Inside: Want a game-changer for how to be a happy mom? Here’s a toolbox of quick happiness boosts backed by science, plus a cheat sheet you can download and hang on your fridge.
The whole house shook under an epic tantrum while I vacuumed the house last Sunday night. But it wasn’t from my toddler. Not my one-year-old either.
The tantrum came from me.
I’m not even sure what set me off. It could have been that while I was vacuuming the living room rug, the kids were pulling all the toys back out of their bins – the toys I’d just put away – and spreading them all over the living room. It could have been that I glanced back to see where my infant was, only to find her chewing on the power cord. It could have been my chocolate intake that day was dangerously low.
Maybe all of the above.
“Bailey! I just put those away!”
“I’m so sick of having all this random crap everywhere!”
“This toy belongs in the playroom only. It’s not safe for your little sister. If I see it in the living room one more time, it’s going in the trash!”
Not my finest parenting moment.
Especially because earlier this year, I wrote a book about how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. So I should know better, right?
Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet of 7 quick fixes to help you be a happier mom.
But Here’s the Truth
If your goal is to be a happy mother 100 percent of the time, your goal is unrealistic. Nobody is happy 100 percent of the time.
Even after you try the happiness hacks in this post, you need to understand that there will come a time when you slip up. You’ll be running late when you realize someone moved your car keys and they’re nowhere to be found. Or maybe you’ll snap at your kids. Or you might throw a full-on temper tantrum while vacuuming.
You are not a failure.
No matter how many healthy habits and systems you put in place, you will encounter small frustrations and annoyances every day. But you don’t want to go on a rampage just because you stepped on a LEGO your kid forgot to pick up. Letting the little stuff go feels exponentially better than knowing you could blow a gasket any moment.
Not to mention that when you lose it, the collective mood of your whole family suffers. Research shows the bad mood of one person can bring down the mood of everyone else in the family.
Two Important Things Happy Moms Don’t Do
Before we get to the list of positive steps you can take toward your quest of how to be a happy mom, we need to get on the same page with two important issues:
- Don’t try to simply deny that you feel frustrated or annoyed. Bottling up negative feelings just makes those feelings worse.
- On the other hand, venting isn’t always helpful either. Complaining keeps you focused on the problem instead of a solution, plus it’s bad for your brain and your health.
Don’t bottle it up, but don’t vent it either. Um…so what can you do?
How to Be a Happy Mom: 7 Fast Fixes to Try
Above all, remember that even the happiest moms have unhappy moments. When you’re feeling a little off or even if you’re teetering on the brink of losing your temper, try these science-backed tricks to get back on track. I even made a handy printable, which you can download below to hang on your fridge and help you remember how to be a happier mom.
Some days you might need one of these quick solutions, and other days you might need a handful to find your happy again.
On the day I lost it while vacuuming? The magic formula for me was number 1, number 2, and number 7. Not only did I resist the urge to throw my kids’ toys in the trash, but afterward we laughed if off and invented a new supervillain: The Terrible Tantruming Vacuumer. The kids thought it was fun to poke fun at Mom by pretending to tantrum while vacuuming, but I got the last laugh – sitting on the couch while they giggled and vacuumed.
1. Label Your Feeling
Use a word or two to describe how you’re feeling, starting with “I’m feeling…” For example: “I’m feeling frustrated,” or “I’m feeling annoyed.”
Here’s why this works: When you’re stressed, your brain – or more specifically, the amygdala of your brain – becomes hyper-vigilant. Your brain interprets even the smallest of everyday annoyances as a threat against your survival. That’s the amygdala (uh-mig-duh-luh) at work. But labeling your emotions in just a few words tells the amygdala to settle down.
One important caveat: The phrasing “I’m feeling angry” is important compared to just “I’m angry.” The extra word “feeling” helps you separate the emotion you’re experiencing from your sense of self. It’s a lot easier to overcome anger when you label it as something you’re feeling instead of something you are. You are not the hot-headed Anger dude from the movie Inside Out. You’re just feeling angry feelings.
2. Do Three Rounds of 3-1-6
To catch your body from unleashing a full-fledged fight-or-flight response, do this:
- Breathe in for three seconds. Count out “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand” in your head to make sure you don’t rush it.
- Hold the breath for one second.
- Exhale for six seconds.
- Repeat steps 1-3 three times.
As you exhale, you may notice that you feel calmer. This is because this breathing technique stops your body’s stress response and lowers your heart rate.
3. Say, “It’s Not About Me”
Let’s say you discovered your kid took money from your wallet and lied to you about it. Reframe the situation by saying, “It’s not about me. She must be having a bad day.”
