by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB
Vitality: The state of being strong, active. Energy. The power of giving continuance of life—present in all living things. “Vitality” comes from the Latin root vitalis: “absolutely necessary or important; indispensable to the continuance of life.” –The Oxford Dictionary–
In mid-Spring, we witness the natural ABUNDANCE and RENEWAL of NATURE. After a harsh winter, it is reassuring to see plants and flowers shooting up and birds singing loudly! REBIRTH and VITALITY surround us.
And so, it is natural to check in with ourselves regarding our personal state of VITALITY. How are we feeling? How ALIVE are we feeling? If we feel “low energy” or out of balance—do not judge ourselves. Rather, PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION–and INTEND to reclaim our energy and vitality.
In this BLOG we review the nature and qualities of VITALITY and how we can increase it.
***Words associated with Vitality: abundance, active, bright eyes, endless supply, endurance, energy, exuberance, get-up-and-go, glowing, hardy, healthy, joy, life, light, openness, pep, physically strong, power, radiance, resilience, strength, strong life force, thriving, vibrancy, vigor, zest***
Many factors contribute to feelings of vitality and vigor. True, we are born with a certain level of vital energy— that seems boundless in children!! We see this in the young of all species—in our own puppies and kittens, for example.
What happens to this natal level of energy over the years? We lose some vitality due to aging; yet, there are those in their 90’s, up to age 100+, who are full of vitality! Some “natural vitality” may be “due to genetics’; but just as important are: how we live, how we think, how we treat ourselves and others, and the choices we make.
***NOTE: There are natural cycles in life–when we travel through loss, grief, confusion, and “stuckness.” Our energy may feel very low during these periods. Let that be OK (even though we may not like it at all!). We are called upon at such times to be willing to FEEL FULLY and to nurture RESILIENCY. Great growth can happen during these cycles. Know that new times will come–with a return of greater energy and higher level of integration.***
To encourage optimum vitality NOW, we need to attend to:
- BODY/Physical Health
- MIND: Thoughts and Emotional Patterns
- SPIRIT/Soul: Greater Purposes in Life
- DIET: Eat more whole foods, more veggies. Avoid highly processed foods high in chemicals and preservatives. Do not overdo on salt, sugar, alcohol, caffeine.
- FLUIDS: Stay adequately hydrated. LOW hydration can lead to FATIGUE!
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Move regularly. Short walks, long hikes, gardening, yard work, sports, dance, yoga, housework, Tai chi, Chi Gong. Just 20 minutes/day of walking can offer benefits—especially if out in Nature.
***NATURE offers a cleansing, balancing, invigorating effect on the body. Being in or near water, in forests, climbing hills and mountains–can do wonders for us.***
***“Nature is fuel for the soul,” says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with Nature,” he says.***
- Get enough sleep. Our bodies do the most detoxing when we sleep. It is easier to deal with life’s challenges if we are well rested and well detoxed.
- Practice conscious breath work. “Breath-related exercises can reduce excessive stress, INCREASE VITALITY, and help us live a fuller, healthier life.” (from the book: Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, by Dennis Lewis).
- Attend to medical and dental needs.
- If you’re recovering from an illness—you may require extra rest. Even “just a bad cold” may be asking you to take it easier for a while, “Re-group.” Allow for it.
- Clear your house of toxic chemicals and molds that can sap energy.
The MIND, and the Art of COMPASSION:
“Monkey mind” and endless self-chatter are part of human nature. However, many inner conversations contain judgment of self and others, negative self-talk, and re-hashing of “same ole, same ole” thought and emotional patterns (fear, shame, doubt, anger).
Judgment and “lower level emotions” are all big “downers,” draining our energy fields.
- Practice POSITIVE SELF-TALK, and engage in POSITIVE CONVERSATIONS with OTHERS. Do not dwell on the negative, even though negativity will present itself.
***NEGATIVITY DRAINS VITALITY! Vitality is, in part, a state of mind. Choose to turn up your vitality dial!***
NATIVE Cherokee story of 2 wolves:
“My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:
“Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one that you feed.”
2. Practice COMPASSION and LOVING KINDNESS towards self and towards others.
Compassion = deep awareness of the suffering of others, accompanied by the wish, and the actions taken, to relieve it. The ability to love together. Requires the capability of identifying with emotional states of others (and within our own selves). Compassion may induce feelings of kindness and forgiveness. We say: he/she has a compassionate heart.
Interrupt habitual negative mind chatter by practicing: SELF-COMPASSION, as well as COMPASSION and LOVING KINDNESS towards others. This type of practice will help shift and release emotional patterns, raising our energy and VITALITY.
