Tag Archives: happiness

How being a mum can lead to highly successful habits

24 May

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

A couple of weeks ago, I had an Oprah-esque ‘Aha’ moment while watching Australia’s Masterchef.  One of the top 24 contestants, Kate – occupation ‘mum,’ was taking part in a team challenge which involved being woken (after two hours sleep) to bake artisan-worthy bread for eight hours straight.

A lot of the contestants emerged bleary-eyed and cranky, but not this Mumma!  She cheerily narrated that parenthood had more than prepared her for this type of challenge:

when you are a mum, you get used to having to work hard,
whether you like it or not, whether you feel like it or not.

Damn straight, I thought. This woman’s going to bake some killer bread!

Becoming a mum is fraught with experiences that can lead you to a whole new level of learning. From the very first moment you gingerly claim your newborn …your life is no longer yours.  You are officially ‘owned’, required to be on call 24 /7 and have orders communicated to you in a cacophonous language not yet fully understood by either parties.

Days and nights blend into the same monochrome and for many new parents, the outside world can seem like an alternate universe.

I know that some mums allegedly give birth to “sleepers” *dislike* but for most of us, becoming a parent is an exhausting exercise comparable to the effects of sleep deprivation-torture-tactics used in war-fare.

And no, you don’t get to call in sick….ever.

I have had to lay, vomit bucket at head-level while my three-year olds whined and pulled my hair in an effort to “stop mummy being boring”.  Fortunately, I also had my life-saving five-year old at hand, who was able to make lunch among puddles of juice and vegemite smears.

While many childless couples look forward to engaging in some serious ‘lounging’ on the weekends, mummies have forgotten that it is in fact the weekend.

No down time for you sistah!  It’s business as usual, 365 days a year.

Such is the nature of the unwritten job description.  You may not realise that ‘this’ is exactly what you signed up for but you step up and you do it.

Not to say that it’s all hard work and tears.  There are many positives to having your world shaken sideways by mummyhood. After a while, you catch your groove, and inadvertently find you have adopted a few habits of the ‘highly successful’.

For example:

You now have the permanent built-in alarm of a serious go-getter that wakes you up early no matter what. You may even morph into a healthier version of yourself, given that you no longer go out partying every weekend till 5am.

Establishing routines, organising schedules and planning events are things that have now become second nature. Household supplies and food are dutifully replenished, budgets micro-managed and a multitude of other tasks accomplished every day.

You get used to working diligently without being pushed, asked, thanked…or sometimes even noticed.

The mood of a small child can easily dictate how your day will play out from moment to moment.  As such you learn to adjust plans accordingly.  You become far more resilient and capable at handling the downright ugly and seemingly impossible. Even in public.

As your child’s first role model, you become more adept at building and maintaining positive relationships, promoting perseverance and cooperation.  With kidlet eyes now taking in your every move, you try to emulate ‘goodness’.  You become a leader without a title, far more responsible, self-contained and polite.  You become better at controlling and managing yourself and your emotions….most of the time anyway.

Flippancy to the side…being a mum can lead to strengthening all of the skills you gained as a singleton, with the addition of a few more.  In my humble opinion.

All learning has an emotional base ~Plato

Being a mum may not always educate the intellect but it does educate the heart.  The emotional intelligence I have gained in seven years of parenting remains unparalleled.  Coincidentally, emotional intelligence has been widely reported as one of the strongest indicators for success in life and directly affects ones psychological well-being (ref).

I read somewhere that the brain gives knowledge but the heart gives direction. As a mum even though your heart now moves independent of your body – the sense of purpose, passion and direction you feel can spur you on to achieve greatness in all areas of life.

Sidenote: Some of you may be thinking that this particular blog is biased and a tad dismissive of non-parents or even daddy’s.

I would concur.

But sometimes a mummy needs to hear that she is valued, competent, resourceful and freakin’ fabulous!

She needs to understand that the skills and experiences acquired through parenthood hold relevance in any environment and that she is a successful contributing member of society right here and now.

Nuff said!

~ Kirri

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The 30-day happiness project

16 May

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

Happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them (Author unknown).

Last week, I wrote about gratitude and how it can be a powerful tool for helping relieve depression (see here).  Coincidentally, for the past month, I have been involved in a “Happiness Project”, initiated by Naomi from Seven Cherubs.

Over 100 bloggers participated, keeping a one sentence record of our happiest moments for 30 days.  The aim was to heighten awareness of the types of things that promoted happiness and to see if keeping a daily record held any lasting effects.

