What exactly is living and embracing a life of vitality? Is there ways to bring more vitality into our lives? Is vitality something that we have control over, or is it just there, inside of us? If it is something we have control over, how can we get more of it?
In fact, what is vitality?
We all can agree that vitality sounds like a good thing to have and is probably something we all should have more of in our lives. It sounds so healthy and good for us! After all, it raises our spirits, feeds our souls, and energizes our bodies. Right? But how to we build upon it and gather more of it? Isn’t it something different than what we might find in high-energy sport drinks and caffeine induced beverages? Isn’t it just…more natural? Something that makes us feel alive and, well…more vital?
Then again, how does vitality differ from feeling energetic? Is it really just the same thing but with a fancier name? Or, is it something deeper, more wholesome, elusive, and mysterious? Where does it come from?
Most of us know how to create energy…but vitality?
Yet, we all have experienced moments of great vitality and aliveness in our lives. Ever walk the ocean beach at sunset––just you, the waves, and the twilight––and feel so incredibly grateful for that magical moment? Ever walk through old growth forest and experience the feel and sacredness of its surroundings? It seems to breathe and exert a life all of its own. Did you let your mind and imagination wander, wondering, if these trees could talk, what kind of story would they have to tell?
We’ve seen vitality at work in other people’s lives as well. How about that sassy, smiling couple out on the dance floor, kicking up their heels and having the time of their lives? Or, the exuberant gardener who can’t wait to show you her backyard flower garden that’s in full bloom?
I once came across a happily retired craftsman selling his wares from his roadside shop, only too eager to show me his fine collection of handmade fishing lures that adorned his shop. Each one had a story to go along with it, of which he was only too eager to share.
We also know that there’s times when we’re feeling totally out-of-touch with our vitality. Think of the times when we’re feeling down and out––depressed, lazy, unsocial––and just wish to be left alone to sleep, watch television, and eat. Remember when getting up from your recliner was the last thing you wanted to do, and people harping on you only made you more determined to remain there and do nothing? Some of us can’t even identify with vitality, or have forgotten all together what it’s like to have it.
Sometimes we have it…sometimes we don’t. Why is that? We all know we had more of it when we were kids. What happened to it? Where’d did it go? Why did it go?
Yet, vitality is more than just great physiology or radiant skin. After all, not everyone who’s active, runs marathons, or lift heavy weights, is vital. What about the person who has all the makings of what appears to be great health, but is still depressed, lethargic, and alone? What about the person who is withdrawn and in pain, and uses exercise as their addictive “fix” in order to feel better and escape the uncomfortableness they are experiencing within?
They’re still missing many important elements of vitality.
Without a doubt, being in great physical heath is a boost to our vitality health and wellness, but it’s just one of the many ways that vitality expresses itself. We all have seen or heard of people who, by outward appearances, seemingly have every reason to isolate and withdraw from the world because of physical or mental challenges. But think again. Think of people like Steven Hawking, Helen Keller, or Stevie Wonder, all whom possess vitality, but just not the physical type. They all have exuded their extraordinary life forces outwards upon the world.
Look no further than the Paralympic Olympics for individuals who, despite severe handicaps, choose to live and express themselves in life-enhancing manners. Their energy is contagious and infectious, influencing all who are privileged enough to see their feats of sheer will and determination. Vitality encompasses so much more than just great health. Think in terms of attitude, awareness, personal integrity, connection, and spiritual purpose to name a few.
What Is Vitality?
So what is vitality? Most resources and definitions describe vitality as a type of energy without going into much depth about its source or workings. Many are quite abstract, describing it as some elusive, amorphous, holistic concept that defies any clear definition or understanding. This is probably because it’s more of a feeling and presence of energy rather than a clearly defined concept. Not surprisingly, finding the right words to describe feelings, energy, and concepts such as “presence” can be very challenging.
Legendarily, vitality was thought as the elusive fountain of youth, like the one we heard about as school children. World traveller, Ponce de León, journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean in search of this storied fountain that, with just one swallow, would restore youth and vigor to anyone who drank of its waters. Remember The Twilight Zone, the episode in which the aging couple–– ravaged with physical and emotional pain––were willing to make a deal with the devil for eternal youth in exchange for their souls? What they really wanted was never ending, life-sustaining vitality and vigor in their lives. Probably money too.
We all want more vitality, but very few of us can clearly express or describe what that is. Even major corporations have been stymied. Yet, it’s precisely because of it’s vagueness that companies see an opportunity to market future vitality products to consumers. Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark Consulting, a leading strategic, product, and branding advisor to global beverage giants, says,
“Vitality is a psychological key that says, Live longer; live better.”
