5 tips to help us flourish as Mums
Yesterday, I was invited to attend a ‘Positive Birth’ meeting in Bedford, a group to discuss all the ways you can make the birth of your child and those early months more positive. A lot of us tend to reflect on the birth of our children fondly anyway, but the experience can be pretty traumatic at the time, so helping yourself to prepare is always a benefit.
Along with the physical preparations, I think it’s useful to think beyond the birth and how you’ll cope with those tough emotional times. Here is a little handout I gave to the lovely ladies with a few tips you can practice now and exercise on a daily basis to increase those positive emotions.
5 tips to help us flourish.
Hi, I’m Jeni, I help people energise positive change in themselves to find ways of thriving, every day. I’m a Practitioner of Positive Psychology, which is the study of what makes life worth living and how to flourish. Whereas psychology, in general, has focussed on not being mentally ill, positive psychology looks at how to take the best of ourselves and make it better – so much more than just being ‘not ill’.
As we are all aware, motherhood has its ups and downs. Positive Psychology tools help us understand how to cope with the downs and thrive through the ups. So here are a few, really simple things to tap into that can help you on the road to flourishing as a Mum:
- Search for joy.
Joy is an emotion that can create an immediate lift in mood. In positive psychology, we search for positive emotion, and we all have those little things in our lives that can give us those positive emotions. For me, it can be as simple as getting some fresh air, going for a walk or a bike ride or reading a book. When this isn’t possible, putting some music on and having a sing and dance – with or without my toddler helps me feel better.
So, here is the tip. Simply ask yourself “What can I do right now to bring myself joy?” Be realistic and be honest with yourself and do it. I promise it will help.
Equally, you can ask yourself this of your child – when they are struggling to cope with their own emotions, you can do things you know will bring them joy. I started keeping a list of the little things that gave my daughter positive emotions; bubbles, playing ‘pull the angry face’, counting our freckles or brushing Mummy’s hair. It gave me lots of options to pull out of the bag when she needed a taste of joy.
Never underestimate the importance of joy, seriously think about all the things, big and small that bring you joy and add them to your daily/weekly playlist.
- Take yourself back to the learning zone.
As we become mothers, it’s easy to dismiss simple successes as being things we ‘should’ be doing. This is counter-productive as if we never recognise improvements in our performance as mothers, we struggle to feel pride in ourselves. This shouldn’t sound ridiculous – if you were given a new job at work, you’d also be given time to learn and improve; as mothers, we don’t have that luxury and tend to put ourselves under pressure to ‘perform’ constantly. Sit back and realise you are still learning, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll get things wrong. If we are constantly trying to perform then we don’t give ourselves the chance to learn from these mistakes and do things better – so put yourself back into the ‘learning zone’ – accept that you will make mistakes, recognise them and find the learnings from them – then next time you can perform better.
- Recognise courage.
Bravery is one character strength we put aside as mothers. We don’t realise how brave we are being just by getting up in the morning and dealing with everyday life that having a child can bring. It’s a strength that can really energise us when we recognise we’re already doing it.
As a start, ask yourself at the end of each day “How have I been brave today?” It could be as simple as taking your child somewhere new, or introducing yourself to that Mum who you’ve seen a few times or it could be in the face of adversity like how you managed to stay calm when junior threw a major tantrum in the supermarket. Mum’s are brave – it’s part of the job and you are already doing it. You just need to acknowledge it.
Having noted how you exercised bravery at the end of each day, you’ll start to recognise yourself in the act as you move through your day. Then, you can start to think “OK, how can I tackle this situation bravely?”. This feeling is super empowering.
- Share Vulnerability and acknowledge your own pain with others.
One of the hard things in motherhood is the sense of competition – it doesn’t seem to be socially acceptable to be struggling. This is super hard going when you’re the one struggling as it’s uncomfortable spending time with people who show a front of excelling at coping. In the world of social media, this is made worse by the ‘perfect parent’ posts.
Don’t be frightened to show your vulnerability. When someone asks you how you are, be honest. Explain how you feel and ask for help. 9 times out of 10, by you opening up, the other person will not only reciprocate but will likely admit to similar struggles. This is not only a good way to feel less isolated and alone, but it’s also a precursor to building stronger relationships with people.
One important part to this is discovering who has your back. Being social is extremely important for your wellbeing, but it’s important to surround yourself with people who nourish you. If you find yourself exhausted emotionally after spending time with certain people, you have to ask yourself if they are worth that pain to you.
- Choose kindness.
Kindness is scientifically proven to have so many benefits. From improving the efficiency of your heart to opening doors in relationships and creating a ripple effect. However, the best thing about kindness is it MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD! Does that sound selfish? It doesn’t matter because if you’re being kind, you’re not only benefitting yourself but you’re also making the receiver feel great too! Win-Win!
Ask yourself every day, how can I be kind today? To yourself, to your child or to a stranger. It’s a sure fire way to press the go button on positive emotions and when you tackle things with kindness and compassion rather than fear or apathy, it helps you feel good.