Being a mum comes with many sacrifices, but putting your kids’ needs before your own isn’t always for the best. Focusing on our own wellbeing as mothers can be the best thing we can do for ourselves and our families, writes Debra Close from Flourishing Mothers.
Do you always put the needs of your kids before your own? Like most mums, probably! Our children’s needs are so plentiful and unrelenting, there is hardly the time to focus on ourselves. Though we can at times feel annoyed, frustrated or even resentful, we believe that by putting them first we are doing the best for our children and therefore being the best mums we can be.
Here’s the thing. For all of us to function at our best, our “psychological wellbeing” is vital. The field of Positive Psychology science studies the factors that make up our wellbeing and help us to thrive and flourish. People with high levels of wellbeing experience higher satisfaction with life, fewer negative emotions, better physical health and are more able to cope with challenges. Conversely, low wellbeing is associated with more frequent negative emotions, lower satisfaction with life, higher stress levels, poorer coping mechanisms and even weaker immune systems. These factors can make us less resilient as mums when we have tough days, and put us at greater risk of anxiety and depression.
So in fact, we are most useful to our children and families when our own psychological wellbeing is robust. And just like our physical health, good mental health involves being proactive. So we can drop the guilt and give ourselves permission to focus on ourselves a bit – in the name of good science! The best time to work on our own wellbeing is when our day is on an even keel. The day is proceeding as planned.
Here are 4 simple strategies from Positive Psychology science which are effective in boosting wellbeing.
1. Enjoy something
What makes you feel good? Sitting in the sunshine? Going for a walk? Creating a photo album? Playing the piano? Blogging? Baking? Studies show when people do activities that bring them enjoyment, wellbeing increases immediately. And the positive effects can last for months afterwards.
2. Connect with someone
Motherhood can be isolating and lonely. It can feel good to connect with others to share our stories, our highs and lows. Major health and wellbeing studies have repeatedly shown that people with close relationships are happier and healthier both physically and mentally. Is it your partner, friend or mum you can connect with today? Truly connecting involves sharing ourselves, but also about asking questions about their own lives and whole-heartedly listening to their answers.
3. Savour single moments
“I don’t have time to slow down and smell the roses, I’m a mum!” Absolutely, we hear you! But we can actively try during brief moments in the day when to just focus on ONE thing and NOTHING ELSE. Worship your morning coffee? Then don’t text or email at the same time – you won’t remember the taste or the satisfaction it brings! Actually, what we’re doing when we give our full attention to the present moment is practicing “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is well documented in science to boost wellbeing and reduce stress. We don’t have to meditate for 20 minutes or go to a yoga class to be mindful (although they are fantastic!) We can be mindful during everyday activities such as having a shower or even standing in line at the supermarket check-out.
4. “High-five” yourself
We’re all our own best critics, but do we notice things we’ve done well? Did you get the kids to school on time? Did you hang the washing out? Did you do something for your elderly neighbour? A great tool in Positive Psychology, demonstrated in studies to enhance wellbeing, is to write down “3 good things” that happened in your day. Then give yourself a high-five to acknowledge them.
Our wellbeing is a bit like a leaky bucket. If we don’t fill it up regularly with mood-boosting activities, our wellbeing can drop. We’ll most likely be less resilient to day-to-day stresses, feel depleted and glum. So it’s time to drop the guilt of looking after yourself. You’ll function so much better and it will benefit everyone around you, including your children. Science backs you up!