Sometimes life can feel like absolute insanity. We all have days when nothing goes right and everything feels hard. We want to throw our hands up, go back to bed, pull the covers up and forget it. But there are lunches to pack and buses to catch; life must go on! Read on to learn how to train your brain to stay positive, even when everything hits the fan.
Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, let’s face it, the to-do list never ends. We’ve all had those mornings when the car won’t start, we can’t find the keys, Johnny won’t put his shoes on or Nora is throwing up. It’s easy to fall in to despair. “I can’t do this”, you think, “it’s just too hard”.
Many moms struggle with feeling like they can’t possibly keep up with life’s demands.
Instead of looking at the circumstances in a different light, moms often turn it inward and see it as a personal shortcoming. Mary, a 42 year old working mom of 2, says “I feel defective. I’m not keeping up with everything I need to do, so something must be wrong with me. Other moms make it look easy”.
Spoiler alert, it’s not easy for those moms either! As Brene’ Brown says, “Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees.”
There are many circumstances in life that we don’t have any control over.
The good news is, we do have control over is how we respond! By changing where we focus our attention, we can stay positive and improve our mood and outlook.
5 Ways to Stay Positive Starting Today
1) Cultivate Gratitude
Stop what you are doing and write down 5 things you are grateful for. No matter what is happening in life, there is always something to be grateful for, and shifting your attention can actually change your brain. Sometimes the best I can come up with is “I have two shoes on, and they match”. That’s a start!
A fascinating gratitude study at Berkeley compared participants who wrote gratitude letters to those who didn’t. They found that the gratitude group experienced prolonged improvement in their mental health. These benefits were evident on MRI scans, showing increased activity in the medial pre-frontal cortex, the thinking and learning area of the brain. If you want to stay positive, a daily gratitude practice is a great place to start.
2) Think About Quality Problems
I have a friend who always says “This is a quality problem”. This means, essentially, that most of the problems we face day to day are because of something good. For example, we have a flat tire because we have a car. We need to call the plumber because we have a home. We have a home because we have income. Whatever problem is bothering you, think of the hidden blessing.
3) Practice Compassion
In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explains that in Western culture we often vent our anger. But instead of making us feel better, he explains, it actually causes us to focus more attention on what makes us angry and entrenches it even more deeply. Instead, he says, the antidote to anger is compassion.
If you are angry or upset because of something someone else did or said, try sending them a little compassion. This could include saying to yourself “maybe that person is having a bad day, I hope their day goes better” when someone cuts you off in traffic. I know! You don’t want to let them off the hook. But your anger and resentment is only hurting YOU. The other person likely doesn’t even know about it. Besides, wouldn’t the world be a better place for everyone if the hothead drivers were happy and well?
4) Focus on your circle of influence
The classic “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey is still one of my favorite self-help books. In it, he explains the circles of concern and influence. The circle of concern includes all of the worries in the world. Things like disasters, the weather, or politics. Things we have no immediate concern over. Focusing on those things increases anxiety and takes the focus off of things we can do something about. Especially in today’s political climate, focusing on these things can send us down a spiral of despair.
The circle of influence, however, includes all of those things you do have some control over, like your work, home and health. By focusing on those things where you actually DO have influence, you can stay more positive and proactive.
5) When all else fails, surrender
Have you ever had a day when you just woke up grumpy, then tried to fight it all day to no avail? Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just go with it. Just say to yourself “I’m grumpy, and that’s OK”. Can you go back to bed? Take a mental health day and watch Legally Blonde? If not, maybe adjust your expectations for the day. You don’t want this to become an everyday thing, because that can start to look a lot like depression. But one day? You’re human, and nobody is Susie Sunshine all the time. Sometimes accepting your feelings and practicing self-care today can shift your mood and help you stay positive in the long run.
And remember, tomorrow is a new day. This, too, shall pass!