As I approach my 37th birthday, I never would have guessed that I would be where I am in my life right now. Back in the day, late 30s seemed so incredibly old. Ironically though, I am the happiest I have ever been. I am not worried about what others think about me, I have grown in wisdom and experience and I am excited to continue to grow and learn even more about myself. I can only serve my family and friends and community if I first take care of me. At one point when I was younger, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a more negative view of life and took on the role of victim in may ways. Living the optimistic life has served me far better and I would encourage anyone to begin living optimistically now. Don't wait any longer.
Do something for yourself every day. What makes you happy or gives you rest? Is taking an extra five minutes stretching in bed in the morning helpful as you wake up? Spending some time in the evening crocheting or winding down with a good book? Even very small things like staying hydrated or stepping outside for two minutes of sunshine can make a big difference in your mood. Taking care of yourself first means that it will be far easier to take care of others.
Live in the Moment
Slow down. I cannot stress this enough. It took me years of hard life lessons to figure this out. Every moment matters and if we don't stop and look around and enjoy the right now, it will be gone forever. Enjoy the breeze fluttering through an open window or the sounds of your children's laughter. Watch them sleep...they will never be this age again. Since my eyes have been opened to the smallest moments of life, I have taken on a zest for life and an attitude of contentment that I have never felt before.
Let the Past be the Past
Sometimes the past is hard to forget or to let go of. Believe me, I know. Especially when parts of the past try to sneak up on you and infiltrate your life again. As much as you can, try to put the past to rest. You cannot change it, but you can certainly learn from it as you move forward in life. Past experiences can have a very positive impact on our right now life because of the wisdom gained. This does not, however, mean that the past should live with us and have control of us.
Turn Negatives into Positives
If you are anything like me, a rainy day can make you in to a total grouch. I used to lay around in bed and moan and groan at the world when it rained. I yelled at the kids because we were all too confined and driving each other crazy. Now a rainy day equals retrieving tons of blankets and pillows and curling up on the couch together to watch a movie. Or it might entail a jumping on the bed party, something that is reserved only for special occasions. When you are feeling down and negative, what can you do right away to see the positive in the situation?
Are you someone who loves to host playdates and make pinterest-worthy projects? Awesome! Are you introverted and need your space? Great! Don't let self imposed expectations make you feel guilty. You are probably expecting so much more out of yourself than anyone else is. I have a friend who always apologizes for the state of her house when I come over. She has very young children and she is a fantastic mom. I truly could care less about what her house looks like because I just enjoy our time together. Please don't be afraid to be yourself, because you will feel so much better if you let go of what you think others are expecting of you. I know I would rather see a happy mom with happy kids in a messy house than a frantic mom and burnt out kids in a perfect house.
Living an optimistic life doesn't mean that everything is all meadows filled with daisies and running through the fields of sunshine laughing all the time without a care in the world. Being realistic is a large part of living optimistically. When you are realistic about life, there are fewer let downs and missed expectations.
Practice Daily Rhythms and Rituals
What can you do each day that will help you get out of bed feeling your best? Do you look forward to morning quiet time before the kids get up? A short walk with the dog? Your morning cup of coffee? Time alone with each child and/or your spouse? What are some rituals you can establish for yourself for each and every day that can center you?
Surround Yourself with Happiness
Do you feel that your house or apartment is a home? Is it a place of joy and refuge? Your home does not have to be perfect to be happy. Your children's toys surrounding you may be a happy reflection of motherhood. Personal pictures and word art may be lovely memories for you to enjoy as you walk about your home doing the ordinary every day chores. For me, I love having a cozy corner with pillows and blankets and twinkle lights. I have pictures from my Instagram hanging with paperclips on twine, full of memories from last summer. Pretty baskets are scattered throughout my apartment to collect odds and ends if I feel like I need to do a quick tidying up. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Myquillin Smith, “It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Her words were a game changer for me.
Do More of What You Love and Less of What you Don't
I'm not saying that if you don't love cooking to stop making meals for your family. But are there things you are doing that you don't need to do? That you are doing because you feel you must in order to be socially acceptable? Here is a fact. We think about ourselves way more than anyone else does. Anything that you are doing because of what someone else might think of you...re-consider your motives. If you don't love it and you don't have to do it, stop. If taking your children to playgroup is a nightmare, but you absolutely adore the time you spend baking with them...well, which would you rather be doing?
Whether it's a pedicure, a massage, coffee with a friend, a weekend away all by yourself...please treat yourself. You absolutely deserve it. You are person with needs and feelings and you do so much for others, I know you do. I am giving you permission to take some much needed time for yourself, guilt free. Having something like this to look forward to can help you get through even the toughest days. Write down your treat on your calendar and circle it, highlight it, whatever makes it noticeable, and allow it to catch your eye and remind you that you are worthy of time for you!
You are enough...you are more than enough. Life is too short let it pass by in constant negativism and guilt. You are worth so much more than that.
Journalist: Heather Legge