Today was a hard day. Not that it was any harder than any other day at home alone with my two kids. Today I was not in the mood for anything. “Ants” is teething, so putting him down for a nap or down at all, for that matter, was hard. Mila is brimming full of energy and questions and decided to attach herself to my leg and challenge me to unlock the mysteries of the universe with her, or at least that’s what it felt like. Usually, I can match her enthusiasm and answer all of her questions with a Mother Theresa-like calmness. Not today. Today, I just wanted to have a moment of stillness; I just wanted to be still for five minutes. I knew today was not going to start well; I woke up at 7:30 am, unusually later than my routine 5:30 am. Since we live in a cramped three-bedroom apartment, for me to go out with the kids requires a massive pack-up and move-out operation. Not to toot my own horn, but I am usually able to get the kids in uniform and out-the-door with a military precision that would impress a four-star general. Nope, I wasn’t down for that either. In moments like the one that I had today, it is easy to fall into a spiraling abyss of sorrow and longing for the life I had before becoming a parent. Some days, it’s hard for me to remember my happiness. Alas, a conversation with Matt and a couple of caffeine-spiked cups of tea, I was able to rally what limited motherly-energy I had and get out of the house. While driving, I made the conscious choice to smile and laugh and just be happy. I made the decision that although today started out rough, it would not end that way.
Happiness doesn’t have a pattern. You won’t find a right way. There’s no secret recipe. The truth is: that what works for you as a parent might not work for another parent. Making the conscious choice to be happy is a personal issue.
As parents, there are many obstacles, and they can challenge everything that we thought we knew about happiness. Sometimes it’s difficult to find joy when it seems like everything we understood has turned upside down, inside-out, and backward. All you want at that moment is to find a guiding light which you can follow, allowing you to see the road up ahead, to shepherd you through the difficult times. My light is my children’s effortless compassion, giggles, and smiles. My daughter could sense that I was having a tough time, so she whispered in my ear: “Mommy, I love you. You’re my best friend.” There are some intentional acts that you can use to help cope during the most challenging moments of parenthood.
You can program yourself to be happy just by choosing to smile. Also, when you smile at your partner or child, chances are the smile you get in return will also increase your happiness level. According to Shawn Archor, author of The Happiness Advantage, by training ourselves to smile, we can create a “happiness loop” that replays over and over in our brain. Archor says, “Happiness is a work ethic… It’s something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train.” Even if you have to force it, smile.
Speak daily affirmation into your life
When you use affirmation on a daily basis, you can relieve yourself of stress and build confidence. Affirmations are positive in nature, and these thoughts should be part of your daily routine to increase your happiness. Psychology Today breaks it down to a simple explanation: when we feel good about ourselves and have a positive attitude, our lives tend to run smoothly; this is also known to some as the “law of attraction.”
Wake up on your terms
This particular morning, I heard my alarm clock and rolled right back over and back to sleep. When I do wake up earlier, I’m usually able to get a good workout in and have alone-time to collect my thoughts before my family wakes. These are the best mornings. Waking up a bit earlier can create a meaningful, empowering morning routine. Waking up on my terms helps me get a great start to my day.
Look we all have our days. It’s totally normal! The key is trying to catch yourself before you fall down the rabbit hole. Happy people make it a habit of focusing on the positive areas of life instead of the negative. Tell yourself to be grateful, and practice every day. With me, it was looking at my kids. At that moment, I remembered that these were my babies. They USUALLY bring me so much joy, and I would do anything for them. Even drag my tired ass up off the couch and take them to the park all the while answering question #204435 of the day.