By Dr Samantha Clarke (PhD)
Motherhood is incredible but all consuming, and often we put ourselves last, with our own health shoved to the back of the queue. Enter one frazzled mama. If you are feeling tired and overwhelmed, chances are you have neglected yourself. But the good news is, it’s never too late to start paying attention to your own mind, body and soul wellness, and in doing so, becoming a happier woman and mother. The key to success is starting with small behavioural changes and building from there. By starting small, each change is achievable and you are more likely to stick to looking after yourself.
Here are our eight micro steps to some happy human higher health.
1 // GIVE YOURSELF FIVE MINUTES IN THE MORNING
How we start the day often sets the tone for how we move through the rest of it. Once you’ve tended to babies and children, do you reach for your phone and check your emails or the news of Facebook? What if the first five minutes of your day (that you get to yourself) was a self-care activity – a small gesture of kindness just for you? This could be five minutes of yoga, five minutes of mindfulness, five minutes to make yourself some warm lemon water. Whatever the behaviour, choose one that is devoted to your sense of self-care, taking the time to nurture your mind and body so you have the resources to be there for others.
2 // INCORPORATE A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE INTO YOUR LIFE
Mindfulness has become a buzz term, but there is a plethora of research to support the outcomes of even brief meditation practices, including both psychological and physiological health benefits. From results like an improved immune system, reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, lower anxiety and depression, enhanced vitality, greater happiness and even improved relationships, it’s well worth a try. Five minutes watching your thoughts? What a great investment!
3 // START A MOVEMENT PRACTICE WITH A BUDDY
Whether it’s a yoga class with a friend, a walk with a colleague or an activity such as going to the markets or the beach with family, this type of active living will enhance your movement and will knock-on to encourage other healthy lifestyle choices. Teaming up with a ‘health buddy’ with the joint pursuit of self-care can be a really good way of ensuring you stay on your path, plus it’s fun to bond over a mango smoothie as you get up a stride. And if you can’t find a friend who’s on your wavelength in this regard, a Facebook group that aligns with the changes you want to make can be just as supportive. Get specific about what you want to commit to doing and share the ‘why’ behind it, and lap up the encouragement and stories shared.
4 // BUY A TWO LITRE WATER FLASK AND DRINK IT EACH DAY
Approximately 70 per cent of Australians are dehydrated. Most of us require around two litres of water or more if physically active. A low mood and lethargy are all signs of dehydration. A hugely beneficial way to assist your happiness factor therefore is to buy a two-litre water flask, fill it in the morning and take it with you wherever you go. If you finish the flask each day, you know you are close to your recommended daily intake.
5 // PREPARE A MEAL PLAN FOR THE WEEK
Planning meals ahead of time will help you stick to nourishing healthy foods that serve your mind, body and soul, and will stop you falling back on takeaway options when you are hungry and want dinner in a hurry. There are so many things on the market now to help you plan too – with some even allowing you to plan your meals and add the ingredients to your online food shop. Too easy!
6 // GIVE YOURSELF ALCOHOL-FREE DAYS
Alcohol can cause inflammation within the body, which can lead to poor psychological and physical health. Monitor how many days you drink alcohol and aim to reduce them. e.g. if you usually drink five nights a week, see if you can reduce it to three – doing something else to help you relax those days instead. Take a note of how you feel in the morning emotionally and energetically after an alcohol-free evening. Scheduling in alcohol-free time also is a good way to ensure you stick to your plan and are less tempted to have a glass of wine when the day draws to a close.
7 // ADD LEAFY GREEN VEGGIES TO YOUR DIET
Leafy greens are uhhhh-mazing! Linked to an improvement in brain function, gut health, heart health and fat burn, what’s not to like?! Mix up your greens to get maximum benefits.
8 // IDENTIFY THREE THINGS YOU FEEL GRATEFUL FOR EACH DAY
It has been scientifically proven that when you reflect on your day through a lens of gratitude and connect with your experiences, your mood is enhanced. It can be the smallest thing – like eating cookies on the couch, reading your favourite magazine, or watching your child play. Allowing yourself time to be thankful essentially raises your happiness level and is good for your health. Do this at the end of the day by yourself, or share what you are grateful for with your family over dinner or at bedtime.