Let’s face it, motherhood, while incredibly rewarding, can also be incredibly challenging. It is full of ups and downs, zig-zags and curveballs. Some days are tough. Some days have moments of pure gold. Some days you feel like you’re nailing life, and other days, it all feels a little monotonous and yoghurt-crusted.
With constant demands, lack of sleep, feeling worn-out and pulled in all directions – it’s easy to see why mothers often struggle to feel joyful in everyday life.
But this is where regular gratitude practice can really help. Scientific research has demonstrated that gratitude practice has remarkably positive impacts on the brain and overall wellbeing. It has the ability to rewire the brain to reduce the extent of negativity bias, shifting thinking from negative to positive over time. A change in thinking patterns creates a surge of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine - which contribute to feelings of closeness and happiness. This is not just ‘hearsay’. A multitude of evidence exists which reports a myriad of benefits to daily life.
Science aside, gratitude practice will not miraculously take away the challenging moments of motherhood or the curveballs that life throws at times. But by practicing gratitude, it helps you to notice the good already in your life, and encourages you to make the most of the joyful moments when they do arise. In essence, it helps to centre the motherhood journey by pulling you back to the good, when things get a little topsy-turvy.
Below are five key benefits of using gratitude habitually throughout the motherhood journey.
1. Improved relationship with those you are closest to
It is easy to slip into discontent with those you are closest to. You have an up-close view of each other’s flaws, and over time, these can gain momentum on the ‘irritability train’. Instead of focusing on the less than desirable attributes of your relationship – maybe you feel your partner doesn’t contribute enough around the house, or maybe you think he’s boring, or bossy, or both – gratitude helps to pull you back to focus on the parts you love. What did you see in each other when you met? What little things do they do for you, or your family every day, that you take for granted?
Feeling appreciation for your spouse alters your attitude towards them; it slows down that irritability train and replaces it with a more soft, open and loving vibe. Taking it a step further, by actually expressing your gratitude to your spouse, it helps them to feel valued and appreciated - and when one person feels appreciated, they are more likely to reciprocate that in turn.
When a relationship is happier, it provides a happier, more stable foundation for the whole family home - which flows out to everything else in life.
2. Improved relationship with self
Many mothers are hard on themselves – on their bodies, on what they accomplish every day, and on their general expectations of themselves. Many mothers feel like they not achieving enough, not looking good enough, and generally just ‘not enough’ – all the while they are simultaneously exhausted from trying to do it all, and be it all.
By incorporating gratitude practice into daily life, thinking starts to shift from ‘what I am not achieving’ to bring more attention on everything you are already doing and the valuable contribution you are making to your family. It shifts thinking from ‘I’m sick of this saggy tummy’ and ‘if only I could fit those old jeans again’ to feeling grateful for all your body has done for you – like growing, birthing, and feeding a human being - just as an example. It shifts comparison from other women and families, like ‘look what they have, if only we could live in a house like theirs,’ and ‘if only I could have more freedom like she does, then I would be happier’ to a focus on all the amazing things already existing in your life.
Gratitude shifts the attention from never having done enough, never having enough, and never being good enough, to receiving life with an abundance mindset. It helps to look past the thankless parts of motherhood, to focus more on the growth and purpose that motherhood has added to life.
Consequently, research has reported that gratitude practice reduces social comparison, while increasing self-esteem, self-compassion, and general life satisfaction.
When a mother feels more content with herself, this radiates out to all corners of life.
3. Greater physical health
It is easy to see why being a mother takes its toll on physical health. Sleepless nights, juggling multiple demands, and forgetting to nurture oneself - just to name a few reasons.
Studies have reported that those who practice gratitude regularly, are likely to engage in healthier activities for themselves, like exercise, and attending health-related appointments.
Furthermore, the follow on effects of gratitude have been linked to increased alertness, better sleep (when you can sleep!), stronger immune systems, and lower blood pressure.
Who doesn’t need this?!
4. Increased resilience
For years, research has shown that gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.
If you love anything in life and are vulnerable and open to feeling, then it is almost inevitable that at some point, you will face suffering in some way or another. We cannot control these life events, but we can choose our perspective towards them. This is where gratitude can play a huge part in dealing with hardships. Recognising all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience. It can also help to look for growth opportunities and blessings that have arisen in amongst the greatest of life’s challenges.
In addition, while we all know motherhood can test every part of you – regular practice of gratitude has been shown to help cope with testing times, by reducing the extent of overwhelm, anxiety, and depression.
5. Improved patience levels and connection with children
Think siblings fighting in the car, babies screaming at witching hour for no apparent reason, toddlers throwing all their food off their highchair for the tenth time in the last ten minutes, and teenagers being self-centred and argumentative.
Patience. We all need a lot of it when it comes to raising families.
And this is where gratitude practice intervenes to help. Instead of focussing on the less than desirable attributes of having children, gratitude practice helps to look for their good qualities and re-frame attributes of their behaviour into a more positive light. Instead of thinking ‘why does my toddler always have to scream so much,’ it shifts thinking to focus more on ‘I love how they are determined, I am grateful that they are developing these important skills for life, and I am so happy that they are healthy.’
Practicing gratitude can decrease the extent of yelling and retaliation to a child’s behaviour. It can help improve your relationships with children and increase connection.
Moreover, gratitude encourages you to notice the little joyful moments to be found in having children. Gratitude builds on itself, so the more you practice, the easier it will be to see the good in your children and look for those special moments.
If you keep a gratitude journal, looking back on this will help keep track of the small moments where you heart is touched by your children - a guaranteed way to brighten up any day.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gratitude practice may be one of the most over-looked tools for general well-being in today’s society.Yet it really only needs as little as five minutes a day, plus the cost investment is minuscule compared to the profound benefits it can have on daily life.
So rather than say, why would you practice gratitude – I’d like to turn this around and say, why wouldn’t you?
Remember, our children are only young once.
We only get this journey with them once.
If we can help ourselves to enjoy that journey with them a little more, then why wouldn’t we?
Remember that overall, when a mother thrives, she lifts her whole family up with her in the process.
If you embrace gratitude practice as a habitual daily and weekly practice, it really does have the power to transform your life. Let it. XX