy where we are right now a little more.
Ask yourself often, “is there anything I could do to make this moment more pleasant?”
- Could you add something yummy that reminds you to really stop and taste your coffee as you drink it?
- Put on some soothing music as you sit and fold the laundry?
- Light a candle and focus on it for a minute as you sit down to breastfeed or work at your desk?
These small perks make everyday life at home a little more special. They also encourage us to notice what’s around us.
Tune into your senses and notice your surroundings
It’s easy to live in your head, but forcing yourself to really notice the warmth of the dish water, the softness of your sweatshirt, or the smell of your baby’s scalp can bring you right into the here and now.
If you feel your thoughts spinning out of control, take a second to check in with your five senses. Ask yourself:
- What do I see right now? Is there anything particularly beautiful here?
- What do I hear right now? Is there a more subtle sound hiding under the obvious ones?
- Can I smell anything?
- What does the inside of my mouth taste like?
- What am I touching right now? Can I notice the temperature of the air or the feel of my clothes against my skin?
This focused attention on the present will give your brain a chance to relax.
Do a body scan
I don’t know about you, but over the course of a day, I can get wound pretty tight. The boys will argue, I’ll step on a LEGO, and all of a sudden I’ll notice that my neck is rigid. My shoulders are tense. My forehead is kinda scwinched up.
And because my body is in fight mode, it feels harder to stay calm when someone spills juice, complains about doing his homeschool work, or refuses to make his bed.
Getting out of fight mode, though, is often as simple as doing a quick body scan—starting at the top of my head, noting which muscles are tense, and consciously releasing them.
Name your emotions
This is a great trick for taking away some of the power our emotions have over us.
Do you ever wallow in your emotions? I used to. Something would happen that made me sad, and I’d spend the whole day telling myself how terrible I felt or how much life sucked. It turns out that it’s much more helpful to just say, “oh, that’s sadness. I feel sad because “x” happened. That’s interesting.”
You don’t have to get totally swept up in everything that you feel.
You can choose to engage with an emotion and continue to feed it or just notice it and move on. It’s a really powerful realization to make.
When the day gets crazy, I can easily bring myself a bit of calm by noticing how I connect to the ground.
I stop for a second and feel the places where my feet contact the earth. If I’m sitting in a chair, I’ll notice where my butt hits the seat and consider whether I’d feel a little better if I shifted my weight, sat up straighter, or put my feet on the floor.
Mentally relaxing my weight into the floor or the chair always sends an immediate wave of calm over me. Like the body scan mentioned above, it helps me to realize that I don’t have to carry myself in such a tense, rigid way.
You, too, can be a mindful mama
No matter how overwhelmed you feel or how long your to-do list is, you can take the opportunity to slow down and simply observe your life and your children.
Honestly, the time it takes is minuscule, and the difference it makes in the way you feel is immense. Ask yourself how many seconds it would take you to light a candle, take a deep breath, or remind your tense shoulders to relax.
I don’t expect you to cherish the experience of wrestling your toddler into that car seat, but remembering to unclench your jaw, notice your anger, and take a deep breath might make the moment more bearable.
Don’t wish this time away, though.
Truly experience it in all its messiness and all its beauty. Look into your baby’s eyes. Notice the temperature of the bathwater as you test it with your elbow. Feel the weight of a sleepy child on your lap.
This is your life, after all. You don’t want to miss it as it goes by.
I guess I’m sounding a little bit like that granny.
Please don’t punch me.
Try It Now:
- Set an intention for today (or for tomorrow if it’s late). How do you want to feel? What would make the day great?
- Notice your breathing. Are you filling your lungs up in a way that stretches your back and makes your stomach pooch out? Try it at least 3 times, and set a timer on your phone to remind you to try it again in an hour.
- Decide what would make this moment feel a little more special. Music? A fire in the fireplace? Rubbing some lotion into your hands? Whatever it is, do it now or plan the next step to make it happen ASAP.
- Check in with your five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?
- Do a body scan. What feels good? Tense? Uncomfortable? Fix it if you can.
- Name your emotion at this very moment. Just name it–don’t engage. You can let it go now.
- Ground yourself. Notice where your body contacts the earth.
- Check out the “Be Present” Session of my Camp Happy Mama Series for 3 weeks of meditations, journal prompts, and fun activities that are delivered right to your email imbox or favorite podcast player and can be completed in just a few minutes a day.