My personal list is as follows, recorded from 10th April-10th May:

Today, I had an early morning combat class and experienced a rush of feel good endorphins instead of pain!

A rare solo drive today and as I rocked out to Stanton Warriors “Get up” the big blue sky smiled with me.

Pure joy=a cup of freshly brewed java and a moment of solitude watching the sunrise.

Parent-teacher interviews; so reassuring to learn that my baby girls are settling well into their first year at school.

My girls and I created our own less skillful but way more-hilarious “Thriller” dance tonight and are now all MJ lovers!

So happy that my youngest has stopped throwing up and the rest of us remain well….fingers crossed.

A weekend of kiddy birthday parties – too much squealing and junk food, but so much fun!

Don’t ask me why I have been up at 4.30am every day this week, but as for the amount of work I’ve completed…yeeyah!

Today I was given a handmade card from darling-heart daughter letting me know how ‘greatful’ she is to have me in her ‘live’!

My hubby looks super fine today and is smiling….at me.

Super hyped to wake up this morning and discover I had been acknowledged for my writing skills by a complete stranger.

A long overdue skype catch up with one of the most spectacular friends equals huge smiles for rest of day!

Today my big girl turns seven and apparently it is the Biggest.News.Ever.

I know that Easter is not all about chocolate but sheesh, I love nibbling on easter bunny ears!

Caught up with beautiful Lucy today and felt more invigorated than ever about living life hard.

Remember how much fun it was, being able to ride your new bike round the neighbourhood?

Cool morning, hot day, magical sunset.

Teaching kids new stuff can be so much…..messy fun!

Sharing in someones vision is great, helping them achieve it in three months, fantabulous.

New dress and an opportunity to get glammed up…yay!

I miss dad extra today but am so grateful for all that he taught me and all the love he shared.

So many exciting possibilities forming on the work-front…butterflies anyone?

It can be daunting meeting new peeps and making new friends but I think I did just that today.

Gym time is my time is good time!

Cool enough this evening to enjoy a warm bowl of spicy pasta and a gorgeous glass of Beaujolais.

I can’t even tell you why I am flying high today.  It’s a secret but just know I am…flying high.

A blanket, my lap-top and working in sunshine.

My dinners always seem like rubbish compared to cheffy hubbys; lucky he has cooked the past three nights!

Learnt today that my mum and big sister are still there to pick me up when I most need it.

When neighbours become best friends…so happy we landed right here.

From my list (and the many others I have been reading), it is often the simple things that impart the most pleasure -family, friends and meaningful connection.  Acts of service, being outdoors, good food and keeping active were also highly relevant factors for promoting positivity.

For me, the project highlighted the fact that personal happiness is rarely related to material pleasures.  Happiness can easily be observed in the small moments, and for me, committing to record these happy thoughts on an ongoing basis, increased my happiness quotient.

~ Thanks for reading and have a happy day!

The power of gratitude

13 May

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook or email me  kirri@happymumsathome.com

There have been times in my life when I have found it next to impossible to be happy. Dark lonely days, where smiles and hugs from family members failed to penetrate my blanket of despair.  A pervading sense of disconnection, apathy and complete inability to experience gratitude….

Yup, that was me.  I’ve suffered from depression and I’m ok writing and talking about it.

I know I’m not alone.

Depression is the third largest individual health problem in Australia after heart disease
and stroke. (ref)

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of depression during their life. (ref)

Each year, approximately 1,000,000 adults and 100,000 young people in Australia experience a depressive illness. More than 50% will not seek treatment. (ref)

For me, one of the most challenging facets of this illness is the fact that there are many people who would prefer not to hear about it, or acknowledge it as a real illness.  Depression may not be as taboo as it was twenty years ago but “mental illness” of any sort is still stigmatized.

How bad does it feel when you attempt to share your pain, only to be told over
and over –

You’ll be ok, you just have to try harder.

Don’t cry – we don’t have to talk about it anymore, ok?

Come on, snap out of it! Think about how this might be affecting your babies!

Helpful, no.  Hurtful, yes.  Understandable?  Yeah, I get it.  If you’re depressed, you are a definite fun-assassin!

But that was then and this is now.  That part of me has faded into the background and a newer version emerged – genuinely smiling, appreciative and happy.

Most of the time.

So what if that black dog comes round for another visit!  I’m far more resourceful and resilient now and the knowledge that I have beaten depression before is both comforting and empowering.

