Thursday, February 2, 2017

Making Me a Better Mother and Person (Via 10 Tips)

I am truly happy and fulfilled most days. But you can always improve on your life, right? I have been contemplating the things in my life that gratify me and those things that I would like to improve for my own sense of well-being.

Do you ever interact with people that, seemingly, everything that could go wrong in their lives... does. All the time. It's the people that frequently start social media posts with "FML....".

And I wonder about the chicken/egg theory. Has the universe really piled onto this person for the majority of their life causing a constant gloomy effusion. Or does their perpetual negative outlook cause the end result?

I prefer to think that I am the creator of my own destiny and I need to make positive choice every day to design the life I want: filled with love, laughs, adventures, health and well being.

The following is a list of 10 actionable items that I can use to inspire even further change for myself:

1. Get better sleep.
I don't need more, per se, but I need to sleep well. This means shutting the kitten out of my room, keeping temperature not too hot or cold, not drinking a gallon of water before bed so that I have to get up in the middle of the night.

There are so many benefits to better sleep:
  • Improved memory
  • Longer life
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Better creativity
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower stress
  • ... and so much more.
2. Exercise.
Yes, I know. We all know this is key to a healthier, happier life. But how can we keep this a habit? I have done pretty well for about 2 years now. For me, it is finding things that interest me (most likely something outside such as hiking or snowshoeing) and having accountability. Accountability can come in the form of a workout partner, a fitness challenge, or any plethora of things. My best accountability over the past few years has been my Fitbit. I feel motivated to keep up with the steps of my friends. I find it hard to say, "I don't have time today because..." when I see my mother-of-four friends getting her steps in or my 80-hour-workweek friend beating my steps. This small motivation cuts wayyy back on my excuses.

3. Get sunshine.
This is harder in the winter, but it does fit in with number 2 for me. But, even if I don't go outside for a hike, I can still sit on my sunporch and drink my coffee and take a minute or two to soak up some rays. There are so many benefits:
  • Boosts mood
  • Boosts immunity
  • Provides vitamin D

4. Simplify my wardrobe.
I go through and do this periodically, but nothing stresses my out more than starting my day with the dreaded indecisive closet standoff. I have recently discovered what a capsule wardrobe is and am seriously considering that option. But, right now, I will just narrow my choices by removing ill-fitting, uncomfortable or out of season clothes. The benefits include:
  • Creating more time.
  • Remove decision fatigue and gain more energy in the morning.
  • Create more space and reduce visual clutter that overwhelms me.

5. Travel somewhere. Anywhere.
It can even be an adventure in your own state. Staying in your own bubble can make you stagnant, irritable. There are also many health benefits to travel as well:
  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased heart disease risk
  • Improved brain health

6. Keep my home organized and clean.
Even watching the TV show Hoarders stresses me out. There is nothing better than walking in your front door to a clean home smelling like your favorite candle. And there is also nothing worse than walking in after a long day to a sink full of dishes and smelly trash.

I have 3 simple tools:
  • Enlist the kids to do chores, clean their own rooms, take care of their own laundry.
  • Use an app. Tody is my favorite and it helps me to keep track of which chores need to be done.
  • Work in small doses. Bring a load of laundry when you come downstairs in the morning. Wipe the mirror clean after you brush your teeth. Vacuum a room during a commercial break. Empty the dishwasher while pasta water boils. If I do chores in small increments, I don't feel overwhelmed or get stuck dedicating an entire Saturday to cleaning.
7. Leave early.
For everything. One of the most stressful things for a person or family (and all those surrounding them) is a person always running late. You can see stress level rise when I see parents running in the door to sports practice 5 minutes after it started or a room full of people waiting for that last attendee to a meeting. And it is the same people that are always late. So leave earlier. Take the time you think you need to leave and leave 15 minutes earlier. A recent study named being late  as NUMBER ONE cause of stress. It causes your heart to beat faster, you to go into fight or flight mode and your stomach to get upset. Who wants all that unnecessary stress... fix it! Leave early!

8. Date Nights
We need date nights.  There are always other things to do, other excuses why we can't, but it is absolutely necessary to make quality time for those important to us. You can set your own time frame. Can you commit to once a week, once a month, whatever. Do what you can, but set aside that time to spend with your significant other with no distractions. It does not even have to be a night out. Ask friends to take your kids for a sleepover and have a nice dinner in.

You often hear of people rekindling relationships with date nights. How about we just keep the love flame burning so that there is no need to rekindle. There are a plethora of reasons quality one-on-one time really keeps the relationship strong:

  • The ability to relax. Even though you may be with your partner 5 or 6 hours a night, are you truly enjoying that person as you each run in 15 different directions? I doubt it.
  • Communication. You need that alone time to actual make a real connection and find out what is going on in that other persons mind other than who's turn it is to empty the dishwasher or who has to drop off a soccer tomorrow.
  • Commitment. You commit to getting yourself to work every day. You commit to feeding your children every day. You commit to getting your child to piano practice every week. Why doesn't your partner/relationship deserve that same level of commitment?
  • Romance. You need romance, passion, flirting... and it's just not happening at your kids basketball game or teacher conference.

9. Family Meals
I have to do it. It may not be all of us, it may not be dinner, it may not be a fancy home cooked meal, but we need to get together, sit around a table (or realistically the kitchen island) and connect for at least a few minutes. Sometimes this means a later dinner for us, sometimes it means one kid is missing, sometimes it means we quickly throw leftovers together and call it dinner. Whatever it may be, it is our time to connect as a family.

Many studies over the years have cited family dinner as one of the most important things you can provide your children. Some of the reasons:

  • Better academic performance.
  • Higher self-esteem.
  • Greater sense of resilience.
  • Lower risk of substance abuse.
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy.
  • Lower risk of depression.
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.
  • Lower rates of obesity.
10. Be Thankful and Grateful.
It almost seems cliché to say as it is said so very often. But I think it is so very true. I feel as though the more I am grateful for and out that out in the universe, the more I have to be grateful for. I also need to instill this in my girls. I feel like children (mine included) are slowly becoming more entitled and that is a downward spiral I do not want to embark on.

And the benefits are bountiful:
  • Gratitude improves mental and physical health.
  • It reduces aggression.
  • It improves sleep.
  • It improves self esteem.
I know, this seems like a lot to work on. But, like I started out with, I am creating my own destiny and I can slowly improve on so many things and make this life amazing... or I can keep at my status quo and get to the end with, "What the hell did I do with my life?"

It is my choice.

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