How do you put that in a bottle? Marketers are just as frustrated:
- “Vitality can mean whatever you want it to mean, which is why it’s a claim that the industry likes.”
- “Vitality is not an ingredient. It’s an experience.”
- “Vitality certainly suggests health and wellness in its broadest sense. But more specifically, it suggests energy and potential longevity—that you’ll live a healthier lifestyle and less will go wrong if you can grasp vitality.”
- “Vitality lacks a regulatory definition. There is no measuring stick for it. It’s all based on the reported experiences of the consumer.”
So how do you come up with a vitality product if it can’t be clearly defined? You can’t. Not unless you’re going to misconstrue the word and make up a definition of your own. Give them time, and this is exactly what will happen, but the truth is we’re never going to be able to get true vitality from an energy bar or a super-supplemented health drink. It’s just not something that can be handed to us in a bottle, food bar, or a pill.
Dictionary.com defines vitality as:
- “exuberant physical strength or mental vigor”
- “capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence”
- “power to live or grow”
Yes, yes, and yes. Vitality is all that but it’s so much more. “Capacity for survival” sounds a bit too “survival of the fittest” for me, but overall I agree.
In western cultures, vitality is often referred to as having a strong supply of physical energy, vigor, and power. Most associate it with something that is found in spas, gyms, exercise clinics, and yoga classes. Furthermore, many medical experts tend to lump health and vitality together, creating further confusion about the true essence of what vitality is.
Additionally, western medicine often judges good health by what we don’t have, so if we don’t have clogged blood vessels, diabetes, or high blood pressure we must be in good health. What isn’t taken into consideration is the importance of having friends, good relationships, and fulfilling work that holds purpose-driven meaning in our lives. When we have something that’s worth living and fighting for, something that keeps us motivated, invigorated, excited, and feeling alive, that’s when we really begin experiencing vitality in our lives.
Eastern cultures and endemic tribes view vitality as not just a measure of health and fitness but as a revered life force energy that flows through and permeates all things. Known to every ancient wisdom culture – Ki to the Japanese, Prana to the Hindu, Chi (Qi) to the Chinese – it is this vital force that gives us life and, when directed and pursued with conscious intent, brings deeper meaning to our lives.
Shamanist tribes view vitality, and the sustainable self that emerges, a result of healing in relationship––with ourselves, our family, our community, with nature, and with the Spirit of life itself that sustains us all. After all, the most important relationship we can have is the one with ourselves. If we can’t appreciate, love, and trust ourselves, we’re going to have one heck of a time learning to love and trust others.
The following definition is what I believe best summarizes the various dimensions of vitality:
Vitality is our life-force energy that emanates from the source of our being. Abstract, yet perceptible, this life force energy is an expression of our inner strength, resilience, and joy for life.
In other words, vitality is an expression of our internal source energy that originates and radiates from within. Existing without structure or form, we know it exist for we can detect and feel its presence and stirrings within us. It’s intensity is dependent upon our own internal fearlessness, in our ability to recover readily from adversity, and from our own degree of gratitude and appreciation we have for wonder and the gift of life.
Why Vitality Is Important
We were all born with natural and inherent vitality but, as with anything, if we don’t nurture and cultivate it, it begins to ebb away. For some, depression and hopelessness sets in that eventually leads to a point where a decision is made to not engage with life in a positive manner. This pain of disconnection is not uncommon; it manifest itself in the world in the form of suicide, acts of crime, rage, mental and physical stress, and listlessness. It may embody its absence in the form of health challenges, fear, and resignation with life. Many, particularly the elderly, falsely believe that their best days of health and productivity are behind them. This is so far from the truth, yet if one believes this, it is very difficult to be open and cognizant of other options and choices.
In truth, vitality is something we all can recapture in our lives regardless of our life circumstances or age.Yes, we may of lost touch with it along the way, but that doesn’t mean we cannot regain and build upon it once more. It isn’t a finite source of energy that fades away over time only to never return. It isn’t a fact that there was more of it available to us as a child than what is available now––it’s just that we didn’t burden ourselves with the stresses and challenges that life eventually brings our way. But there are practices and habits that we can incorporate into our lives to strengthen and maintain it.
We have a choice. Put bluntly, it’s a choice between growing or dying. When you think about it, that’s what vitality epitomizes. The moment we give up and succumb to the pressures and stresses of life, we start dying. Our challenge is to always focus on what’s great, or can be great, about any situation that may arise in life. Not to focus on what isn’t.
