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How to create moments that make you happy to maintain your mental health as busy moms

How to create moments that make you happy to maintain your mental health as busy moms
How to appreciate the simple things in life

The first night I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I felt lost, as if this new version of me was completely foreign, and to be honest, I was terrified. Becoming a mom is not easy, especially with the first one, as it's the initial instance of shifting focus from oneself to caring for another human being who depends entirely on you. That's when the journey of long days and very short nights begins. Sleepless nights, lack of time, and the hustle and bustle take over your life, and that's when we must learn to find pleasure in the simplest things in life—things that bring us happiness and that we didn't appreciate before.


What I didn't know and would have liked to know


Even though I was completely in love with my child, something that continues to this day, 18 years later, I missed my life before becoming a mom. I no longer had time or energy to go to the gym or read a book, something I loved doing. All mothers of my generation, especially if you're a Latina, were indoctrinated that the baby comes first, even before your well-being. With that mentality, I started raising my first two children, and when I found out a third one was on the way, I almost had a heart attack.


I was exhausted and anxious, I didn't know if I could continue until I heard someone say, "It's okay to think about yourself first; if you're not well, you can't take care of anyone else." It was then that something clicked in my brain, and I started changing my ways as a mother. Contrary to what my mom taught me, due to the doctrine of the times she was raised in, I learned to enjoy the process of being a mom—something I would have liked to learn earlier to have enjoyed my first two babies even more.


What changed?


When my third daughter arrived, I made the conscious decision to enjoy every stage, even the sleepless nights. So, I learned to look for those opportunities within my responsibilities as a mom to enjoy things I liked.  I was blessed to have a healthy baby, but still, for the first three months, she woke up to eat in the middle of the night. As the Spanish saying states, "Guerra avisada no mata soldado," which means, ‘If you know what’s coming, it doesn’t affect you as much.’  Therefore, I mentally prepared for my baby girl to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and looked for something to do that I enjoyed while feeding her.


I am a fan of ‘Law and Order: SVU,’ and since I became a mom, I haven't had the time to watch the series. This was before streaming existed, something moms can take advantage of now. Little did I know that there was a marathon of my favorite series every night on a cable channel. So, I would go to bed around 10 PM, thinking that around 3 AM, my daughter would wake up to eat, and I could watch the series I loved so much. Between breastfeeding and burping her, I watched an episode every night. I even look forward to my nightly episode every night, waking up even before my baby sometimes.


With this example, I want to show you that when you have the attitude to enjoy something, no matter the circumstances, everything becomes more pleasant. I woke up happy because I would watch my series, and my daughter felt that energy, finishing her feeding calmly and going back to sleep until 9 AM the next day. What changed was my attitude toward what I was doing instead of the circumstances.


Similarly, I couldn't go to the gym with three young children; instead of getting bitter, I tried to find an alternative for exercise. My two older children were already in preschool. I always liked to walk, so after dropping off the two older ones at school, I grabbed my baby's stroller and took her to the park I liked the most for a walk. I exercised, and my daughter enjoyed an outdoor stroll. It's not exactly the gym, but it kept me active and doing something that made me happy.


What are "the small things in life"?


With the examples I mentioned earlier, the definition of "small things" is just those simple pleasures and tiny moments that add a bit of joy to our everyday lives. They're the easy-to-miss stuff we usually take for granted, found in our regular routines and everyday activities.


This way of thinking helped me be aware of the things that make me happy, and I learned to integrate them with those moments that may seem tedious but necessary. Even today, with almost all my children being teenagers, I use this technique to make every day more enjoyable.

Why does enjoying these simple moments of life help your mental health?

How to appreciate the simple things in life
How to create moments that make you happy to maintain your mental health as busy moms

The small things that each person enjoys are subjective, and being aware of appreciating them depends entirely on you. It's easy to overlook these small moments in life, but here's why it's so important for your overall well-being and mental health to pay attention and take advantage of them:


1. It helps you be more positive: Appreciating the little things in life can increase our positive emotions, such as happiness, gratitude, and a sense of peace.


2. Cultivates mindfulness: Paying attention to the small things in life requires us to practice mindfulness, which is being aware of what's going on without throwing any judgment into the mix and learning to be present in the moment. This state of awareness has been shown to enhance overall well-being, reduce stress, and improve your mental clarity.


3. Develop resilience: Finding joy in our every day can train our minds to handle stuff better by switching our attention from what's missing to what we've got.  This positive outlook can make dealing with challenges and setbacks a bit easier, which is good for our mental health


4. Fosters gratitude: "Expressing gratitude can positively change your brain," says Kristin Francis, MD, a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. "It boosts dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters in the brain that improve your mood immediately, giving you those positive feelings of pleasure, happiness, and well-being."

Practice and practice until it becomes a habit


How to appreciate the simple things in life? At first, trying to appreciate things you take for granted and even consider insignificant, may not come naturally. Like everything in life, being present and aware of appreciating these moments takes practice, but it's easier than you think. You need to pay attention to the little things that make you happy. For example:


•          A hot coffee in the morning

•          The light and warmth of the sun

•          A walk in the park

•          A hug from your children

•          Reading, even a page of a book you like before bedtime

•          Listening to a podcast on the way to work


In short, these are small things that are present amid the chaos of your day, and if you decide to pay attention to them, they can lighten the burden of your obligations and routine. Look for those moments that make you happy and be intentional about it.  Share some of them with me in the comments.



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