Because I suffer from depression, optimism doesn’t come easily for me. I worry about this because I want my children to have a happy mother. I worry that if they see me depressed or anxious, they’ll be depressed or anxious too. I worry that I’m not able to give them my all or my best when I lose my optimism and perspective. So, I am continually trying to improve and regulate my moods. I am continually searching for ways to keep myself happy so I can focus on raising my children the way I should.
Over the years, I have tried countless strategies to lift my mood and keep it high. Some I’ve adopted; there have been many I’ve rejected. But through all the years, I’ve found a few simple things that, if done daily, help me to stay optimistic. My daily must-do’s are as follows:
- Get Outside. Sunshine and fresh air have a calming, uplifting effect. Whether it’s frigidly cold or blisteringly hot, get outside. Some days I count walking to the mailbox. Sometimes all I can do is stick my head out the door for a few seconds. No matter how short or long, getting outside is a vital part of my day.
- Move. I usually try to combine this with getting outside by walking or running. Other days, I get down on the floor and play with my kids, dance to a song on the radio, or walk up and down the stairs two extra times—anything to move my body. It helps me feel more alive and makes me grateful to be alive.
3. Do Something That Will Stay Done. This one is vital to my sanity. Dishes, laundry, cleaning, homework, diapers—all of these need to be done again and again, day after day. It can be draining and discouraging to re-do everything you’ve just done. Each day, I do something, no matter what it is, that I will never have to do again. Some days, especially when I’m dealing with babies and small children, I choose a very small task. There have been days when it was one stitch on a cross-stitch project. Knit one stitch, shred one paper, make a craft, whatever it takes to be able to point to something and say, “I did that.” A sense of accomplishment is important to keeping an optimistic attitude.
- Write Down One Good Thing and One Good Deed. This is an idea I’ve stolen from my mother. As a teenager, I was often depressed and moody. She instituted this practice and we did it together at bedtime. She would ask me every night, “What was one good thing that happened today?” Then she would ask, “What was one thing you did for someone else today?”
Knowing that I would have to answer those questions at night kept me focused on them during the day. Service always lifts you out of your own troubles, and looking for small ways to serve every day kept my mind in a better place. Mom also always said, “You will find whatever it is you look for.” When I looked for good things to report, I found them.
None of these items are a cure-all. And sometimes I still need help to stay optimistic. But I know that when I take care of myself in these ways, I am more cheerful, more balanced, and a better mother.
QUESTION: What are the tools you use every day to stay optimistic? Are there ways you can do more of them, or do them more regularly?
CHALLENGE: Choose one of the ideas above or one of your own and incorporate it into your schedule. If it doesn’t work for you, try another and another until you find those small and simple things that will boost your mood and clear your mind.