“Mindful SELF-COMPASSION can be learned by anyone. It’s the practice of repeatedly evoking good will toward ourselves, especially when we’re suffering—cultivating the same desire that all living beings have to live happily and free from suffering. And as the Dalai Lama says, self-compassion is the first step toward compassion for others.” —Christopher Germer, PhD, clinical psychologist– http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org/
***With SELF-COMPASSION, we give ourselves the same kind of care we’d give a good friend.” —Kristin Neff, PhD–
***In practicing compassion, we OPEN our HEARTS. In “low times”, it is tempting to stay invisible, with a closed heart, hiding behind the scenes. But in being more open of heart, more allowing “of what is”, and more visible—we help each other THRIVE.***
“Studies show that compassion improves one’s focus, enjoyment, mental and emotional vigor. Being on either the receiving end, or the giving end of compassionate behavior, has been shown to improve one’s well-being (and feelings of vitality). The more vitality you have, the more able you are to achieve. If you have vitality, you have the exuberance, the physical stamina, and mental and emotional vigor to pursue your vision and mission.”
We become more compassionate in steps. Be gentle with yourself in this process, and don’t judge that you are not progressing fast enough!
Spiritual teacher Miranda MacPherson encourages us to seek “a compassionate relaxation of the learned teachings of the mind.” (vs “purging them” all at once!)
SPIRIT/SOUL/Living a Purposeful Life
Having a purpose–whether small or large– imbues us with more vitality! Your purpose– right now–may be caring for children, or perhaps it is ensuring that all seniors in town get a hot meal each day. Your purpose may be on a large-scale–such as getting water to thousands of people during crises times. Or it may mean–simply being a beacon of Light, Kindness, and Peace every day in your neighborhood (or silently at your work site.)
***Regular meditation, prayers and/or a particular religious practice may support you on your path, and shine some light on your purpose.***
***The greater our purposes benefit others, (as well as ourselves)—-the greater the degree of vitality and energy that comes back to us full circle.***
As human beings, it is important to have our feet well-grounded on Earth– but at the same time– be open to higher consciousness levels.
Keep the flow going!! Walk a mystical path with practical feet!!
This Chi Gong image depicts that theme: one hand facing towards Earth, the other raised upwards towards the Heavens. This position encourages flow and connection.
A few more tidbits to help you re-charge (in no particular order!):
- Minimize sensory overload. Turn off TVs and put away laptops and smart phones ½ to 1 hour earlier than usual each night.
- Seek out, and RECEIVE, various sources of care and help when you need it. It is not weak to be a recipient of caring!
- Modify your schedule to prevent over-commitment. It is OK to say No.
- Reframe events and situations you must deal with—as learning or strengthening experiences.
- Minimize environmental pollens and allergens.
- Detox your house of old cleaning supplies. Use more natural products.
- Clean up food allergens in your diet, esp. when you know certain foods are bothering you.
- Have your Vitamin D level checked. Very low Vitamin D levels are associated with “brain fog” and difficulty focusing, also with decreased immunity. Vitamin D supplements may help.
- Avoid tick infested areas (and tick-borne illnesses). Yes, walk outdoors–but be mindful of woods and grassy areas. Wear white and light-colored clothing. Use tick spray if necessary. Check clothes after walking or working in the yard. (Try natural brands of tick spray: e.g. Green Mountain of Vermont; also check internet for home recipes. There are some scents that ticks just don’t like!)
- Exfoliate your skin.
- Socialize with those who makes you smile and laugh
- Spend time with babies and pets.
- Minimize time spent with those who drain your energy. Send compassion their way; but limit your time with them.
- Let your leptin hormone sing!! (Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue and believed to regulate fat storage in the body–by suppressing appetite at appropriate times. To improve leptin action—eat a low glycemic,carb-controlled diet (improving insulin response), have your thyroid checked out, and GET ENOUGH SLEEP!
- Cuddle up with your favorite pet or person and increase your oxytocin levels.
- Toss out or give away, at least 10 things you don’t currently need.
- Move daily—even walking an extra 10 minutes while out shopping.
In summary, this Spring is a perfect time to re-charge our batteries and restore our vitality reservoirs. We can start by being compassionate with our own selves. COMPASSION alone will start to raise our energy and vitality.
We leave you with these thoughts from Buddhist teachings. The “Four Immeasureables” are: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, Non-Attachment. “Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of VITALITY and HAPPINESS for others.” (as well as for yourself)http://viewonbuddhism.org/immeasurables_love_compassion_equanimity_rejoicing.html
Wishing you a wonderful, revitalizing Spring!
The Wellness Shifter Ladies,
Deb and Wendy
- Reclaim Your Vitality and Presence: Sensory Awareness as a Practice for Life by Charlotte Selver
- The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher Germer
http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org/ Christopher Germer, PhD
http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/5-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-boost-your-vitality/ Dr. Sara Gottfried refers to Dr. Pedram Shojai.