To be clear, the point of this trick is not to excuse inappropriate behavior from your kid. The goal is to keep your temper in check so you can deal with the situation in a productive way.
Because when you react like a sleep-deprived drill sergeant, you risk introducing fear and stress into the situation. When fear and stress are involved, your child’s brain is flat-out incapable of learning anything from the situation. And my guess is that you’d rather your kid learn an important lesson than cower in fear.
4. Hug It Out
Remember this from number 1? When you experience a negative emotion, the amygdala of your brain comes to life like an over-reactive car alarm. Then your brain shuts down to logic and interprets every little thing as a threat.
To find happiness as a parent, you need your amygdala to chill out. One reliable way to do that is to hug a loved one. Because when you hug the right way, you get the happy chemicals oxytocin and serotonin flowing. Those are the chemicals that boost your mood and promote bonding. In particular, oxytocin reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.
But here’s the important part: You need to hold a hug for at least six seconds in order to get this benefit.
5. Shake It Up
You’ve probably already heard that exercise boosts your endorphins, which is a chemical that helps you fight stress. Exercise also prompts your body to release a special protein called BDNF, which stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This protein is like a reset switch for your brain, so you typically feel at ease and happier after exercising. And after an angry outburst, physical activity helps flush the adrenaline from your system.
You’re a busy parent, so I’m not suggesting you go for an hour-long run every time your mood dips. But I have found one way to increase my daily physical activity that’s actually fun for me and my kids.
Research shows that music cuts your stress, for example by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What’s more, babies and toddlers get a big dose of happy when moving their bodies to a rhythmic beat. Next time you and/or your kids feel a case of the crankies coming on, fire up your favorite playlist and dance away the bad mojo.
6. Hack Your Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re missing out on a big win when it comes to how to be a happy mom.
Unless you happen to be part of the tiny, tiny percent of people who can thrive on less than seven hours of sleep a night, research has shown time and time again that lack of sleep will stand in the way of your daily happiness.
If you aren’t already napping as a way to catch up on sleep, you should be. But, but, but…, I can hear you thinking.
I’m too busy. I can’t fall asleep during the day. I have a day job. Whatever your excuse, forget about it for now. Just try a nap. If it doesn’t work out for you after you give it an honest chance, then so be it.
The optimal length of time for a nap depends on what effect you’re going for:
- For a quick boost in energy and focus, 25 minutes or less is best.
- If you nap somewhere between 30 minutes and 85 minutes, you’ll likely wake up pretty groggy.
- For a deeper sleep, set your alarm for 90 minutes because that’s a full sleep cycle.
7. Challenge Yourself to 5 Good Acts
Science shows that in happy relationships, you need a ratio of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. If you’re feeling like your quest to be a happy mom is in danger, make sure to get five positive interactions on the books as fast as possible.
What counts as a positive interaction? This could be as simple as giving your child or your partner a hug, saying “I love you,” or telling a joke. Print my go-to list of 10 miracle phrases that help you reconnect with your child so you’re ready the next time.
Download Your Free Cheat Sheet
When you’re in the thick of a mom funk, it’s hard for your brain to settle on the right steps to take in order to get back to being a happy mom. Use this cheat sheet to help you in those tough moments.
- Download the free cheat sheet. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to download and subscribe.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like the fridge.
Here’s a sneak peek of your printable cheat sheet:
How to Find Happiness in the Chaos of Parenting
After my family welcomed our third little one into the mix, we became a family of five with a second-grader, a toddler, and a newborn. Even though I could have used more sleep and way more coffee, we were happy. Then my husband’s paternity leave ended, and I was at home with the kids all day. As time wore on, my patience became razor thin. And one day, I just broke.
The shame burns my cheeks just thinking of that day, even now. But thanks to that experience, I realized I had to make a change. I threw myself into researching how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. Something beyond “make time for you” and “exercise more.” Because when you’re overwhelmed and at your breaking point, you don’t need the “experts” telling you more stuff to do on top of everything else.
That’s how I discovered the secrets: 10 secrets every parent should know about being happy. After hearing from hundreds of parents in the same boat as me, I knew I needed to share what I discovered. And so I wrote a book: Happy You, Happy Family.
Click here to download a free excerpt and start your journey towards finding more happiness as a parent.
Because the truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, or from winning the lottery, or from your kids all learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.
True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to put the right habits in place.
Download my FREE cheat sheet: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child
What’s your best trick for how to be a happy mom? Share in a comment below!