I believe our divine purpose is to strive for happiness each and every day. And with everything we deal as moms on a daily basis, this may sound far from achievable, but I assure you it is.
Now, I’m not talking about not feeling pain or ever crying, or never getting in a yucky mood, because I’d be a hypocrite. I know many people would call me a happy person and comment that I personify a positive mom, however, I go through many hard times, and sometimes they feel unbearable.
If there’s something I’ve learned throughout my life is that, as weird as it may sound, happiness takes some work. Happiness takes conscious effort, adding joy to each day is our responsibility. Maya Angelou once offered some wise words about this: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
There’s some tough love on that statement and, though sometimes I am convinced I can’t help how I feel, it is true that my feelings are not always the boss of me. And because being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect (because perfection is not achievable), when I am sad, upset, frustrated, and disappointed, I make myself embrace the circumstances and make the most of them.
I know very well that I do not have a magic wand to change everything I don’t like and that how I feel about it may not ever change, but I’ve come up with a list of things that help me shift my attention to something more positive – and productive.
I’ve compiled 21 free ways you can be happier today, with very little effort and in very little time:
Happiness Hack #1 ~ Hug someone
Hugs are healing. Hugs result in Oxytocin release, which calms the nervous system and boosts positive emotions. It lowers the stress hormone (cortisol) and your anxiety! And because I know sometimes we don’t interact with adults for what seems like ages, thankfully, our little ones are super huggable! If they are at school or asleep, you can touch something that feels good or comfy and that can also do the trick.
Happiness Hack #2 ~ Smile
Chances are that if feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, betrayed, alone, or borderline depressed, the last thing you’ll want to do is smile, but research shows that even if your smile is fake, it will decrease your heart rate at a stressful time. Here’s a cool trick: “stick a pencil in your mouth, between your lips, it makes you frown, in your teeth, it makes you smile.” A bit of a quick fix, but of course, when you backup any smile with positive thoughts, any smile is going to be more effective. And if you find something (or someone) funny that makes you laugh, even better!
Happiness Hack #3 ~ Sit Up Straight
Good posture helps with your physical well-being, but it also helps create a positive emotional state.
Happiness Hack #4 ~ Listen to music
Science backs the fact that listening to music can boost your happiness and even heal you. Add a bit of singing and dancing to the mix and the benefits increase (even if your singing voice is less than pleasant and you have two left feet). Ironically, music can help even if the lyrics and tones are solemn or sad!
Happiness Hack #5 ~ Stretch
I’m sure you’ve heard that stretching increases your strength and flexibility, but it also reduces your stress levels. I love doing yoga, but you don’t need to get on the mat or wear the stretchy pants to enjoy a good stretching session! Bonus points if you can make time to exercise in a different way – science says all you need is 7 minutes a day.
Happiness Hack #6 ~ Visualize
Our human brain can’t actually the difference between something you’re thinking about and something that’s actually happening, so visualizing can help transport us to a different reality. I used to lock myself in the bathroom for a “5 minute vacation” and, within seconds, I found myself sunbathing on the sand of a beautiful Dominican beach, enjoying the warm sun on my skin, the beautiful sounds of nature, and the scents of the ocean. It renewed me every time!
Happiness Hack #7 ~ Count your blessings
There’s nothing like gratitude to dissolve unhappy feelings. The act of simply writing down a few things, people, or places you are grateful for will raise your vibration and lift you to a happier place. I always say that gratitude is the birthplace of joy.
Happiness Hack #8 ~ Procrastinate your feelings
I used to think procrastination was useless, but I actually found a way to use my procrastinating skills that works for me. Some days when I don’t want to get out of bed, see anyone, or do anything, I decide to procrastinate the negative emotions I’m feeling and worry about those later. It’s not a foolproof formula when you struggle with PTSD, but I’m grateful for the times it does work and I can become happier instantly.
Happiness Hack #9 ~ Learn something new
Thanks to YouTube, this one has become happier to do. It used to be that you had to get your hair, nails, and makeup done and go for a drive before you learned anything, and now you can just do a search and hit play on a tutorial of your choice. Positive psychology suggests that learning something new helps improve self-esteem and self-efficacy and that challenging yourself releases serotonin, which also increases your sense of worthiness and belonging.
Happiness Hack #10 ~ Help someone.
When you are feeling down, doing a random act of kindness is a quick pick me up. Volunteering is very rewarding if you can find the bandwidth, but if that’s too much to add to your Cinderella-sized to-do list, you can find creative ways to make someone’s day. A hug (happiness hack #1), a smile (happiness hack #2), or a sincere compliment can make a difference. One of my defaults when I am in a funk is to find something I can give, which helps me organize and declutter, so it’s a win-win, too!
