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The Comprehensive Guide to Your Happiest Pregnancy

In a perfect world, a woman’s pregnancy would be the happiest time of her life. Birds sing, flowers bloom, and everything seems full of possibility.

Except, sometimes it isn’t.

Growing a person is often stressful and uncomfortable, and all the unknowns can be enough to send even the most pragmatic mothers-to-be into a tailspin.

Finding happiness and appreciating the process can feel like one more to-do on an ever growing list. But it’s not hard to do if you know where to look.

You can’t control everything, but you can control (a lot of) your mental well-being during pregnancy

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a behavioral psychologist, has spent her career studying how genetics, intentional activity, and circumstance affects the happiness variance within a population.

Life circumstances, like money, have very little long-term impact on our happiness.

Lyubomirsky found that if two, magically identical people suddenly faced different circumstances – one won the lottery, for example – then, over time, the lottery winner may only experience up to 10% percent more happiness than the other.

On the other hand, our lifestyle is almost as important as our genetics when it comes to happiness.


12 PROVEN INTENTIONAL ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE HAPPINESS

Express Gratitude | Cultivate Optimism | Avoid Social Comparison | Practice Kindness | Nurture Relationships | Create Coping Strategies | Forgive | Practice Flow Experiences | Savor Life’s Joys | Commit to Goals| Seek Spirituality | Physical Wellness

pregnancy hapiness


Develop your coping strategies

 

three main stressors of new parenthood

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Develop and maintain a balanced partnership

Feeling inadequate?

 Simplify your life and your expectations

Feeling Lost?

Continue to prioritize what gives you an identity

 

three main stressors of new parenthood - self-care during pregnancy

 

You’re likely trying to absorb a mountain of information as you prepare for the new arrival. Instead of spinning your wheels in the world of possibilities, try to devote your efforts to the most probable stressors, and then plan accordingly.

 

13 intentional self-care activities for coping:

  • Have a discussion with your partner about…as much as you can

    Be sure to cover birth, labor, and postpartum support. The list below can help you get started.

     

    Discussion Prompts for your partner

  • Find control in the uncontrollable 

    New technology can help you learn about what contractions feel like to you and automatically track and time contractions so you can feel more confident on the big day.

     

    TRACK CONTRACTIONS AT HOME

  •  

    Create a “postpartum help schedule” with your friends in a Google Calendar.

  •  

    Hire a Doula

    They can be your advocate and help you assert your wishes during labor.

  •  

    Simplify and Streamline

    Clean out your email inbox. Organize your paperwork. Take a trip to Goodwill (don’t come home with anything, unless there’s a great crib, or something). 

  •  

    Set an auto email response to go live after your due date.

    Hi friends, we had a baby!

     

  •  

    Find a good therapist–maybe someone who specializes in post-partum support.

    Be kind to your brain. Its buzzing with extra hormones.

  •  

    Take a parenting class with your partner.

    We’re all newbies.

  •  

    Strategize ways that you and your partner can each continue to pursue your hobbies and passions. 

  •  

    Take inventory of your commitments and politely excuse yourself from the ones that aren’t necessary or gratifying. 

    No thank you, Aunt Gertrude.

  •  

    Start reframing your perspective

    Rid yourself of useless stress and focus on things that truly matter.

  •  

    Reset expectations and learn to be okay with complete vs. perfect.

    Complete is impressive enough!

  •  

    Find a community of fellow new moms to support you.

    You’re all going through the same thing.


Express gratitude, cultivate optimism, and savor life

 

happy pregnancy

 
 

Matt Killingsworth’s Happiness Study has shown that a wandering mind can ruin even the most enjoyable activities. Instead of spending now thinking about later or before, focus on what you’re doing this very moment. Habits of mindfulness are linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

12 intentional self-care activities for gratitude:

  •  

    Keep a gratitude journal and record one thing that made you thankful each day.

  •  

    Jot down 10 things you’re thankful for and keep the list by your bedside.

     

  •  

    Envision your ideal birth. Think it through in detail.

    Repeat often.

  •  

    Slow down and focus on being present during your morning routine

  •  

    Go watch the sunset alone.

    No music, friends, partners, or distractions.

  •  

    Buy flowers for yourself.

    Or better yet, go pick some!

  •  

    Wake up with an affirmation.

    Instead of reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, take a minute to frame an achievable goal for the day.

  •  

    Go see a live performance or exhibition.

    Find inspiration, awe, or laughter at a concert, gallery, or comedy show.

  •  

    Breathe deeply.

    Slow, deep breathing techniques actually stimulate our body’s parasympathetic reaction and calm us.

  •  

    Turn up the radio, roll down the windows.

     

  •  

    Wear something that you may reserve for a fancier occasion.

    Look good, feel good.

  •  

    Make it a habit to redirect negative thoughts.


Practice acts of kindness

 
Regular volunteering has been linked to a 22% reduction in early mortality rates, along with multiple other health benefits

Helping others will make you happy, too – even up to a month later. “The How of Happiness” study found that subjects who kept a kindness journal were happier than the control group up to six months later. This same research showed that a variety of small good deeds go a long way. In fact, multiple acts of the same kindness can quickly become a chore.

 

12 intentional self-care activities for kindness:

  •  

    Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line at the cafe.

  •  

    If you’re not totally exhausted, take your friend’s kids while they go on a date.

    Eventually, they can graciously return the favor.

  •  

    Give more compliments.

    Especially to strangers.

  •  

    Send a thank you note to someone for something simple.

    Especially for those little things that might usually go unnoticed.