 

The power of gratitude

Believe it or not, expressing gratitude on a daily basis was one of the most effective weapons in my arsenal for defeating depression.

I was fortunate that even in my most depressed state – I never gave up. I knew that I could fight my way back to wellness even when the actual experience of being happy seemed as far away as the moon.

I took to recording my ugliest thoughts and fears on paper, in a hopeful effort to have them disintegrate into the harried scrawls of ink.

I also began a daily gratitude journal.  Maybe I couldn’t feel those sunshine thoughts, but surely I could find a few things to be grateful for?

Writing one or two sentences every day was something I knew I could commit to.

Some days it was being thankful for nothing more than a great cup of coffee or a two-hour stint of uninterrupted sleep.  Other days, observing the melodic babbling of my babies or the stoic way my Canadian family braved the brutal winter elements; were enough to keep my feet planted in the realm of possibility.

I also noticed that the act of recording gratitude accumulated to the point where I could soon find five things instead of just one to be genuinely thankful for.  My list began to grow and flow with ease and eventually I started to feel the gratitude rather than just write about it.

After six months of committing to this practice and combined with counselling, exercise, medication and the loving support of a few family members and friends – I was able to reclaim my passion for life.  Damn, it felt good!

I’m not saying that this daily practice of being grateful was a cure for my depression but I do believe it was a crucial factor for recovery.

How can gratitude increase happiness?              

The power of gratitude and its positive effect on mood and well-being has been widely documented (see here).

Being grateful moves your focus from a mindset of scarcity to abundance.

Appreciating and noticing the small blessings leads to a focal point of more – more positive things to take note of and a heightened awareness of the miniscule details that bring pleasure.

Moreover, like many habits – the longer you do it, the easier it becomes and the more powerful the effects can be.  Gratitude helps you maintain a more positive outlook and contributes to emotional well-being.

It also has social benefits – we all prefer to hang with positive people, right?

Creating an atmosphere of gratitude in your home

It can be challenging trying to instill an ‘attitude of gratitude’ in your home.   Children are notoriously self-centred and unappreciative, particularly when it comes to their own family members.

I have found that the most effective way to increase an appreciative atmosphere is to model the behavior.  Children get annoyed when you constantly tell them to thank every person they meet but if they notice you always make a point of giving thanks when called for, they are sure to follow suit…eventually.

Writing small notes or sending emails of Thanks in a timely manner is also an effective way to teach gratitude.  Thanking
Grandma on Skype for a birthday gift, or writing a note to a teacher for a fun lesson well taught are recent examples of gratitude my girls have initiated.

Nature provides endless opportunities and spectacles for inquisitive minds to marvel at. A rainbow or butterfly on your walk to the park.  Eating lush tropical fruit on a hot summer’s day.   Observing natures gifts together is not only fun for kids but also reminds us big kids to take note of the things that we so often take for granted due to years of familiarity.

My favourite, most effective display of appreciation in our household is the ‘Gratitude Prayer’.

We take turns at dinner time to have a prayer of gratitude – a practice that the girls enjoy and add their own flavour to –

I’m thankful that my hair was pretty today and I got to see ‘Barbie in a Fashion Fairytale’.

I really liked the chocolate easter egg I ate and I hope I get some more tomorrow.

Every now and then they also delight with their thoughtfulness and an inkling that they are beginning to grasp the power of gratitude-

Thank you for my daddy who works so hard….my sister who is an angel from the sky cos she plays with me at school…. and my uncle who I miss lots and lots.

That’s it from me today.

Let me know in the comments how you like to ‘get your grateful on’?

~Kirri

Why thinking and living like a kid can lead to a happier, more successful life.

25 Feb

Last week, I was confronted by the identical challenge I face every time I attempt to make pasta sauce. 

No, not the fact that I would need to bury the empty jar deep in the recycling bin, to avoid the meaningful looks directed my way by cheffy husband – who can never understand why I don’t just whip up my own sauce.  Pfft.It is the dance of trial and tribulation that ensues every time I attempt to take the top off the jar.  Bloody impossible!! 

I twist it both ways, wringing until my hands are as pink as my face. I then use a tea towel in an effort to assist sweaty sore hands, run the jar under cold, then hot water, bang it on the granite bench and as a last resort mutter a few not-so-niceties about the jar making machine having been designed by some puny-female-hating mean man!

