Savor the moment
One way to nourish positive emotions is to take a moment to appreciate, well, the moment. Just map out two- or three-minute activities that you can do that day to relish that time. In the morning, for instance, instead of trying to do ten things, take your cup of coffee to the window and sip it while your child watches a video.
Notice what's going on. Will it change your life? No, but you'll probably feel calmer.
Gilbert has an even shorter version: "Take ten seconds every hour and look at what you're doing from a higher place."
While you're at it, appreciate what a wonderful child you have -- those chubby cheeks, the endearing things she says -- and share that joy with someone who'll rejoice in it with you. That's another way to grab on to the good stuff and prolong your happiness.
Take the long view
Having a sense of perspective will also improve your attitude. "It gives you more patience, and it certainly awakens you to the preciousness of the moment, which is fleeting," says M.J. Ryan, author of The Happiness Makeover and mom of Anna, 9. She remembers the times when her daughter wanted to sit on her lap and watch SpongeBob. "Yes, I had other things to do. But I said to myself, 'How long will this last?' I'm grateful for that time with her."
If the drudgery is getting to you, think about life without children. "You've signed on for a hard job
it's not supposed to be fun most of the time," says Gilbert. "It's easy to get caught up in the details, but you need to step back and realize how empty your life would be without these people in it."
Reconnect with your spouse
A supportive group of friends and family is one of the cornerstones of a happy life, and for many moms, the center of that social circle is their partner. That's why it's so important to keep the lines of communication open, especially during the "diaper years" -- from infancy to around age 3 -- that experts say are the most stressful (until your kids become teens, that is!) on a marriage.
"You can't say, 'I'll handle the relationship later,'" says Reivich. "A healthy and realistic goal is to ask, 'What are some small, manageable things we can be doing to keep our connection to each other strong during this rough time?'"
For instance, she and her husband try to have a glass of wine together at night once a week, after their four kids (all under age 9) are in bed. "It's not a date -- we don't need a babysitter -- it's just fifteen minutes. But it's a change to sit together and unwind, and sometimes a chance to dream."
When she works with couples, Reivich helps them figure out what they can do for a couple of hours together that interests both of them. With one couple, one partner was very curious, the other really appreciated beauty, so they spent an afternoon museum hopping. "It can be as easy as going food shopping together," she says. Once you make little steps, it's easy to move on to bigger ones, like a night out.
Even discussing how stressed you both are can help. "It's affected our relationship a lot; we've both noticed it," says Sauer. "If you can both just say, 'Raising a kid is hard,' putting it out there diminishes the strain." She and her husband are working on having more time together-by themselves. "We just went on our first date since the baby was born," she says.
Another way to strengthen your connection is to practice what shrinks call "active constructive responding." When your spouse comes home and shares some good news, don't just say, "That's nice." Ask questions that let him tell you about his day, even for a minute or two. At least for that minute, the two of you will be celebrating what's good about your lives.
Feeling grateful is a mood booster. It can be as simple as saying grace every night or finding new ways to acknowledge others. "When our extended family gets together for a birthday, we go around the room and say one thing we appreciate and the one thing we like best about that person," says Elizabeth Howard.
Another effective way is to put what you're thankful for down on paper: Write the three best things that happened today. It might be something positive that happened to you, your kids, your spouse or friends, or in the world. It might just be something funny that your child said at breakfast. Experts say that if you do that every day for two weeks, your feelings of well-being will increase.
Of course, even if you do all of these things, you'll still have bad days. But at least you'll be less likely to think there's something wrong with you. And the more you engage in positive thinking, the more you'll realize how much happiness is under your control. Not all of it, but perhaps more than you were aware of.
"When I started to research happiness, I thought it was a feeling, and you had to wait to have it happen to you," says Ryan. "But feelings follow thoughts -- they don't precede them. I think of happiness as three things -- enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Mothering can give us any one of those at any given moment -- if not necessarily all of them at the same time!"