STEALTH HEALTH: 6 HAPPY HACKS
Ditch the books on happiness and read this short guide instead...
Olivia Horne helps you find out what happiness is to you...
My first year as a mother was, honestly, a bit rubbish. I’ve learned a lot since then - much of it the hard way - about how to make the many wheels of motherhood turn a bit more smoothly.
In my work as a Happiness Coach for mums (yes, that is my job title), I have learnt that happiness means something different to all of us. What is happiness? For me, it has come to mean very different things since becoming a mother. I have had to rewrite my expectations, and strip things back to basics.
I’m not pushing the 24/7 jazz-hands variety of happiness - that would be unrealistic, and frankly a bit annoying. Neither am I suggesting you strive to achieve the ultimate, shiny happiness - because I don’t believe in that kind either, despite the bold attempts of social media to convince us otherwise.
I’m talking about that authentic happiness that sits quietly deep inside you, brings you confidence, guides your instincts, supports your choices and threads a gentle contentment and reassurance through your days.
‘Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it eludes you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder’ - Henry David Thoreau (one of my favourite quotes about happiness).
As a parent, it’s so easy for that softer, deeper kind of happiness to get buried under piles of chores and responsibilities and doubts and nagging and guilt. It’s still in there, it’s just that some days it needs a bit of coaxing to make its way to the surface. Sometimes you can’t find the time. Sometimes it’s too noisy. Sometimes the Big Guilt will have you thinking that you don’t deserve any moments of happiness that are yours and only yours. But I guarantee that the odd sprinkling of ‘just for you’ can make you calmer, more present, more productive and generally nicer to be around - and a better parent as a result.
So, instead of always looking outside for things to make us happy, let’s go inside ourselves and remember quite how lovely that quiet contentment can feel. Here are a few simple ways you can get a sprinkling of guilt-free, happy, calm into your crazy, busy days, now:
1. BE YOUR OWN FRIEND
Be kind to yourself, just as you would with a friend or your own children. Consider how you talk to yourself, and then choose to use kinder words, softer rules and fewer judgements. It’s ok to try new things, to make mistakes, to not have all the answers. Give yourself permission to fail, to be imperfect, to slow down, to put your own needs first, or simply to take a break. You deserve it - you are doing your best, and that is enough.
2. CUT THE CRAP
Try throwing something away that you don’t need or want anymore. Do this with an actual bit of physical clutter that has been lying around (if you don’t have any, then hats off!), and enjoy the space it leaves behind, or fill it with something that brings you joy. Then do it in your mind, by downloading your busy thoughts on to a page, or opening a window and throwing out a piece of virtual rubbish (a worry or negative thought) that has been hanging around and bringing you down. You’ll instantly feel lighter and more able to take on your world. You’ll create more space for clarity, fresh ideas and your own instincts.
3. GET TOUCHY FEELY
Spend a few minutes giving your neck and shoulders some much needed TLC. Roll and squeeze your shoulders and gently stretch your neck, increasing blood flow and waking everything up. Wring out the stress and ease out the tension. Your hands like a bit of love too, so take an extra 10 seconds when washing your hands or slapping on moisturiser, to give them a soothing rub and just pause to feel the water or lotion on your skin. Take a few nice deep breaths while you’re at it and you’ll be good to go!
4. SPREAD THE LOVE
Pay someone a compliment or give out a random act of kindness. Write an actual letter to an elderly relative, offer to babysit for a friend’s date night, or just tell a fellow mama that you think they’re doing an awesome job. It really does feel good to connect in real life and make other people feel good. And you never know what lovely bit of karma might come back to you.
5. PILE IN!
Set everyone up for the day by throwing some disco shapes and singing your hearts out over breakfast. Put your phone away for half an hour and just be together. Or just pile in and hug it out at bedtime. Whatever brings you simple joy. A massive bundle of snuggles is really good for the soul - it busts the blues and resets everyone’s energy so you can turn around a bad start to the day, or set them up for sweet dreams at the end.
6. SAY THANKS.
A gratitude diary is an easy and effective way to start focusing on the positive. Every day, write down three simple things in your life that you feel grateful for. Even on the roughest days, there is always something that went right. Try to be specific, and then ask yourself why you are grateful for each thing. It’s ok if you can’t think of three new things every day! Little and often is enough.
:: Olivia Horne and &Breathe Post-Natal are holding an evening called Kids, Chaos and Calm at Rude Health Cafe, Putney, on October 19. For more information and for tickets, click here. Not in London? You can follow Olivia online and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.