Happiness Hack #11 ~ Decide to forgive
When you’re betrayed, wronged, and mistreated, it’s perfectly normal to feel anger, sadness, and disappointment; however, these feelings start to slowly eat at you. Forgiving is a gift from you to you, but forgiveness is not a one-time-event that happens in an instant. What you can do is decide to forgive – over and over and over and over and over, etc. And don’t forget self-forgiveness, it’s essential to your happiness!
Happiness Hack #12 ~ Smell a happy smell
There have been studies to prove that the smell of fresh flowers triggers happiness. Also, fragrances that remind you of a special person or a special memory can evoke happy feelings that will lift your spirits.
Happiness Hack #13 ~ Celebrate yourself
Science has proven that self-acceptance is crucial to living a happy life. Practicing the mirror exercise to remind yourself of the good you’ve done each day or writing down your wins and achievements (of all sizes) are great practices you must add to your routine.
Happiness Hack #14 ~ Think of happy memories
Research shows that nostalgia can make you happier, more optimistic, and more positive! Whenever I’m feeling incompetent, defeated, and like I can’t survive my trials, I like to think of things I have already achieved and overcome, and usually my confidence gradually starts to increase. I once saw a poster that read: “So far you‘ve survived 100% of your worst days,” and that’s true for you, too. Thinking of happy moments in your life is almost magical.
Happiness Hack #15 ~ Enjoy the outdoors
Even if you go for a 5-minute walk outside and inhale the fresh air (and hopefully get your vitamin D on), you will greatly benefit from the positive results. Experts say that nature can improve your mood and alleviate stress. If you can go to the park, great!, but your backyard will do just fine. If you’re on bed rest or can’t go outside for some reason, ask someone to bring you a plant or a picture of a plant, you know, something pretty and “natury” to look at!
Happiness Hack #16 ~ Recite a positive mantra
Research shows that mantras can help with stress reduction. Choose a meaningful mantra that contains positive, empowering, and encouraging words that you can repeat in your head and out loud to yourself to help you get through the difficult situation you find yourself in. Don’t worry whether it sounds cliche, just focus on the feelings it generates within you. Mine is “BE Positive and You’ll BE Powerful!”
Happiness Hack #17 ~ Breathe
Taking a deep breath can calm you down and bring relaxation to your body and mind. A deep breath triggers neurons in your brain to relax, and it does.
Happiness Hack #18 ~ Rest
I read somewhere that most moms get less than four hours of sleep at night on average, you can find other ways to rest. Giving yourself permission to take a 5-10 min power nap can make a huge difference during the day. If that scares you or, like me, you find it difficult to sleep in the daylight, you can elevate your feet, sit or rock on a comfy chair, or just do nothing for a few minutes! Taking a Sabbath every Sunday is a life-saving practice that “forces” me to rest, recharge, and relax!
Happiness Hack #19 ~ Express your creativity
You may not be a master crafter or gifted visual artist, and you may not play an instrument or even take good pictures. I don’t feel naturally gifted in any of these areas either, but any creative process can be therapeutic for you. When you engage in creative play (creating something without attaching to how it should look or be or even to its completion) you can go into self-exploration and that leads to clarity, perspective, and inspiration.
Happiness Hack #20 ~ Seek higher inspiration
I once heard a mom judge another mom friend of mind with the question “how can she be so cranky when she has such a beautiful baby?” It’s already frustrating enough to know rationally that there is reason inspired, yet not finding inspiration in it, and judgement just adds to the shame. I have found myself in that spot where even the most beautiful things and the most positive people just don’t inspire me, so I came up with a back up plan and that’s what I call higher inspiration. Studies reveal that religion and spirituality have been linked to happiness. Feeling connected to a Higher Power can help you find the inspiration you are looking for. If you’re not ready for prayer and a Bible verse, you can start with poetry or inspirational quotes.
Happiness Hack #21 ~ Meditate
Quiet, serene, uninterrupted time with yourself is a delicious treat. Research shows that meditation can do wonders for your peace and sanity, and it can benefit you mentally, physically, and emotionally, as well as promote quality sleep. Many people recommend 20 minutes per day, but if you can get 2 minutes in, go for it, girl!
I know you may be overwhelmed thinking “ain’t nobody got time for dat,” and wondering how you could possibly fit all these into your super busy life. Or you may think you’ll do these on an as-need basis, because you’re happy enough right now and doing quite alright. What I recommend is to plan to do at least one of these activities on a daily basis so you can strengthen your happiness muscle and can feel happier.
There’s so much that affect happiness that is out of our control, so as you take a short break from the mundane tasks of motherhood, you can find instant happiness, meaning, purpose, joy, and well-being, even in the most unfortunate circumstance.
What makes YOU happy? Being happy feels good and knowing others are happy does too, so please share in the comments below!