About a month ago, Chicago was stuck in a cycle of continual rain, my toddler was stuck in a cycle of persnickety behavior, and I was stuck in state of gloom after receiving some awful news from my parents. For days I couldn’t write, I couldn’t focus, and I definitely wasn’t showing up 100 percent for my family.
We all have down days as mamas – when our littles just won’t sleep or listen (or both!), when everything from getting dressed to dinnertime is a struggle, when yet another school shooting steals our country’s children and breaks our hearts.
While I’d never tell you to stifle or ignore your emotions, I do have a few tricks for banishing the doldrums. I’m a big believer that shifting your perspective can lift your mood. And, as I recently discovered, so can a simple bouquet of tulips. Here are a few ideas to try right now for a little boost.
1. Break a sweat
Whether you’re chasing after your kids or saddling up on a spin bike, movement improves your mood. There’s science behind this: exercise produces the feel-good hormones endorphins and enkephalins, which enhance your mental health. If you can’t break away from your kiddos to break a sweat, find a way to move with them. Turn up your favorite kid-approved tunes and bust a move with your babes.
2. Buy yourself flowers
The scent and sight of fresh-cut flowers can transform an entire room — and your outlook. Treat yourself with a simple bouquet from your local TJ’s (or wherever you get groceries) or order something more extravagant (check out Farmgirl Flowers’ gorgeous arrangements). Place your vase of buds in a well-trafficked space — like on your desk or the kitchen table — where they’ll be a visual reminder of cheer.
3. Take a social media hiatus
Feeling down after scrolling through your feed of “perfect” influencer moms and single friends’ luxurious vacations? Look up. Take a breath, and put. the. phone. down.
If it helps, you might temporarily delete your social apps, or if you’re feeling bold, turn off your phone. Revel in the mental freedom that comes from un-tethering from limitless scroll (and therefore limitless comparison) — take a good look at your kiddo’s dimples, notice what it feels like to be really present, smile.
4. Make something
Bake cookies for your crew, paint a picture with your toddler, pull out your half-finished scrapbook, prepare your favorite family meal from scratch, write yourself a love note (really!), make up a silly song with your littles, or find something else you can make. Whatever you choose, aim to create with love and care. Then bask in the satisfaction of a job well done. Daily creative activity and positivity are linked, according to a 2016 study from the Journal of Positive Psychology.
5. Embrace your feelings
“In order to heal, you need to feel,” asserts yoga instructor Baron Baptiste in his seminal work, Journey into Power. Though Baptiste is no therapist, his advice is sound. Through therapy, I discovered that acknowledging my painful emotions brings me closer to a neutral or positive mood faster than when I try to ignore them. Naming your sadness or anger or jealousy helps you cultivate self-compassion, and with time, improves your spirits.
6. Savor your favorite beverage
Think of your go-to, treat yo’self drink. Is it a venti iced coffee with a little cream? A hot cuppa chamomile tea? The perfect pour of red wine? Make a plan to pick it up and enjoy it during an uninterrupted moment of silence at home. (This is a good time to bust out the iPad for a bit if your little needs entertaining.)
7. Laugh out loud
Take a cue from your children and get a little giggly. Initiate a tickle fight. Blow bubbles indoors or play a wacky version of “Simon Says.” Read them a funny book – my toddler loves this one. Some adult-approved favorites for after bedtime: Ali Wong’s Netflix specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, this hilarious essay about toddlers, and this viral video from years ago.
8. Get grateful
Write out a list of blessings, big and small. I know, I know, sometimes this advice seems trite, especially on a really low day. However, the discipline of taking stock of all the goodness in your life – your kids, home, food to eat, a roof over your head – is a surefire way to a paradigm shift. You can even begin teaching family values by getting your little(s) involved in making this list. I challenge you to try it and not walk away feeling better.
9. Text your mom friends
Connection breeds comfort. Your mom friends get you and can help you grow. Reach out to them over text and ask for a little extra encouragement. They’ll likely offer advice or prayers, a funny meme, or simply words of compassion for whatever situation you’re coping with. Give back, too. Ask them to share their recent highs and lows with you as well, and really listen. Get outside your own head, love on your friends, and watch how it lifts up your heart.
10. Discover delight
The sweet smell of my son’s freshly-washed hair. The sight of a golden retriever enjoying the breeze from the car window. The first gooey bite of a chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. A shared look with a fellow mom. Steaming hot coffee.
Our ordinary days are bursting with small delights, if we look hard enough. What delights you? Pay attention to the little bursts of joy in the mundane and get a little happier.
Mamas, what would you add to this list? How do you boost your mood on down days?