Be A Happier Mom
Being the mom of a young child, especially one under age 3, is rich and rewarding, but also a real strain on your mood. "Moment to moment, you may be exhausted, frustrated, sometimes angry," says Peter Ubel, M.D., a professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Michigan. "You may be squabbling with your spouse more. You have more negative emotions."
They suggest that mothers can learn to focus on the positive and learn to make it a daily habit. Here's how:
Admit when you're stressed:
Ironically, once you stop expecting motherhood to feel warm and fuzzy all the time, life as a mom gets easier. "It really helps to realize that it's okay to feel frustrated, angry, tired, or irritable sometimes," says Dr. Ubel. "You're not a bad parent. It's not even a bad parenting experience. It's just normal."
Get enough sleep:
"Making sixty thousand more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night," says study author Norbert Schwarz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology.
(Re)consider your priorities:
It may sound simplistic, but one key to being in a more positive mood is to structure your day so you do more things you enjoy. "It's how you spend your time, not your money, that counts," says Dr. Ubel. "If you have any financial flexibility that lets you maximize your family time, use it now.
Go with the flow:
Time seems to slow down when you're doing what you enjoy, whether it's gardening or running laps. People who experience this level of engagement, which psychologists call "flow," are happier than people who rarely do. And you're lucky to have a master of it right before you: your child. "To you and me, every leaf and ant is pretty much the same, but not to a two-year-old," says Reivich. "So try to actively notice things as your child does that ant is dragging a big piece of bread, for instance."
Savor the moment:
One way to nourish positive emotions is to take a moment to appreciate, well, the moment. Just map out two- or three-minute activities that you can do that day to relish that time. In the morning, for instance, instead of trying to do ten things, take your cup of coffee to the window and sip it while your child watches a video.
Reconnect with your spouse:
A supportive group of friends and family is one of the cornerstones of a happy life, and for many moms, the center of that social circle is their partner. That's why it's so important to keep the lines of communication open, especially during the "diaper years"—from infancy to around age 3—that experts say are the most stressful (until your kids become teens, that is!) on a marriage.
"You can't say, 'I'll handle the relationship later,'" says Reivich. "A healthy and realistic goal is to ask, 'What are some small, manageable things we can be doing to keep our connection to each other strong during this rough time?'"
"When I started to research happiness, I thought it was a feeling, and you had to wait to have it happen to you," says Ryan. "But feelings follow thoughts; they don't precede them. I think of happiness as three things: enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Mothering can give us any one of those at any given moment, if not necessarily all of them at the same time!"