  • Check in with an old friend just to see how they’re doing.

    Call them. Yes, on the phone.

  •  

    Tell a parent that they’re doing a great job with their kids.

  •  

    Save someone from a parking ticket by dropping a quarter in their meter.

    Yay, for parking angels.

  •  

    Tell a coworker’s boss about how great they’re doing.

  •  

    Pick up two pieces of trash.

    Assuming you can still bend over.

  •  

    Put a nice note in your child’s lunchbox or your partner’s car.

  •  

    Send a note to your parents and recount a favorite family memory.

    Thank them for being great.

  •  

    Make it a habit to redirect negative thoughts.


Nurture relationships

 

happy pregnancy

The Gottman Institute found couples who focused on their relationship and worked together as new parents saw:

•Relationship Satisfaction
•Increased father involvement and satisfaction
•positive impacts on baby development

Prioritize your partnership during this exciting time. After all, it’s what got you here. Be transparent about your stress, hopes, and fears. Make sure to check in on your partner frequently, too. Partners are also at risk for postpartum depression, and this risk increases when the mother experiences PPD.

Tell loved ones that you value their presence after the birth. The initial flood of visitors will eventually slow to a trickle – often when exhaustion, stress, and depression begin to set in. A study from Arizona State University found that even when women are satisfied with their partners, their friendships still had a more powerful effect on their well-being and stress levels. Having good friends may even help to “sustain the marital relationship by reducing the burden on the marriage to fulfill all of one’s emotional needs.”

 

12 intentional self-care activities for relationships:

  •  

    Schedule alone time for your first post-baby date.

    Consider lining up a sitter now.

  •  

    Discuss ways that your partner wants to be involved with the new baby.

    Baths, bottles, and burping are all great ways for fathers to become involved. And you can always reserve a diaper or two – you know, for the bonding.

  •  

    Fit in lots of quality time with friends.

    Go for a sunrise walk with your morning coffee.

  •  

    If you have other kids, make them feel special.

    Go for a pedicure date or drop in on them during lunch at school.

  •  

    Spark a great conversation with your kids.

    Get the convo started with one of the 60 unique questions for your kids.

  •  

    Try a few therapy sessions with your partner.

  •  

    Read “The Five Love Languages” with your partner.

  •  

    Initiate sex.

  •  

    Do some karaoke.

    You know what’s awesome about karaoke? It combines laughing, music, and friends. Bonus: the worse you are at singing, the harder the laughs!

  •  

    Call your parents.

  •  

    Foster healthier friendships.

    Complement your friends when you are together. Engage everyone in conversation when you are in a group.

  •  

    Be a good friend to yourself.

    Do you have friends that follow you around saying mean things to you? No, you don’t. Because that person would be an asshole. So why do it to yourself?


Lose yourself in what you love

 
Multiple studies have found engaging in hobbies results in:
Better overall mood | less stress | lower heart rate

 

Engage in “Flow Activities.”  The man who coined this term, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes Flow as those challenging, yet enjoyable activities that focus our attention, push our limits, and force us to become immersed in the present. The happiest people fill their day with a variety of intentional activities that provide them with gratification and small, frequent doses of passive pleasure as a reward.

Start making your passion a habit now so it will be easier to pursue your hobbies once the baby arrives.

 

5 intentional self-care activities for findings “flow”:

  •  

    Keep a journal. Express yourself.

    Use writing prompts to get ideas flowing.

  •  

    Doodle or color.

    Lucky for you, we live in a time of adult coloring books. What a time to be alive!

  •  

    Learn something new.

    Check out this list of places to learn something new online.

  •  

    Block off time on a real calendar to focus on what you love to do.

  •  

    Struggling to identify your passions?

    Limit your inhibitions, listen to your gut, and try that thing that’s been in the back of your mind.


Prioritize wellness

 

happiest pregnancy

When thinking about physical care for mental wellbeing, it’s important to remember that the frequency of wellness activities improves happiness more than quality or duration. A study found that a massage was perceived to be more enjoyable when there was a break in the treatment. Prioritize two 30-minute rubdowns over one longer one.

 

10 intentional self-care activities for wellness:

  •  

    Find water. Swim in it.

    (Break into a hotel pool. No one will tell a pregnant woman to leave.)

  •  

    Go outside.

    The Germans have a specific word for the “feeling of being alone in the woods”: Waldeinsamkeit. Find that feeling.

  •  

    Acknowledge your feelings

    Say them out loud to yourself, say them to a friend. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel irritated. Say it.

  •  

    Let go.

    You know that thing that’s been bugging you? That thing you can’t control and yet continue to obsess over? Visualize picking it up, putting it in a box, and setting that box on fire. Never look back.

  •  

    Get enough sleep.

    Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for four nights until you’ve gained a full hour.

  •  

    Seek out an ASMR response.

    Not sure what that is? Try this quiet reading of Alice in Wonderland.

  •  

    Indulge in a luxurious wind-down routine

    Wash the sheets, take a bath, get in bed at a laughably early hour and just read, journal, or relax

  •  

    Add a fancy non-alcoholic “mocktail” to your luxurious wind-down

    Why not?

  •  

    Ask for help.

    Can you do all the things by yourself? No. You can’t. Ask for help.

  •  

    Eliminate “should” from your vocabulary

    Make a decision. Then make another. Don’t overthink. Pick something and run with it.

 


Share this with a mama who needs a little reminder to be kind to herself during her pregnancy journey.

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  • ex: JenniferMarks@gmail.com
  • ex: Jennifer