“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
When you have a new baby, that quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off feels truer than ever!
Being mindful helps you notice and appreciate motherhood moment by moment, even when you’re juggling all the responsibilities and activities that come with taking care of a tiny human.
Mindfulness is simple, but it takes practice. Luckily, practice can be enjoyable and doesn’t require special skills, training or equipment! Simply put, being mindful is about being in the moment and not getting carried away with busy-ness, planning, worrying or overthinking. It’s also about being kind to yourself and others. This means if you do get caught up or distracted, just notice that you’ve gotten off track and without harshly judging yourself for it, gently return to paying attention to what’s happening now.
The effects of practicing mindfulness can be both immediate and cumulative, so we wanted to share a few techniques new moms can try right now to help you keep your sanity and feel great everyday.
Techniques moms can try for everyday mindfulness:
1.) Mindful walking with baby – Taking a simple stroll down the block, in your local park or even shopping mall can be exercise for your mind as well as your body. To make your walk mindful, pay attention to how each step feels as you move your foot through each step. If you like, you can count your steps, +/or try to coordinate them to your breathing. Take a few moments to really take in your surroundings, and appreciate the sights and sounds. Even the little things – how does the handle on the stroller feel? What is the air like, is there a slight breeze? You can even describe what you see, feel and hear to your baby as you’re walking. Have fun with this!
2.) “Breath”feeding while feeding – Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, take a moment or two to tune in to your little one’s breathing +/or to your own, while you feed your baby. If you like, you can try pacing your breathing with this technique borrowed from yoga:
- Inhale deeply yet smoothly through your nose as you mentally count to four.
- Pause for two to four more counts, gently holding your breath.
- Exhale your breath steadily through your nose for eight counts.
- IMPORTANT: Adjust the counts according to how you feel. If it’s at all stressful for you to inhale, hold or exhale for that long, make the count lower. The idea is to just have your exhale be longer than your inhale, and to have a slight pause at the top of your inhale.
3.) Take a “SNAP” – This mindfulness trick dubbed SNAP by Shonda Moralis, author of Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms stands for “Stop, Notice, Accept, and Pay attention.” It’s an easy, quick, effective practice you can do whenever you can squeeze in a minute or two to step back and relax, or to calm yourself when you find you’re on the verge of (or even in the midst of) an emotional storm. Simply follow these steps we’ve adapted from Moralis’s description:
- Stop and pause – close your eyes if you can. You may even want to go into a room by yourself if that’s available.
- Notice how you feel – are you tense, relaxed, hyper, tired, hungry, thirsty? Are your shoulders hunched? Is your brow knitted? Your jaw clenched?
- Acknowledge how you feel without judgment. If it’s something you want to change and are able to change, come back to that or work on doing that after this moment. For right now, just accept what is, and offer yourself some compassion.
- Pay attention to your breath +/or the sensations around you.
- OPTIONAL (but highly recommended if possible): Smile! Thank yourself for this act of self-care.
That’s it. You’ve SNAP-ped!
4.) Have a mindful tea or coffee break – Even if you’re drinking an herbal leaf or decaf, try this mindful method to drink your beverage to feel refreshed. The idea is to experience every action of having a cuppa, from listening to the kettle gurgle as it heats to savoring the taste of the drink before gulping it down! Writer Ed Halliwell describes the process: here.
5.) Relax with a Mental Body Scan – While you’re sitting in a comfortable chair, or lying down on your back (knees can be up or down,) try a guided body scan technique. It can be done is as little as 3 minutes, or you can take a longer time with it. (We love using the free app Insight Timer, and browsing the Body Scan category. There are so many wonderful ones to try.) The basic idea is to, in a relaxed position, “tune in” to or focus your attention mentally on areas of your body from your head to toes, without judgment or analyzation, just checking in to see how each area feels. A great time to do this if you don’t have the opportunity to pause during the day is to try it in the morning before you get out of bed or at night before falling asleep.
We know mommin’ ain’t easy, but hopefully, these little tricks and tips are useful, fun and refreshing for you, and can add just a little more joy and ease to your day!