Mother, Love Thyself: A Valentine's Day Worth Celebrating!

Whether you believe Valentine’s Day to be the ultimate symbol of romance, or merely an opportunity for Hallmark to cash in, it is hard to ignore the bombardment of rose bouquets and over-stuffed teddy bears that infiltrate stores this time of year. 

Rather than (or in addition to?) investing in either token, how about using them as a reminder to turn some of your love inward.  In the throes of early childcare, we seldom remember to maintain the mothercare.  And if we do, we may then wonder how to secure the time or muster the stamina to tend to ourselves.  This month then, Mother Matters presents 3 heart-warming, researched-based tips that require very little time or effort, but will leave you feeling the (self) love! 

The Smart-Heart

“Philosophy” is, literally, the marriage of “love” and “wisdom,” from the Greek roots “philo” meaning "love" and “sophos,” meaning "wisdom."  Mothering is rife with questions from the more mundane, “Which onesie should she wear,” or “Should I feed him peaches or pears,” to the more profound, “Should we consider sleep-training” or “When do we leave him with a sitter for the first time?”  We face more decisions in a day than we can count, sometimes struggling to find the “right” choice. 

In a moment of indecisiveness, what if you gave yourself the gift of asking this question: “What would a wise person do now?”[i] And then, as you took a few deep breaths and patiently waited, a reassuring response emerged from within you.  Indeed, the answer is always there.  The trick is giving yourself a mindful moment to hear it.  Plato, student of Socrates and founder of the first institution of higher learning in the Western world, teaches that all wisdom is innate—that we are all born with it.  Next time you find yourself in a midst of maternal uncertainty, use your inherent wisdom to guide you. 

The Sweet-Heart

Tempted by the Russell Stover chocolate boxes in the drug store aisle?  This may be a good time to indulge, if you choose wisely.  An analysis published in the journal Nutrition Reviews,[ii] pointed to a handful of studies demonstrating the mood-boosting effects of this delectable dessert.  Incidentally, a number of these studies also suggest that chocolate improves cognitive functioning.  Chocolate can have a positive effect on serotonin (the “happy juice”) in the brain and has been shown to enhance endorphin production, like exercise does.  When looking for the sweet treat, opt for a high quality dark chocolate with simple, non-artificial ingredients.  Some bars will indicate the percentage of cacao on the front of the label—that’s a good sign.  Since chocolate is not exactly low-calorie (if only,) try and limit the serving size to the recommendation on the package if losing weight is on the agenda.  One serving is often less than one whole bar.  New moms who want to watch their weight should get into the habit of checking the serving size on labels.  Consider using a serving of cocoa powder as an ingredient in smoothies or as an addition to a warm drink.

The Strong-Heart

The American Heart Association cites cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke) as the number one killer of women around the world.[iii] A 2015 study in BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth[iv] reported that a group of postnatal women engaged in an exercise program demonstrated improvements in haemodynamic function (the flow of blood) and a reduction in blood pressure, both of which can reduce the risk of heart disease. A little bit can go a long way. Bundle up baby in the stroller or the Bjorn and head outside.  A brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week can make a difference. 

 

 

[i]The Wisdom Within. (2017, January 9). Lecture presented at Philosophy Works: Introductory Course in The School of Practical Philosophy, New York, NY.

 

[ii]Scholey, A., & Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 71(10), 665-681.

 

[iii]See the American Heart Association’s “Facts About Heart Disease in Women” at https://www.goredforwomen.org/home/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts-about-heart-disease/

 

[iv]Carpenter, R.E., Emery, S.J., Uzun, O., D’Silva L.A., Lewis, M.J. (2015).  Influence of antenatal physical exercise on haemodynamics in pregnant women: a flexible randomisation approach.  BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 15(1), 1-15.  doi: 10.1186/s12884-015-0620-2