A Positive Boost For New And Expectant Mothers

Why you need to put a little joy on that baby list...

The average new parent spends over $12,000 in the first year of their child’s life. To date, we haven’t come across any research that points to whether that pricey stroller or premium diaper will make you a better parent. But we can confidently speak to one item that will..and it doesn’t cost a thing. A good mood.

Positive emotions (love, joy, energy, gratitude) are what we feel when we stop to acknowledge what is going right in our world. Historically, they have been seen as a ‘nice to have’ in life, but not taken as seriously for our survival as fear (gets you away from a tiger) anger (helps you move mountains) and sadness (helps you to slow down and regroup when it’s needed).

More recent research has turned the page on this perspective. Positivity, it seems, helps us to do many things that are absolutely essential for survival. As laid out in the psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s ‘broaden and build’ theory of positive emotions, good moods make us more likely to connect with others, generate new ideas and be good neighbours.

They power us to build up the very relationships within our families and communities that we need to fall back on when fear, anger or sadness knock on the door. And when too much sadness, fear, or anger depletes us, positive emotions step in to help us replenish and undo the damage. Instead of being an ‘etcetera’ in the brain, Dr. Fredrickson’s research has established that they are the very glue that keep our communities and our energies in place.

Positive emotions are tailor made for the tasks of mothering. Here’s a few of the things they help us do better:

Heal our bodies:  Being in a positive mood has been shown to increase pain thresholds and reduce susceptibility to and improve recover from illness.

Dig deep: A positive frame of mind will increase persistence, motivation and effort. A good mood can help you see just how valuable your goal is, and make it seem more likely that you’ll get there in the end.

See the bigger picture: A positive mood can help you see more than one solution to a problem.

Social support: Being in a good mood makes you more more likely to realise how much you like other people, and helps us be more likely to want to help out and cooperate.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Yes, if the pursuit of feeling good steers us away from experiences that would help us grow. Yet as long as a balance is maintained between pleasure and responsibility, keep in mind the following take-aways for your day:

  1. Feeling good matters: Positive moods have been established to be crucial to our survival. The new connections, approaches and relationships they help us create can buffer us against the depleting effects of challenging times in our lives.

  2. Positive moods are especially important for Mothers: The evidence has established that positive emotions help us to heal our bodies, solve problems, and persevere in the face of challenges.Given the many benefits a little bit of regular joy can bring to parenthood, why not make it a priority on that list? And it doesn’t need to cost a thing!

Supporting Academic Resources:

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Barsade, S.G. (2002) The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 644-675.

 Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., Turner, R.B., Cuneyt, M.A. and Skonker, D. (2003). Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 652-657.

 Cunningham, M.R. (1988) Does happiness mean friendliness? Induces mood and heterosexual self-disclosure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 283-297.

 Erez, A., & Isen, A.M. (2002) The influence of positive affect on the components of expectancy motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 1055-1067.

 Fredrickson, B.L. & Joiner, T. (2002) Positive emotions trigger upward spirals towards emotional wellbeing. Psychological Science, 13, 172-175.

 Fredrickson B.L. (2003) The value of positive emotions: The emerging science of positive psychology os coming to understand why it’s good to feel good. American Scientist, 91, 330-335.

 Kashdan, T.B., & Roberts, J.E. (2004) Trait and state curiosity in the genesis of intimacy: Differentiation from related constructs. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 792-816.

 Isen, A.M. (1970) Success, failure, attention and reaction to others: The warm glow of success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 15, 294-301

 Madhyastha, T/M., Hanker, E.L., Gottman, J.M. (2011) Investigating spousal influence using moment-to-moment affect data from marital conflict. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 292-300.

 Manucia, G.K. (Baumann, D.J. Cialdini, R.B. (1984) Mood influences in helping: Direct effects or side effects? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 357-364.

National Collaboarting Centre for Primary Care (2006). Post-natal care: Routine post-natal care for women and their babies. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence Guidance. http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG37/Guidance/pdf/English

 Ostir, G.V., Berges, I.M., Ottenbacher, M.E., Clow, A., Ottenbacher, K.J. (2008) Associations between positive emotion and recovery of functional status following stroke. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 404-409.

 Sin. N.L. & Lyubormirsky, S. (2009) Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychological interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 467-487.

 Waugh, C.E. & Fredrickson, B.L. (2006) Nice to know you: Positive emotions, self-other overlap, and complex understanding in the formation of a new relationship. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 93-106.