five simple ways to encourage joy.
I wish I could say that working full time while caring for three wee ones was effortless, but truly its not. A coworker & I were chatting about my sweet babes at the coffee machine the other day, and she paused, this colleague of mine with two teenage sons, and said, "I don't know how you do it, Charlotte." Her comment made me stop in my tracks, thinking of how to respond, wondering if there was an eloquent way to describe how I handle it all, but the words just didn't come. The truth is that I was having a hard time, with life as it currently is. By the time the kids were in bed at the end of each day and the dishes were washed I would allow my exhaustion to swallow me whole. I'd wade in my own self-pity, glued to my phone for some inspiration, distraction, wondering when the respite would come. Wondering when it would be my turn to have a good life. There, next to the coffee machine I looked at my coworker and realized that she is almost twelve years older than me, her kids were nearly grown, and she was asking me how I was handling it?
Maybe respite would never come.
At the time I shrugged it off and jokingly said, "I don't know how I do it either but believe me, coffee is involved" as I pounded on the brew button on our office coffee maker. I left it at that.
That two minute conversation stayed with me the rest of the day, the rest of the week, watering the parched soil I was desperately trying to sprout roots in. It occurred to me then that mothering would never get easier, I'd always have to search for balance, and that the newness of each stage would bring new challenges with it. Waiting for happiness it pointless. Happiness is not an effortless state of being, no. Happiness is a decision.
So, what's a tired girl with a too-full plate and dark under-eye circles to do? Decide to be happy, it's as simple as that. I know I will fall into the traps of weariness now and again, but it is apparent to me that joy can be encouraged, even if in the smallest of ways with the smallest of efforts. It can be hard to make time for self-care, creative pursuits, and quiet time when you’re working, let alone when you’re a working mama. The root of the equation is finding joy in the little things, because it’s the little joys that can be found all over the place. Truly, recognizing the simplest joys allows you to fill up that watering can again and again, soaking your parched roots with the recognition of each little blessing.
Little joys might include:
- The way your child’s long eyelashes rest softly on their cheek while they're sleeping.
- The way the sunlight streams into your windows and makes the reflections dance on the wall.
- The smell of fresh flowers on your table or fruit ripening in a bowl that wafts into the air as you pass by them.
- The warmth of a bathrobe fresh out of the drier.
- The creak of old floorboards in the morning.
- The smell and sound of coffee brewing.
Make your living space inspiring. I know some of us prefer a simpler theme in our décor while some of us prefer to go all out. I am not talking about home furnishings & décor per se but if you have the budget, by all means, deck out your home! But if your budget doesn’t permit, you do not need to place your joy in material objects. No! A tidy, inspiring space that is pleasing to the eye can do wonders for your outlook. Simple ways to inspire your spaces, without breaking the bank or taking up a lot of time include:
- Picking up flowers at the grocery store & setting blooms around the house.
- Open the blinds & windows to let in sunlight & fresh air.
- Make your bed- it only takes 5 minutes!
- Put on a record or your favorite Spotify playlist.
- Hang a birdfeeder right outside your kitchen or living room window, or whichever room of your home you frequent most.
One minute of quick exercise. If you’re like me, you struggle to find the time, energy, and gumption to fit in a good 30 minute workout. For me it’s mostly the lack of gumption. Haha! Even still, while 30 minutes or regular is more preferable than one for long term-health, a quick minute of vigorous exercise can lift your mood. It’s also super easy to squeeze into a busy work day and you don’t need to change your clothes for it. Try sixty-seconds of jumping jacks, or a few laps around your front yard. It gets your blood pumping and your heart racing. It reminds you that you’re alive and helps clear your thoughts. And who knows? It may lead to a long term habit that expands on the amount of time you devote to exercise, improving upon your health in the long term. I am a firm believer than body & mind are two connected systems that both need to be in top working order to support each other. Good health is always something to be happy about.
Limit your social media or drop it altogether. A week ago I decided to trim the social media fat. I was spending a lot of time on Facebook and catching myself reading articles about gun control and abortion and vaccines and all the hot-buttons issues that would start a firestorm in my heart. I would read the argumentative comments and start argumentative comments of my own, even though I never actually published them. While I believe it is my responsibility as a taxpayer and a decent human being to keep up on the news and the goings-on in my nation's government, I didn't need to immerse myself so much that it was feeding in to so much negativity, so often. What's more, apps like Snapchat, Instagram, & Pinterest started feeding the comparison monster. Feeding that monster is a slippery slope and soon you're feeling bad about yourself when your were feeling just fine minutes before. This week I removed all social media from my phone, with the exception of Instagram (I love it so!). I am forcing myself to lower my Instagram calories and you know what? It really has helped. I am more present with my children and am less distracted. Distraction often disorients your true priorities, and when you are present and focused on the things that matter, you are less likely to feel inadequate or like you’re failing. I felt like I was failing often, but removing distractions allows me to see where I am putting my efforts and know I am really trying my best. Which leads to…
Repeat positive affirmations to yourself. Honestly, this one has always been a bit harder for me. Lately, I feel like I am failing at every role I have, a mother, a wife, a daughter, an employee, and an artist. Feeling like you’re failing is a pass to start nitpicking, about your appearance, your abilities & talents, your personal values. Everything! It is so easy to feel bogged down and drag yourself down in the process, so giving yourself positive affirmations, props, so to speak, is a good way to counteract your nitpicking. Start by picking up one area that you feel insecure about and find something positive to say. Back with it up with an uplifting fact about said area. Your appearance? “My body is beautiful and it birthed three beautiful children.” Your role as a mother? “I am a good mother. I feed and nurture my children and they are thriving.” Your abilities as a blogger/writer? “I am a talented writer and others commented on how they appreciate my words.” (Clearly I am talking to myself here, people.) Look yourself in the mirror and repeat these affirmations five times to yourself at least once a day.
Lower your expectations. In the end, this is the one thing I found that changes my outlook. Often times, when I am dreading my husband being gone all week for a work trip or some kind of event that requires a lot of coordination on my part, it helps to separate the actual priorities vs. the nice-to-haves. For example, my husband is going to take several business trips this summer and I am freaking out a bit about being alone for several days with all three kids for the first time. I have gone it alone with my oldest two before, and the truth is it has always gone fine, because I pretty much throw all the rules out the window on those days. The priorities include, “Keep kids fed, keep kids safe, get kids to school, get myself to work.” Beyond that, keeping the house clean, making meals from scratch, or keeping on top of laundry are often things I allow to wait on until it isn’t just me manning the fort. In turn, I am engaged more with my kids, and they are less likely to misbehave because I am focusing on them. I say yes to things that daddy may otherwise say no to, like letting them cut up bits of paper with their safety scissors and throw them all over the house because it keeping them happy in turn keeps me sane. I might otherwise feel overwhelmed by dishes and dinnertime messes but if we toss out the rules and go eat McDonald’s every day for dinner just while dad’s gone, it eliminates a box on my to-do list and makes for a special memory for them, too.
What are your simple ways to encourage joy in your life? I’d love to hear them!