As my efforts become more desperate, I notice one of my darling twin daughters silently observing me.  Approaching me quietly, she places a reassuring hand on my leg (being far too mini to reach my shoulder) and speaks to me with knowing calmness –

“It’s ok mummy. You can do it. I know you can. You just have to believe in yourself.”

How cute is she?  The cutest. Of course.              

I couldn’t help but recognise the familiar words of positive persuasion, borrowed from Winx Club.  Winx Club is an animated Italian television series which we discovered in Canada two years ago.  It follows the adventures of a girl Bloom and her fairy friends, on earth and the Magical Dimension.  Our whole family loves it.  We have taken on individual fairy personas (yes even daddy) and like to spout the theme song, regularly –

Close your eyes,
and open your heart.
Believe in yourself,
that’s how it starts.
Dreams will come true,
just wait and see
Cause the Magic’s in you,
and the magic’s in me!

 Anyway, it got me thinking (in addition to the fact that I really must increase my weights in pump class); about the magical way children view the world.  More specifically, the manner in which their behavior is a timely reminder on how to be more relaxed and present in our lives. 

And so, I present you with the following list of tips for successful living that I have garnered from my children.  Yes, although my girls are aged 4 and 6 – they are budding experts in the area of positive psychology.  Just ask them.   

The list is in no particular order but I dare you to live like a child for a day, or a week, and see how things pan out.  If you don’t feel like you are experiencing more fun, passion, learning and connection with the important people and priorities in your life, you are quite welcome to come and kick my ass!  Well, not mine actually, but my girls.  This is their list after all and I am merely the messenger.

  • Believe in yourself.  Children don’t place limits on themselves the way adults do. They live in a world where anything is possible and nothing cannot be conjured up with a little imagination.  They are fearless and like to take risks.  Tell them they can’t do something and you know they will attempt it, just to prove you wrong.  Don’t doubt yourself before you have even started. Just do it! 

 

  •  Children are passionate, curious creatures.  Be hungry for knowledge and learning like your children.  Ask questions and research the answers in books or the internet. Learn something new every day. Even if it’s a new word or an idea you have been pondering for years.  Knowledge is power and just imagine how powerful your brain will be in a year after absorbing 365 new words or ideas.  You then get to share that knowledge with your kids – plus you will feel a whole lot smarter.

 

  •  Be authentic and genuine.  Children generally see the best in you. They love you unconditionally.  The only masks they wear are those adorned by princesses and super-heroes.  Be yourself. Like yourself.  Respect yourself.  Easy to say and sometimes difficult to do but in the long term, you will feel better inside and people warm to what’s real.

 

  •  Children are open to, and great at, forming relationships. Take them to the park and when you leave 30 minutes later, they are frantically waving farewell to their new ‘bestie’.  Be friendly to the people you meet. Chat with the cashier at your local supermarket and mean it when you say “Have a happy day.” Make eye contact with the other parents at school and smile at your neighbours or people you pass on the street.  Yes, some will think you are a bit of a weirdo but so what….Even if they don’t smile back the first time, I guarantee they will have a better day. Smiles are infectious and they feel good for all parties involved.

 

  • Start your day early and with the gusto of a kid!  Exercise and be energetic. You are allowed to have a cup of coffee first but as you do, smile and ponder over something fun you intend to do today and then make sure you do it!         

         

  • Persist!  Kids are persistent and tenacious. They don’t give up easily.  “Mummy can I have this? “Mummy can I have this? Now can I have it?” Yes, it’s annoying sometimes, but also valuable in a world where after a while, we just start accepting “No” and stop asking for what we really want.

 

  • Children like to touch, explore, observe every detail and inspire connection.  Stop seeing things from the same old and tired perspective.  That’s how our work and personal lives get in ruts – we only see what we are accustomed to and ignore the rest. Remember how you took in every aspect of a new building or face the first time you saw it as a child?  Try and do that as much as possible. You will undoubtedly feel more alert and alive. You may even regain appreciation for something or someone you have been taking for granted.

 

  •  Finally – Celebrate your successes no matter how small.  Every step you take towards learning, creating a positive environment, or mastering a task that has been eluding you for months, indicates growth and progress.  “You learnt how to catch a ball today?  That’s freaking fabulous.”  Tomorrow, world domination!

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.  ~Joyce Maynard

Live more. Stress Less.

