It’s only two weeks into January, but likely many of our well-intentioned resolutions have long been forgotten as we adapt to the craziness of a new year. However, resolutions become much easier to keep when we can see immediate gratification from them. So, instead of resolving to “lose 10lbs” or “spend more and save less,” consider one of these practices from author and social worker Dayna Kurtz — founder of Mother Matters — that have been scientifically proven to positively impact your maternal experience. What’s more? All of them are free of charge, easy to learn and can be performed without a big-time commitment!
1. Apply the right kind of pressure
Mothering, like life, is made up of moments of bliss, and moments of bliss-less-ness. If you’re up to your elbows in spit-up, soiled diapers or toddler tantrums, then it may be the perfect time to reduce the stress and apply the right kind of pressure.
Developed 5000 years ago in China, acupressure is essentially a form of massage that works similarly to acupuncture. Instead of using specialized needles however, the practitioner uses fingers to apply pressure to particular points on the body. This makes acupressure an easy and effective tool for self-treatment.
Constant care-giving necessitates that your mind, body and spirit be replenished. Licensed acupuncturist Ashley Flores, of Four Flowers Wellness in Chicago, explains that treating the “Heart 3” point can bring a general sense of calm, and relieve tension in the neck and low back —common “keepers” of stress. (Breastfeeding moms may find treating the “Heart 3” point to be especially helpful in relieving the tension that results from hunching over to nurse.)
How to do it:
Extend your hand and arm out, palm upward, with a slight bend in your elbow
Place the thumb of your opposite hand on your elbow crease and slide it gently downward toward the bony portion of your elbow. Between the end of the crease and this bony area, there is a meaty, fleshy bit of skin where the Heart 3 point resides.
Apply pressure to this area for thirty seconds to a minute—enough so that the skin under your thumb nail turns white. Any tension should begin to soften as pressure is applied.
Repeat on the other side. Remember to breathe throughout.
2. Care for yourself by caring for another mother
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology tested the pop-culture concept of “paying it forward,” to see if the idea would hold up under scientific scrutiny. A group of undergraduate students was recruited to perform brief, one-time-only acts of random kindness. These were simple actions—holding open a door for someone, extending a compliment, paying a parking-meter or offering someone a snack. The study demonstrated a positive emotional impact on both the receivers of the actions (as might be expected), but also on the givers of the actions, with women showing even greater benefit than men.
This year, make a choice to “pay-it-forward” to another mother in the neighborhood or a “mommy and me” class. Gestures don’t have to be grand, either. Something as simple as a text message to let another mother know she is being thought of, or a free e-greeting sent with love, is sufficient. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once this year, chances are, both of you will feel better.
3. Secure 5 Minutes of Silence
Whether you have to beg, borrow, or steal to get it, make some quiet time part of your daily mothering ritual in the New Year. This may seem a tall task if you’re at home with an infant or toddler, but five minutes is all that you need. And it’s more than worth it, because silence is golden when it comes to the mother-mind. A study published in Brain, Structure and Function revealed an increase in the production of new cells in the hippocampus’ of mice—the part of the brain responsible for tasks such as learning and memory. Everyone would welcome a boost in brain function, wherever you are on your motherhood journey! Consider reserving some time during your little one’s nap, or after bedtime. Have a seat, close your eyes, breathe deep, and enjoy the silence.
Dayna Kurtz is a leading authority on the subject of women transitioning to motherhood and serves as Director of the Anna Keefe Women’s Center at the Training Institute for Mental Health in Manhattan. She is a licensed social worker and NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer with an additional certification in training the pre and postnatal client. Dayna is a contributor to “The Doctor’s Book of Natural Remedies,” (Rodale, 2018.) She serves as a “Real Answers” expert on TheBump.com and has written or been consulted on articles for the websites of The Today Show, Popsugar, Pregnancy & Newborn, Big City Moms, Pregnancy Corner, WAGmagazine among others, and writes the “Mother Matters” blog on the Huffington Post. A sought-after speaker, Dayna regularly presents on the subject of mothercare.
Ashley Flores, LAc. Skype interview, February 11, 2016.
Pressman, S.D. (1), M.P. (1) Cross, and T.L. (2) Kraft. “It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’ style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being.” Journal Of Positive Psychology 10, no. 4 (July 4, 2015): 293-302. Scopus®, EBSCOhost (accessed April 8, 2017).
Kirste, Imke, Nicola, Zeina, Kronenberg, Golo, Walker, Tara L, Liu, Robert C., and Kempermann, Gerd. “Is Silence Golden? Effects of Auditory Stimuli and Their Absence on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis.” Springer Berlin Heidelberg, October 30, 2013.