What better time for a mom to do a deep dive into self-care habits than Mother’s Day? This once-a-year celebration gives your children and husband the opportunity to put you on a pedestal — or at least craft a handmade card — and let you know you’re appreciated and loved. But chances are, by day’s end the pampering will be over and you’ll be back taking care of everyone but yourself.
Since you probably spend most of your waking (and dreaming) hours tending to the family, it’s hard to even think about self-care. But a healthier mom is a happier mom — and one who just might live a decade longer.
A study published in the journal Circulation revealed that women who followed five healthy lifestyle habits lived about 14 years longer than women who didn’t. No surprise, those factors are exercising at least 30 minutes a day, eating a nutritious diet, not smoking, drinking in moderation, and maintaining a healthy weight.
That might seem like an intimidating list to tackle along with a day packed full of babies, toddlers, teens, laundry, cooking, shopping, and more, but getting there doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be fun. Start small, build, and pretty soon you’ll have a healthier, happier life.
Here are three healthy habits moms can start today.
1. Think before you eat
While it may sound gross to people who don’t have kids, moms routinely nosh on their kids’ leftovers. It’s second nature for many. After all, who wants to see food go to waste? But do you have any idea how many calories are in that half-eaten serving of mac and cheese? Or that quarter pancake smothered in syrup? About 150 in each, to be exact. Hoovering your kids’ plates can wreak havoc on your diet, as can snacking. Your 4-year-old might need to eat between meals, but you probably don’t. Avoid unintentional calorie loading by eating three healthy meals a day, practicing portion control, and leaving the fish crackers for the little ones.
“Working with thousands of women, we see over and over again that many women don’t eat enough protein,” Healthy Habits Happy Moms co-founder and nutrition coach Lauren Koski tells Healthline. “Protein is critical for many bodily functions, but it also helps to keep you fuller longer and will help you keep more of your muscle mass.”
Good lean protein sources include oatmeal, fish, broccoli, lean beef, quinoa, eggs, chicken breast, almonds and cottage cheese.
2. Get that booty movin’
Devan Kline, personal trainer and co-owner of Burn Boot Camp along with his wife, Morgan, realizes that busy moms don’t have a lot of time to devote to getting fit, and he suggests alternative approaches to exercise.
“My favorite core exercise in the world is a plank,” Kline says. “Do one plank every single day and watch how strong your core muscles get.” He also suggests joining the kids for aerobic activities like tag, chasing a ball around the yard, jumping rope or stroller jogging. You and your children will love the time you spend together and you’ll burn some serious calories too.
“We often get asked what the best type of exercise is and our answer is always the same. Do what you enjoy,” Koski says. “In order to build a sustainable movement habit, the most important part is that you enjoy what you’re doing. Any movement is beneficial, so, whatever you choose will be great. My personal favorite forms of movement are simply walking and resistance training.”
3. Just chill, momma
“If you’re in a spiral of self-loathing, no healthy changes are going to be ‘good enough’ to make you feel better about yourself,” says Koski. “Working to change your inner dialogue is crucial in addition to the physical changes you are looking to make. And changing habits from a place of love and caring for yourself is so much easier and more enjoyable than trying to change from a place of punishment for not being good enough as you are.”
Embracing Simple blogger Christina Tiplea, who fully recognizes that cleaning house and minding after kids are a never-ending story, suggests you ask yourself, “What can I do to make this moment more enjoyable?”
Scrubbing pots and pans? Christina recommends you crank up your favorite tunes and let the music carry you forward. Waiting in line for school pick-up is a perfect time to crack open a book or thumb through a magazine. And a mountain of laundry almost folds itself if you’ve got a fun TV show running in the background.
Additionally, a good way to carve out time for self-care is to undo the habit of obsessively checking into your social media accounts. We’ve all been there, a quick peek at Facebook or Pinterest and poof, an hour disappears. Give yourself a social media time-out and resolve to ignore your smart phone or iPad for at least three hours. Then stretch it to five. You won’t miss anything important and you might find yourself in a calmer, more productive place.
It may sound obvious, but sleep is critical for calm as well. It’s a health building-block that often gets a short shrift — especially with babies and toddlers in the house. Healthy Habits Happy Moms suggests that clients prioritize sleep before trying to change anything else. Not an easy prescription, but you can try to catch a wink when your baby naps, hire a babysitter for a couple of hours so you can grab a few z’s, or trade off feedings with a partner if baby takes a bottle.
Making just a few lifestyle changes in these three areas can help set you on the path to a healthier you — one who can better enjoy the ups and cope with the downs of motherhood. And as any kid can tell you, a mellow, healthy mom is a thing of wonder.