Being a parent can be hard work and we often overlook our own wellbeing for the happiness or well-being of other people, particularly our children.
Unfortunately, post-natal depression is real and it can affect both mothers and fathers, and when it does it impacts on the whole family and often on friends and the extended family.
The key to improving our mood is in biology. Ugh - who wants a biology lesson - I'll try and keep it fun. It's all about brain chemicals.
When trying to remember what the chemicals you need are you can always think of:
D is for
Dopamine is the pleasure hormone, it sparks up when you do something that gives you pleasure. It is also often the hormone related to addiction, because it gives us such a good feeling when it occurs. Some simple ways you can boost your dopamine levels are: getting enough sleeping, having a good routine, achieving goals, winning games/sports, knitting, listening to music. Obviously, some of these things can be hard to do when you have small kids, but listening to music is always a great one, and if nothing else, write a task list at the beginning of the day that looks like this:
- Eat breakfast
- Get dressed
- Put on washing
- Arrange a playdate
- Hang out washing
- Prep dinner
They might all look like simple tasks, but just crossing off one of those tasks will give your body a wee dopamine boost and make you feel better.
O is for
Oxytocin is the cuddle hormone, the love drug. This is often released during breastfeeding, so if you are still at that stage and it’s going well for you, great! If not, here are some other ways to boost your oxytocin levels: Hugging, massage, laughing with others, sharing a meal, petting an animal, talking or counselling. Getting a hug can be the simplest and easiest and children love to cuddle, but you could also do things like taking your child to the SPCA to learn about animals and get your love drug boost at the same time.
S is for
Serotonin is the happy drug and improves your mood and feelings of well-being. Serotonin can be boosted by meditating, yoga, breathing exercises, going to the beach, remembering happy times, singing, reading, gardening, and clearing out clutter. Going to the beach or into the bush is a great way of getting back in touch with nature as well, which has been shown to be highly beneficial for mental health.
E is for
These tend to be the hormones related to reducing stress and pain. Ways to increase endorphins (and therefore reduce stress and pain levels) include jogging, playing sport, chopping wood, going for a walk, dancing. So start spinning round the kitchen with baby in your arms to some funky music - get your groove on.
Working on getting more of these biological chemicals circulating in your body is a great way to ward off post natal depression and any other mental health issues. And one way to get your DOSE of happiness in one hit could be....
Dancing (increases endorphins) along the beach (increases serotonin), holding hands with your bub or partner (increases oxytocin), while listening to beautiful music (increases dopamine)… think that about covers them all. Or you could cook your family a lovely meal, sit down together and talk about your day.