On the outside, I am a successful entrepreneur, a mother of two happy kids, a wife of a very loving husband. I am told to be very inspiring, energetic, talented, happy, cheerful, etc. I am also told be a great mom who could well balance life and work. However, my brain is structured like any other humans’ brain: It’s pre-wired with negativity and often fails to “install” positivity. Especially as a mom in this era facing with many daily demands and pressure, I am hit by forgetfulness from time to time and visited by anger and depression once in a while just like any other moms on earth.
It was a recent Tuesday morning. I was removing my invisalign braces to have breakfast. I took out the upper one and was trying to get the lower one out as well. I used my nail to plug onto the edge of the brace in order to pull it out but I couldn’t locate it at all. I ran my fingers on my teeth a few times but there was no clue to be found. I thought, “Didn’t I put them on last night before going to bed?” Then I mentally answered myself, “Yes, I did!” And another question came, “So where could it be? Could it break by itself and fall off when I was sleeping soundly? Impossible.” And tada! It was right in front of me, nicely, quietly and humbly sitting on the dining table. I had removed it before the upper one. My brain was overloaded.
It was the first day of school. After picking up my son, we passed a Chinese restaurant with an inviting sign outside, and my son exclaimed, “Mom, dumplings! Can I have some?” In the spirit of the first day of school, I told my son “Let’s go in! We will celebrate your new school year.” We ordered dumplings for him and a bowl of hot and sour soup for me. We enjoyed the food and we chatted about what we each was up to. We had a truly great time till we walked out to the door to make the payment and I found out I didn’t bring my credit card. The staff were kind enough letting my husband who was on the way home soon after make the payment on my behalf. My mental energy must have been depleted that my brain could no longer hold on to any memory tasks.
It was a Monday afternoon. I was washing the milk warmer when thoughts were racing in my head like clothes were churning in the washing machine at full speed: Stir up the chicken cooking on the stove (Remember! Remember! Else they would be burnt!), write Career Happiness Infinity Zone reports, update Career Happiness Infinity Jump-Starter Group Coaching Program, hang the pants under the sun (else, they’d be so smelly!), sort out and throw the papers on the table, wash my dresses that are not washable in the machine, buy food for the week this afternoon (no more food in the fridge!), buy school backpack and lunch box and ballet shoes for my daughter (she has been to classes without shoes; she outgrow her last year’s pair!), complete that training course, organize happiness workshop for moms, respond to a playdate message,… My brain was going to explode! My muscle was more tense. My breath was speedier. The water ran down my hands when I was at the sink but I didn’t feel it and I accidentally turned the handle to the hot side and my fingers got roasted.
It was a breezy Saturday afternoon. My family and I returned from a day trip to a farm. Rushing into the kitchen to prepare dinner for everyone wat the first thing I did. “How many more minutes will we have dinner, mom?” my son asked. “15 minutes,” I said. “15 minutes again!” he moaned. “Stop it! You need to learn to be grateful!” I snapped. All of the triggers brewing in me throughout the whole week became a tornado. “I can’t stand this any more. There are so many expectations in this house!” I shouted and ran out of the door, sobbing all the way to the bank of a river in our neighborhood. I sat there for half an hour with streaming eyes. The whole world was against me. No one loved me enough. However hard I had tried as a mom, a wife, a daughter, etc., it seemed to be never enough for anyone. My brain was like a torrent of depressing and self-pity thoughts. I was in my own negativity bias cyclone.
The good thing is I have been doing some brain work every single day! Since I was small, I did this work without realizing that I did it, and since I became a brain-based career & happiness coach, I am more aware and disciplined in my practice of hardwiring positivity and de-wiring negativity.
My happiness baseline was already healthy and over the 3-year journey of training my brain, it is uplevelled. I become even calmer, go through challenges with more ease, parent with more peace, and sink into life wonders with a great amount of gratitude and enjoyment. My kids are happier, my husband and I better understand and love each other and I bring more happiness to the world around me. The two most powerful practices I have been applying are:
- Being conscious of when I get overwhelmed, stressed out and feel negative. It sounds to be easy but is extremely hard to do but just like any other skill, with practice, I become much better at noticing my own brain mode and when I do spot my negative thought pattern or racing thoughts, I tell myself they are not helpful.
- Getting calm by taking deep breaths and doing anything else that makes me feel better. Usually, it’s music, arranging the house, cooking, or reading a book. A short cut is a mantra like “When I am calm, everything will be OK.” When I am too overwhelmed, I stop everything and take a walk in nature or embrace wonders life has to offer. This never fails to dampen my “emotion brain”.
- Changing my thinking when my dampened “emotion brain” releases the limited energy back to the “logic brain” that is in charge of high level thinking such as understanding, seeing options, solving problems, etc. so it can work normally. Often, I would try to dig into my triggers and reframe my thoughts or put on a different lens for the same experience. If I find it too hard, I often seek out for someone with fresh perspectives for a chat.
- If I am stressed out with a super long to-do list, I revisit them by asking binary questions “Does doing this help me move closer to my goals?” and when the answer is No, I force myself to remove them from my list. For the rest, I ask “Do I have to do it today? Or it can wait? Till when?” and I put a new date next to it. When I come back to a task after the list review, I repeat this mantra my your head “One by one. One by one. One by one,” and it works like wonder.
- Sinking into the moments, either it be time with my kids or being outdoor, so the good things could be installed into my brain structure. During these times, I put my phone away so I am not distracted and fail to hardwire happiness.
- Articulating my life purpose, being in a career I love that utilizes my unique gifts and seeing my long term vision of the impact I bring to the world serve as powerful happiness anchors. I often spend five minutes in the morning thinking about these as well as my top three things to achieve for the day. They help me sail through each day with solid thought orientation, productivity and a great sense of achievement.
- Expanding the positive experiences at the end of the day by revisiting the three things I am so happy that they happen so I could further hardwire them into my brain.
A happier mom brain makes happier kids, happier families and happier communities. Visit my Diary of a Happier Mom Brain where you will only hear honest, real and personal stories – not the kind of stories about “how to be happy”, “how to be positive” or such sort of theoretical things – of a mom who has been trying not have it all but her all through rewiring her own brain for positivity and happiness. I share weekly posts as happiness is not constant and training my brain is a journey.