5 Ways to Beat the Baby Blues

Whether you're experiencing the baby blues or just having a hard day, try one of these proven positive psychology tricks to help boost your mood.

Mom and Baby Coachella
Photo: Predrag Popovski/Shutterstock

It's no secret that becoming a new parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life—but it can also be one of the scariest and most stressful.

Becoming a new parent is a major life transition. "You will feel the whole spectrum of human emotion from fear and loneliness to the heights of joy and love," says Kayleigh Pleas, a wellness coach in New York City.

Due to the hard-wired "negativity bias" of the brain, it's natural to focus on the challenges —sleepless nights, your changing postpartum body, and the overwhelming responsibility you now have. That focus may help explain why as many as 80% of new gestational parents experience the baby blues.

The key, says Pleas, is to respond to the inevitable challenges of new parenthood with wisdom and kindness while simultaneously remembering the positive things in life.

Read on for some tools from the field of positive psychology (the study of how to feel happier) that will help you navigate the challenges of becoming a new parent. That way, you can focus on simply savoring all that is so amazingly good about it.

Show Some Self-Compassion

Many people find adjusting to new parenthood difficult and frustrating—and then they feel ashamed for thinking that way. Of course, you know you should give yourself a break, but that's a lot easier said than done.

Pleas suggest three steps to showing yourself a little compassion.

Identify how you're feeling

Be mindful and say to yourself, for example, "I'm feeling scared about taking care of another person," "I'm overwhelmed by how much my life has changed," or "I'm a little blue."

Talk to a health care provider if you feel down longer than two weeks postpartum. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the baby blues typically are short-lived, lasting one to two weeks and resolving without treatment.

So lingering feelings may indicate a more serious condition, like postpartum depression (PPD). While not as common as the baby blues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains PPD can affect as many as one in eight people who've recently given birth.

Remember you are not alone

Millions of other parents are experiencing precisely what you're experiencing. Thinking about this is a concept called "shared humanity," and it can help a person feel less isolated. There's something very comforting about knowing that you're not alone in this.

Be a friend to yourself

"Think about what you would tell your best friend if she said she was feeling exactly what you're feeling right now," Pleas suggests. "Then tell it to yourself."

Take a Deep Breath

If you're in a relationship, you've probably noticed that couple time is much more difficult to come by when you have a new baby. However, small steps make a difference.

"Creating mini-pockets of time where you connect with your partner is very important as it says to each other, 'We're in this together,'" says Pleas. One way to do that is to connect through breathing.

At the end of the day, take one minute to sit and take five deep breaths together. Look into each other's eyes and put your hands on each other's backs to feel one another breathing. Doing this not only helps you bond with your partner but also helps you quiet your brain and manage stress better.

This is a great connection exercise, but it's also a good independent calming and mindfulness exercise. According to the American Institute of Stress, deep breathing offers the following benefits:

  • Increases oxygen flow to the brain
  • Helps you feel calm
  • Allows you to move away from focusing on your worries
  • Quiets your mind

You can practice deep, mindful breathing on your own or with a partner.

Make Social Connections

"One of the best indicators of well-being is the strength of a person's social connections," says Pleas. Unfortunately, however, new parents often become isolated at home, taking care of their new babies and all the responsibilities that come along with parenthood.

Make sure you carve out some time to meet up with old friends or make new ones: Ask a relative to come to watch the baby so you can get out. Some ideas:

  • Have lunch with a favorite friend
  • Join a parenting group
  • Start a weekly play date with other new parents in your area

Ask a health care provider for suggestions of such groups in your area. Your local preschool, YMCA, and religious centers can offer good outlets, too.

Say "Thank You"

Getting into gratitude helps you shift your perspective away from the negative and toward the positive. No matter how stressful or overwhelming your day might be, there are always moments worth celebrating, says Pleas.

"In order to train your brain to notice what is going right, take the time to write down three things you're grateful for every single night before you go to bed," she suggests. Jot a sentence about each, and be as specific as possible: For instance, don't just write, "I'm grateful for my baby." Instead, write, "I'm grateful for that moment this morning when my daughter looked me right in the eye and smiled."

You can keep a gratitude journal on your own, or you can do it with your partner and share your thoughts with each other.

Remember What's Important

When feeling particularly down, take 15 minutes to write about what you care deeply about and how you will commit to it. Doing so could boost resilience, compassion, mood, and perseverance during difficult tasks, says Pleas. In fact, research published in PLoS ONE in 2013 found that identifying and focusing on your most important values can boost problem-solving abilities.

First, make a list of your top three values. Examples include:

  • Integrity
  • Patience
  • Courage
  • Humor
  • Curiosity
  • Personal commitments to a particular cause or tradition

Next, choose one of the values and write about why you care about it and how you'll incorporate it into your life.

As new parents' lives are changing so quickly, Pleas explains that identifying your values and exploring new ways to live out your commitment to what you care about is essential. But, of course, she adds, new parents might have to alter what that commitment looks like.

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