Thursday, 13 November 2014
Mums, here's how to get fit and happy
It might seem crazy what Zoé McDonald is about to say but clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do
Get moving outside
For a double whammy mood-boost, the cocktail of exercise-induced endorphins plus the feel-good factor of natural light and green space is pretty hard to beat. TIP We know that making time for a proper workout can be nigh on impossible when you have small children, but fitness trainer Sarah Maxwell, who is a postnatal specialist and has worked with celebrities and big organisations, says outdoor play with your children is the key.
'Formal exercise can be pretty boring. Playing frisbee, a brisk walk with the dog (incorporating some interval exercising, or pushing your buggy), or chasing/sprint training games can be done with your children. So my number one tip is: "Don't stand around when you take your kids to the park.'''
Sarah says that when she's pushed for time, she runs up and down the stairs in her house, or spends 15 minutes on the trampoline after her kids are in bed. All these snippets of activity add up over the course of the day, and will boost your mood and your fitness.
Nix the gremlin within
Your critical inner voice can become so influential that it gets mistaken for the truth. In Be Happy (£10.99, Hay House), Dr Robert Holden talks of asking students to rate their capacity for kindness towards others and themselves. Overwhelmingly, people tend to be kinder to others than they are to themselves. As parents, a capacity for virtually limitless kindness is called for, but it's a quality mothers scrimp on for themselves.
TIP: 'Your critical inner voice will be at its strongest when you're fraught and tired,' says leading hypnotherapist Georgia Foster, a mother of 17-month-old triplets and creator of The Stress Less Mind ebook (£12.99). 'Once it sets in, it causes catastrophic thinking, leading to anxiety and fear about the future.' Foster's advice is to take a moment to breathe in fully, then 'breathe out' the unhelpful thought, replacing it with a memory that triggers positive feelings. 'Stick pictures that trigger memories of love, safety and fun around the house. A glimpse of your smiling children on a blissful holiday will help reinforce positivity.' Persevere with this pattern, she says, and eventually it will become a habit.
Do the frenergy test
Ask yourself if you feel drained or boosted after spending time with someone. A lot of the bonding between new mums is based on discussing the difficulties and challenges of the new role you have in common, but those who are relentlessly negative can bring you down.
Researchers on the Framingham Heart Study in America, created to identify risk factors for heart disease, found that those surrounded by happy people are more likely to report feeling happy themselves.
TIP: Don't worry, we're not going to suggest a friend cull. Georgia says it's best to combat negativity by offering the flipside. 'The way you see yourself as a parent impacts on your enjoyment of motherhood, and interactions with friends feed into this. Everyone has bad days, but if you get sucked into an 'isn't it awful' conversation, try saying, quite directly: 'Sorry, talking like this is just going to make me feel worse today,' and change the subject.
Studies show that regular voluntary work boosts happiness and health, increasing feelings of social connectivity and warding off depression. Volunteers have also been found to have lower blood pressure, and altruistic actions are related to longevity.
TIP: Even if you can't volunteer formally, visiting an elderly neighbour once a week, or helping regularly at a playgroup, will give you the helper's high. 'Volunteering makes us feel more connected to other people and the wider community,' says Dr Ruth Lowry of the University of Chichester. 'If you volunteer in a way that uses your skills, you're also increasing your competence, which has a positive effect on your confidence. These three qualities – connectedness, competence and autonomy – have been identified by psychologists as being key to satisfaction.'
High five yourself
There are studies showing that those who celebrate and note their achievements, taking time to congratulate themselves, are more content. But when you spend a lot of your time focused on motherhood, you can become self-critical and forget to celebrate achievements that aren't as obvious as career highs.
TIP: Here's a list of things Gurgle says count as achievements. We order you to reward yourself now!
1. Managing to 'keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,' (as Kipling so eloquently put it). Think supermarket meltdown.
2. Having a fully stocked bag (snacks, drinks, Calpol, spare clothes, SPF) and not needing to ask another mum for something you've forgotten, all day long.
3. Climbing out of your warm bed for the squillionth time to offer your child reassurance when their call pierces your precious sleep.
4. Making it to the bottom of the laundry pile.
5. Actually making it out of the house before 10am.