That life force that churns within us is free, vibrant, and expressive. We can possess these energies up to the very day of our passing. It’s when we choose to give up that this life force begins to feel like it has retreated and withdrawn, yet in reality it is only ourselves choosing to close ourselves off from this source power. When this happens that life-spark within peoples’ eyes begins to diminish, listlessness sets in, and resignation takes a front seat in our lives. In many ways this is the beginning of a slow, descending, downward spiral towards death.
Vitality is a life force energy that animates not only our physical bodies but also our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives. To live a balanced life of vitality all four disciplines need be addressed. Physical vitality is created by movement and good health practices, intellectual vitality by challenging ourselves to continually learn and grow in mind, and emotional vitality by our resiliency to bounce-back from day-to-day challenges as well as by the meaning we choose give our life experiences. Our level of spiritual vitality is reflective of our level of belief that we have that a greater power is at work in our lives. It is also expressed through the levels of appreciation and gratitude we share back into the world in thanks for the lives we have.
This life force called vitality weaves itself throughout all creation. It is found in the waves and winds of the earth, in the clouds above, in the animals and plants that inhabit our planet, and in each and every human upon this earth. It is available to us in endless supply, but we must mindfully allow and open ourselves to its resourcefulness in order to draw upon it.
Our vitality connections can lead to a well-lived life. To ignore or be unconscious of this life force may lead to an ordinary lived life, perhaps depriving ourselves out of the attainment of greatness our souls are destined for.
Our Connection To Vitality
How do we know when we are connected to the life force of vitality? When our life force energy is on point, we often feel “in the flow.” Often when this happens, synchronicities regularly occur in life, and we become only mildly affected by the challenges we ultimately face day-by-day, for we know that every occurrence has meaning and lessons behind it. We often feel lifted by our life force energy, which gives us the grace, vision, and support to navigate through the illusions of this reality.
Much focus is given to “high vibrations”. “High vibe” is a sure sign life force is moving through you unencumbered. Vibrations resonate pure and easily when we can take care to elevate our life force energy through easy and gentle bliss. Simply put, the flow of vitality feels good and naturally draws to us deeper meaning, life purpose insights, and joyful living.
The amount of life force within you varies throughout the day, from day-to-day, and from season to season. These are natural biological rhythms that ebb and flow within our bodies. The study of these documented fluxes is called chronobiology. These are built-in, self-sustained features that are externally cued by environmental conditions which includes light, temperature, and the air we breathe to just name a few.
Our greatest source of revitalizing energy comes from the natural earth and its elements. Think of the molten center of our planet as a generating furnace for this life force. In addition, think of the energy of the sun and the many types of radiation that befalls our planet from above. These are all sources of our life energies that has been with us since our beginnings. We absorb this energy in various ways through our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual realms which refuels and “tops off” our supply of this life force energy that we use daily.
We absorb our vitality in the form of food and drink (remember all animal and plant life, and even water, is filled with this life-force energy), the air we breathe, and the solar and other radiations from above that befalls us. Our physical connection to the earth with our feet and bodies also strengthens our connection to our life force. Our natural senses also play an important role in enhancing our life energies. The natural sounds we hear, the sights we see, the physical sensations we experience, and the smells and taste we ingest heightens our vitality levels in significant ways.
The air that we breathe and absorb within our lungs, tissues, and cells also feeds, nourishes, and revitalizes our bodies and minds. This energy is everywhere; it is the connective force of the Universe to the earth as well to all life on this planet. This supply is limitless.
11 Ways To Increase Your Vitality
The following 11 practices will help you increase your vitality health and wellness:
1. Get Outside
Get outside. Every day if possible for at least 20 minutes. Take walks with the intention of restoring your body and mind, paying close attention to and taking-in the elements and senses around you. Breathe in the fresh air; look upwards into the sky and give thanks for the sunshine, the sky above, and the life sustaining rains. The living earth is our primary source and means for rejuvenating and restoring our vitality. Be intentional in getting outside. Too many of us are delegated to enclosed rooms and stale air. There are three main natural sources of our vital life force energy:
- Light – sunlight is invigorating and promotes good health through our exposure to it. Of course, be prudent in the amount of time you are exposed. A good rule of thumb is approximately 20 minutes a day before 11am and after 3pm.
- Air – we absorb our air into lungs through breathing. By controlling your breathing rhythms and the amount you inhale and release, you can reenergize your body and mind very quickly or cause yourself to relax and slow down.
