The unofficial definition of a mother is someone who gives more than they take. Whether you are a stay-at home mom or a working mother, the job is a big one. A mother is continually nurturing, caring, guiding, and preparing. You never stop thinking about what needs to be done for your family. My kids are now 17, 20 and 22, and I remember being told that as your kids get older, the worry doesn’t go away it just changes. Boy, is that the truth! So, mothers if you are endlessly caring for others, it’s time for you to replenish your mind, body and spirit. Here are 12 ways to give back to yourself and care for your personal wellness and happiness.
1. What’s your favorite thing to do?
Quick, think about your favorite thing to do. Now, the big question: How long has it been since you did your favorite thing? It could be anything. Maybe going to your favorite restaurant, gardening, ballroom dancing, getting a massage, having alone time, calling a friend, taking a trip or shopping…whatever! How soon can you get your favorite thing inked on your calendar? Or better yet, can you do it today?
While I often write about the benefits of keeping a food journal to make healthy choices about food, this time I am encouraging you to keep a journal for your thoughts. The blank pages in a journal await your frustrations, challenges and triumphs. Writing can be a cathartic way to slow down and connect to your thoughts and feelings while life continues its frenetic pace. Even if you are now saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t know where to begin,” you might be surprised at what spills out if you sit down with a notebook and a pen. View it as a stream of consciousness. Just begin. Problems even have a way of reaching solutions as you write, and pent up feelings dissipate when you give them a venue of expression. Try it!
3. Plan something to look forward to
In happiness studies, anticipation is a biggie. When you have something you are looking forward to, it makes you happier. Plan something today that you can look forward to. And as that day gets closer, plan something else. Try to always have something on your calendar that excites you or makes you want to count the days. Being excited about something will snap you out of the monotony of a daily grind.
4. Identify what relaxes you
I read once that meditation can be anything that relaxes you—it doesn’t have to be closing your eyes and focusing on breathing. For one person, meditation could mean a walk with your dog. For another, it could be a glass of wine and a sunset. Others might relax with a yoga class or a solo jog. Maybe it’s a great conversation with your spouse. Identify what relaxes you and try to work it into your weekly schedule a few times each week.
5. Be present
While it is good to have things to look forward to, you shouldn’t live with your head in the future or in the past. What is good about today? What would make today great? As you go through the day, look for things to appreciate moment to moment.
6. Take time to play
What is play for you? What makes you laugh? It may still be something you loved to do as a child. Find a way to be silly and be light.
7. Change your scenery
You don’t have to go to Italy (unless you want to!) but mix up your routine by changing your scenery. New sights and sounds and unfamiliar scenery make us think about things in new ways and experience new levels of awareness. Take a different route home from work, or plan a weekend getaway. New sights and experiences are powerful sources of energy and happiness.
8. Spend out
The good China, the expensive jewelry, the dress you are saving for a special occasion—use them now. As the saying goes, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Live now by spending out. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project explains this concept in her book: “I mean to stop hoarding, to trust in abundance. I find myself saving things, even when it makes no sense. Not long ago, my last pair of jeans started falling to pieces. I made myself go shopping, bought two pairs–and yet, I’ve still only worn one of the pairs. Why am I saving the others? Not wearing clothes is just as wasteful as throwing good clothes away.”
9. Act as you want to feel
This advice falls under the fake it until you make it category. If you are having a tough day, act the way you want to feel, and you will authentically get to that state faster. If you act happy when you aren’t necessarily feeling it, your thoughts will shift toward happier thoughts. This is a great tool because thoughts ultimately determine how you feel. You become what you think about most.
10. Do something just for you
Motherhood shouldn’t mean martyrdom. You know it’s good to teach your kids that you value yourself, your time and your interests. Don’t be so selfless that you accidentally teach your kids that you don’t value yourself because you never do anything for you.
11. Write a reverse bucket list
Writing a bucket list—all those things you want to do in your life—is a great tool to live a fulfilling life, but a reverse bucket list can be eye-opening and rewarding too. What are the coolest things you have accomplished in your life? What are you most proud of? What adventures have you had? Make a list of all of these things. Your list will help you see how many wonderful things you have already accomplished and it shows you what you value. Your list will boost your happiness. You also may read it and discover some things you’d like to add to it soon!
12. Live in gratitude
There’s no quicker way to lift your spirit and be happy than to live in gratitude. What do you have to be thankful for? Don’t leave the tiny things out. Maybe it’s the smell of coffee in the morning, the funny things your kids say or your favorite outfit. When life moves fast, living with appreciation allows you to really connect to the positivity in your life and bask in it. If you aren’t accustomed to going around and appreciating the abundance in your life, try keeping some gratitude lists in your journal. Before you know it, feeling gratitude will be second nature to you.