My kids were born 18 months apart. This meant many sleepless nights, which gave way to a general haze of exhaustion. I found myself with a shorter fuse and a heightened level of anxiety while reacting to my babies' every need. Someone seemed to always be crying, and it was often me.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises helped me finally take control of my day and stay calm and present as a new mom.
Science confirms that meditation—or momitation—can help you cope with the demands of motherhood. A study published in the Archives of Women's Mental Health found that women who used a mindfulness practice in the postpartum period exhibited significantly less anxiety, stress, and psychological distress than women who did not. The former group also experienced more self-compassion and greater awareness. And they were less judgmental and reactive.
There's even an added bonus: Meditation may help you reach a healthy post-pregnancy weight. Researchers from U.C.–San Francisco found that meditation can play a role in helping women manage their eating habits, which can lead to weight loss over time.
Interested in learning more? Here are simple ways to practice meditation and become a healthier and happier mama who isn't one finger-painting mishap away from a meltdown:
1. Find your happy place.
Choose a location in your house that represents peace for you. It may be the chair you used to rock your baby to sleep or another quiet corner of your home.
2. Determine your meditation moment.
This should be the time of day when you are most likely to be able to sit peacefully and uninterrupted. I prefer first thing in the morning before my little ones rise. It's likely in the wee hours before the sun comes up, but it sets the tone for the entire day.
3. Commit to daily meditation.
You deserve it. So carve out at least five minutes a day to meditate. This is an act of self-love that will reap benefits for you and your entire family.
There is no longer a baby pressing up against those lungs, so make the most of that extra real estate and take slow, deep breaths to fully expand your diaphragm and calm your mind in the process.
5. Use the power of light to relax you.
My intro to meditation occurred in sixth grade when I had a teacher who used this exercise to calm our class. She had us visualize a warm white light traveling through our body and relaxing every muscle in the process. This tool was amazingly effective in calming down a class full of tweens—just as it will be for your most stressful moments as a mom.
6. Create a "momtra."
This is a word or phrase you repeat over and over to help you quiet your mind and enter a deep state of relaxation. Ease, peace, and patience are a few great examples for busy moms.
7. Travel to your favorite place in your mind.
If you can't afford to take a family vacation or the thought of bringing little ones on a long plane ride gives you pause, go there in your mind. Use all five senses to experience your ideal destination. Picture yourself relaxing on a beach in Hawaii or stand-up paddle boarding in the Bahamas. Taste an umbrella coconut drink; hear the sound of waves lapping on the shore; smell the surf and feel the sand between your toes. Whatever it is, find a location that represents relaxation to you, and mentally book your ticket there today. Bonus: You'll get all of the benefits of paradise without the hassle and headaches of air travel.
Try these techniques and see how it helps you relax and become more present in parenthood. Your children may even take on your newfound state of calm making for a happier, healthier, and more mindful family. Mamaste!