27 Jan

What’s important to you? Take a look at my home environment and you would be spot on for believing that apple pie order is a priority for me.  Yeah, I’m a clean freak and my hubby is a neat freak. Match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. If you visited our house, you would no doubt leave wondering how we manage to keep it looking so spotless and uncluttered, particularly with young kids running round. The dishes are always done, beds made, bathroom disinfected, toys stored in colour-coded boxes and the toilet paper folded into a pretty triangle after every use!  Well, almost.  

It takes a certain level of commitment on a daily basis to live that way but it is high on my list of essentials because it makes me feel calm, collected and like I have my sh*t sorted!  It’s not something I feel compelled to do in order to regain a sense of control in what can sometimes be a very chaotic state of being. Or is it?

Excessive drinking, smoking, shopping, and yes, even cleaning, can be distractions.  They take our focus from one area and move it to another place that offers temporary respite.  These habits are often the things we do unconsciously to fill a gap or get a rush of feel-good endorphins when panic threatens to overwhelm.  Is this a surprise in a modern society that generally values the busiest and seemingly most productive members?  Moreover, am I the only one with kids who feels like daily life is sometimes a battle of epic proportions??  Having one child, let alone three before the age of 30 can be a bit of a challenge.  Just ask my husband!  There are times when you find yourself running around in a blur of ‘doing’ -feeding, bathing, calming, cleaning, playing and screaming. It gets ugly sometimes people!      

Obviously I am far from immune to such distractions, but I’m getting way better at identifying my survival mode and squashing it.  How can I tell when I’m in survival mode? My actions start getting more frantic.  I try and do more in less time and I try and do it all at once.   The stress levels rise, jaw-clenching begins and eventually I get to a point where I am no longer able to think clearly. Sound familiar?

For me, the antidote is a mix of prevention and learning to refocus on the present moment.  It’s the age old saying about having a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance waiting at the bottom for someone to fall.  Making time to read, exercise and relax regularly may seem like lofty ideals when you have a family, work and social life to contend with.  However, I have learnt the hard way that they really do help to prevent my stress levels from rising to a furor.  I like to refer to them as my ‘preventative activities’ or things that I choose to do on a regular basis to stop my mean girl coming out. Nuff said.

Learning or attempting something new, with a certain degree of difficulty can also be hugely beneficial.  Doing difficult things helps foster personal confidence and strength. Over time, these challenges lead to a sense of personal mastery and accomplishment that can boost our limits of endurance.  Maybe it’s tackling a foreign language, learning to play an instrument or revisiting a sport that you last played when you were ten. Initially it can be a little uncomfortable and frustrating.  But with time and determination, a little bit of progress can be made each day. In a year or two, your learning and performance in this area will have improved profoundly.  Additionally, you will reap the residual effects of learned persistence.  The activity in question is going to be different for everyone.  Figure out what is meaningful or just plain fun to you and pursue it.  Not half assed but whole-heartedly!

 Choosing to remain in the present moment is another proven stress buster for me.  It’s a habit that I am still practicing but I’m telling you, it works.  Learning to shake off life’s’ inevitable annoyances is not always easy, but it is possible. You can get irritated when your four year old chats loudly and incessantly, wiping yoghurt on her freshly changed top and demanding you watch her every dance move when you are trying to get some work done.  Similarly it can be disconcerting just how slowly small kids walk when you are already running 10 minutes late for school and have a meeting to get to. In situations like this, I try and remind myself that I can choose to react in an irritated manner or I can take a breath, give a little laugh and just go with it.  Ok, maybe not a laugh, but at least a half hearted sigh.  Either way, we can always choose our response and attitude in any potentially stressful situation and make it work for us.

 I’m not saying I have it all down-pat. Far from it (just ask my husband!).  There are times when I fall back into that stressed out survival mode but I try to remain aware of it and take a moment to refocus myself in the present.  Sometimes it just takes a few quiet deep breaths or a second where I can look into the eyes of my girls and experience that deep sense of connection. Other times, I crank up the stereo when I’m driving and sing loudly and unapologetically, while sucking up some of our beautiful Queensland sunshine.  Immediately I am brought back to the present and able to identify with that core that is free and adventurous.   Boo yah – I’m back in the moment and feeling fine!

The point is – this is your life. Design it the way you want to live it.  You can choose to survive (something so easy to fall into when you have little people to look after), or you can choose to LIVE.   You can get by on those to-do lists and endless obligations, struggling to keep up with the Joneses and buying more stuff which frankly, you do not need. Or, you can dwell in the land of small pleasures, powerful intentions and boundless opportunities.  

Live more. Stress less.  That’s what I’m doing today.

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