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 became less about personal happiness and more about my son’s. My worry about how to be a happy mom suddenly became about how to be a good mom. I feel a weighing responsibility to ensure that he is a happy boy who grows up to become a happy man. Every reaction I have can directly affect his view on the world, and perhaps how he defines a good life.
Happiness is a choice
Happiness is a daily choice! One experience is not going to become the golden nugget at the end of the rainbow. I 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, I have to allow my mind to look upon it as a great adventure to overcome. Only then can I look back with pride and say, I got through that. I am a badass.
Be active in your choice to be happy
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.
Some 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.
Some mornings I wake up and take care of my son by myself. 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…
Let’s just call it taking action to fulfill this destiny of becoming a happy mama bear!
Take action on your choice to be a happy mom
So I am going through something hard, but I want to be happy regardless. 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.
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.
- 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.
I do some form of exercise at least 3 days a week. Even something as simple as going outside for a walk can get my endorphins up! I put that little babe in a running stroller, strap his butt in tight, and secure my headphones to 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!)
I plan outings that make me happy such as getting together with friends or just strolling around target. Being with great friends allows me to joke about the tough times. It puts things into perspective that I am not alone in this venture.
I only focus on the 24 hour period I am in. That’s it. I just have to get through 24 hours. I do not look past that. You can do anything for just 1 day. I realize that tomorrow will come, but there is nothing I can do today for the challenges of tomorrow. I trick myself out of thinking about tomorrow so that I can put my all into the challenges of today!
Simplify your life
Stop and smell the roses. That is why someone out there busted their bum to plant, prun, 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!
Create more down time
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. I have realized that these things did not actually provide me with sustained happiness. I was only feeling great when I clicked the purchase button and when I opened the box.
In order to simplify life, I needed more TIME. But who has more time in a world of recurrent monthly bills? Well, after taking a hard look, I actually found it is possible to afford to work a lot less. It took some months to figure out my budget, but I can’t describe the peace that having more time has given me. Read about how I can afford to be a stay at home mom here.
I started getting out of the habit of filling my free time with hours of TV. I found there is always another show that I could 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.
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.
I am not suggesting to lose sleep over this. Dear Lord if I could only have more sleep I probably would not be pondering upon all this happiness stuff. However, when I do find that I have extra free time, reading adds depth to my soul verses some mindless TV.
If I am going to be mindless, I might as well stare out into the abyss with a 5 dollar bottle of wine! That’s really all you need to say about how to be happy!
Get out of your normal routine
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?
So having the routine isn’t actually the killer that takes the spark out of life. It is really what puts the spark back in. The routine allows you to be productive, yet when you do go out for that special event, playdate, or dinner (whatever it may be), it really is that much more special.
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.