- Ground – energy is absorbed through the soles of the feet and our connection to earth. It happens automatically and unconsciously. Remove your shoes whenever possible and enjoy your connection to mother earth.
2. Cultivate Connection
A lack of close relationships has been shown to weaken our immune systems and usurp our vitality. Maintaining strong social ties with others improves many aspects of both health and happiness. Cultivate connections, and especially the one you have with yourself.
3. Challenge Yourself
Push your limits. Continually challenging yourself leads to a longer, healthier, and more vibrant life. It increases your confidence levels, improves your physical conditioning, and keeps your mind sharp and active. Assert yourself to read books that interest you, challenge yourself to figure out what living a purpose-driven life means to you, and follow your sense of curiosity and wonderment.
4. Develop Clarity
Developing clarity is a life-long commitment and undertaking. Just as the clouds overhead continually change and flow, so does your perspective, experiences, and curiosities in life. What is important is to develop clarity as to who you are, what is important to you, and how you wish to express yourself into the world.
Embrace those self-qualities that make you unique and special. Work towards developing those portions that feel authentic to you. What it is that you’d like to step-up to, work, and grow towards? Why? Knowing your why gives you a greater reason and purpose to pursue your course while heightening your chances of success. What is it that lights up your life, that gets you excited, that puts a smile on your face? What is your dream?
5. Be Present
Chronic stress and worry releases detrimental hormones that can damage cells, tissues, and organs which can shorten your life expectancy. Regret, shame, and pain over the past, or worry about the future, takes your attention away from what is most important: the PRESENT. It is from the present that all change takes place…the NOW. Knowing this, you can change your life in an instance should you decide.
Be present and tune-in to what your heart and gut are telling you. Our only opportunities exist in what we will do with this day. This does not mean we never think abut the past again or forget about the lessons we’ve learned along the way. It means we build upon our past by learning from our experiences and incorporating them into the decisions we make now.
6. Resist Fear
Fear is running rampant throughout the world. We fear ISIS, we fear that the food we eat is unsafe, we fear our children will have a tougher time adapting and surviving than we had. We fear for our safety and security, we fear we may be heading towards another world war, we fear that our government and politicians are corrupt. Listen to the news, and all we hear is fear-based information. We fear our partner may be cheating on us or that our relationship is faltering. We fear that our health is failing and that we are getting too old. We fear death and have an even greater fear of never having really lived. Turn off the continuous flow of fear based news that frightens and immobilizes us from living to our highest and best standards. Fill yourself with
what is right with the world, not with what isn’t. Ask what could be good about something that doesn’t outwardly appear that way.
Your body speaks to you, often through what people call their 6th sense, that of intuition and feeling. Listen to what your mind, heart, and gut reveals to you. Tune-in to your feelings for they influence your thoughts. Feelings are your internal gauge and compass of what is going on within you.
8. Practice Self-Care
Give your body what it needs to function at its best physical self. This includes daily movement, deep core breathing, plenty of pure water, healthy food, and restful sleep. Taking care yourself equates to having more energy, better overall health, clearer focus, and more productive days. It improves your stamina, increases your gratitude meter, and increases vibrancy. When you feel good, all of life’s possibilities seem within reach.
9. Embrace Joy
Generating joy from within is essential to creating greater vitality. Note that it is generated from within. Attempting to find joy outside of yourself or believing that joy is a goal to be achieved and worked towards in the future will not result in the outcome you hope for. Joy is something that we must actively bring into our daily lives and produce from within. If it is indeed true that what we focus on grows, then we must focus our attention on what we are grateful for and that which brings us joy.
Believe––with all your heart, mind and soul––that you can create whatever it is you wish to create in your life. View instances of perceived failure or doubt as short-term setbacks, knowing these are merely temporary roadblocks that must be dealt with. These setbacks are nothing more than temporary challenges and opportunities for growth that are set in front of you only to test your stamina, resourcefulness, patience, and perseverance. Believe that a greater intelligence is at work in your life and is guiding you towards the abundance that lies ahead of you.
11. Cherish Freedom
Caged animals lose their life vitality and will to live. The same happens to us when we succumb to a life of routine, dullness, and apathy. This also goes for those who no longer challenge themselves because of comfort and security. Either way, we lose our freedom and desire to express ourselves in exciting, fulfilling, and purposeful ways. If you find yourself in a life situation that is draining your life force from you, change your life. Nothing is worth living a caged or dull existence that slowly eats away at your will to live.