"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Cultivate vitality for a zestier life

By on May 30, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

“The supreme good of life is vitality.”

— Roberto Unger, philosopher, politician, law professor

June DarlingBy June Darling

I’m working on building my vitality.

The subject first came up when our granddaughters came to visit my husband and me during their spring break in April. To say the girls are full of vitality, zest and vigor does not come close to capturing their exuberant enthusiasm for life.

Sometimes we were exhausted as we tried to keep up; but, surprisingly, much of the time, we could rise to the occasion. The kids’ spirit rubbed off on us.

We did the scavenger hunt and played freeze tag at the Cashmere museum and Rotary Park (my husband said he’d never seen me run that fast); hiked up to Hidden Lake and frolicked on the beach at Lake Wenatchee; skated, played pickleball, and ran around at Confluence Park.

My husband was rosy-cheeked as he played the big-bad wolf. People in the park gave him kudos. We felt young again.

Three of June Darling’s granddaughters, Mckinsey Darling, Anna Darling and Sierra Darling, enjoy their view after climbing the “gremlin tree” on the south shore of Lake Wenatchee. Being around grandchildren can bring pep to life. Photo by John Darling.

Some researchers say that zest is more strongly related to happiness and well-being than any other trait. Author and consultant Tony Schwartz says energy is the fundamental currency of high performance.

What exactly is this thing we call vitality?

Researchers have many synonyms for vitality (for example, vigor, zest, enthusiasm, liveliness, pep, energy, spirit), but basically it’s the experience of feeling alive.

Vitality is quite different from those states that are active, but unfocused like jumpiness and jitteriness. One researcher calls vitality “calm-energy.”

The Chinese think people with zest have tapped into chi, a vital force of energy that is the source of life, creativity, right action and harmony.

People who are vital are fully functioning — active, experiencing meaning and purpose rather than feeling lost, disconnected and aimless. Writer Andrew Solomon says, “the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”

Several days after the kids left, I was watching a film in a communal setting. I almost fell out of my seat several times as I nodded off. I had to get up and leave to save myself embarrassment and possible broken bones.

The next day, in the middle of the afternoon, I locked myself into a little-used room in my house where nobody could find me; pulled covers over my head and took a two-hour nap. Afterwards, I tried to attack my work, but I couldn’t seem to get much done.

I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t tired. Nothing was bothering me. Without the kids, my pep appeared to have petered out.

I could see awful visions of myself living the rest of my life napping in an easy chair while watching re-runs of Gunsmoke. It seemed to me that something was seriously wrong with my chi.

As I researched ways to renew my energy, I found these possibilities for restoration.

Get moving. Activity is not just a sign of vitality, it’s a way to arouse zest. Sports, lifting-weights, yoga, dance. Any type of movement is not only good for our bodies, but also pumps up our spirits. Just taking a short, 10-minute, brisk walk can make us feel more alive especially when done outside. Movement is the most reliable and impactful way of increasing zest.

Do something fulfilling, something you like to do.

Many of us relentlessly drive ourselves to do tasks we hate and find meaningless without adding anything interesting to our day. No wonder we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. We have nothing to look forward to.

Read, socialize, garden, draw, restore an old piece of furniture. Do whatever you find engaging, fun, or that matters to you.

Learn something new, do something new, go somewhere different. Take a class, listen to TED talks, try playing an instrument, go on an adventure. Sometimes just a drive out of town can feel refreshing.

The point here is to use novelty to wake yourself up mentally.

Hang out with vital people. Others do rub off on us. Just watching kids play can be invigorating. If we want to be more vital, then we need to stop spending a lot of time with apathetic, dispirited, couch potatoes.

Listen to I Feel Good by James Brown. I did not make this up. The music seems to work for a lot of folks. They don’t call Brown the world’s godfather of soul for nothing.

Happy by Pharrell Williams also tunes folks up. (If you’re a country western or classical music lover, I’m guessing other choices might work better). This is probably one of the easiest and quickest possibilities for re-charging.

These ideas helped me make a plan for re-energizing myself. Maybe your chi could use a kick in the pants too.

June is a great month for experimenting with raising your zest. The Wenatchee Valley is the perfect place for moving your body, adventuring and hanging out with vital folks.

Walk, ride, hike, swim, paddle, garden, play, climb rocks and trees — come alive and be young again.

I don’t know if vitality is the supreme good of life as philosopher Roberto Unger claims, but there’s no doubt that vigor, by its many names and in its variety of forms, is a large contributor to helping us live well.

How might you increase your vitality and move up To The Good Life?

June Darling, Ph.D. can be contacted at drjunedarling1@gmail.com; website: www.summitgroupresources.com. Her bio and many of her books can be found at amazon.com/author/junedarling.

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