This has been a year of parenting overload, but science says having kids around can actually lift your spirits significantly. After seeing reports that parents are less happy than folks without kids, Dr.Katherine Nelson-Coffey, a psychology professor at the University of the South started investigating. Her research suggests that, in general, parents tend to be at least as happy - and often slightly happier - than child-free folks.
She looked into where the parenting perks happen and found moms experienced more positive emotions when they were interacting with their children than they did during other parts of the day. Part of those positive emotions may be coming from the steady doses of the hormone oxytocin - aka the “love drug” - that moms get from all that kid contact. Oxytocin is released automatically through simple mother-child touch, like a quick cuddle with your kids. Plus, oxytocin helps balance out the stress hormone cortisol, so it can really make you feel calm.
Nelson-Coffey says spending just a few minutes talking to your kids or reading a book can improve your mood rating and engaging in playing with them for as little as 10 minutes is linked to a better mood. And the feel-good feelings of parenting don’t stop there. Her research reveals parents report higher levels of meaning in their lives after having kids overall and in their daily lives.