The other day, I was visiting with a family member from out of town. We were catching up and I invariably started talking about the LIFE Project, which takes up a significant part of my life now – at least 3 hours per day.
I relayed my forays into meditation, the joys of journaling, and why I recite affirmations and mantras. I spoke of the insights I gain on my daily walks and the drive to spread love and goodwill wherever and whenever I can.
When I finished, she looked at me. “Somebody give me a vitamin. I apparently have low energy,” she joked. I giggled and hugged her.
Giggles aside, her next question was, “Where do you get that energy? I feel so ‘low-energy’ compared to you.”
The ensuing answer is what led to this post. I’ve had quite a few people ask me about this project and when I tell them all that I’m trying to tackle, the words I often hear are, “overwhelming” and “I feel like I can’t even compare.”
This is so not what I would try to convey. This is so the last thing I want to evoke in someone who’s following my story or the LIFE project.
Before I answered the question, I reminded myself to take some breaths. I always try to do this when I’m about to answer something that might require a bit of wisdom or a successful conveyance of understanding.
I started by telling her that she has three children and that she’s spent her adult life tending to them. Even if they don’t occupy all her time now (they’re all grown), the gargantuan amounts of energy for someone to do that are beyond my grasp.
She sweetly countered by saying that the amount of energy I seem to have outweigh that which a person would require if they had kids. That my energy was about something else.
I looked at her thoughtfully. She was right. It was something else. I dug deeper and tried again.
My next words were in the form of a list.
I told her that she’d given me some good food for thought and that I’d have to write about this on my website, because I think it’s a concept that a lot of people struggle with – myself included sometimes.
My recipe for high energy:
- being mindful
- getting exercise
- good sleep
- being mindful of your needs
- knowing yourself
- doing work you love
Let me tackle my reasoning behind each item on this list.
There’s no doubt about it. Meditation has changed my life – profoundly. I feel more rested sometimes after a meditation session than a full night’s sleep.
The brain emanates reparative brainwaves in deep states of meditation.
Using my smartwatch, I have concrete data that shows that I reach the same brain state as deep sleep during my mediations. (I’ve been wanting to do a post on this, but haven’t had a chance yet).
I know for a fact – just from personal experience – that I derive energy from meditation.
It’s well-documented that exercising can actually increase your energy when you’re not exercising.
Your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body when you’re at rest, and your body systems get more efficient – thereby using less energy to keep you going (and leaving you with more reserves of good ol’ energy).
There are many other benefits to exercise, of course, and I could go more in-depth about the energy you get from being active, but I think you all get the point.
Because walking is such a big part of my daily life now, I feel like I derive a lot more energy from this single activity. Plus, I seem to sleep better overall at night.
I did a post a little while back on the virtues of journaling. It’s an incredibly introspective activity, but also quite cathartic.
Journaling allows you to get your thoughts written down instead of expending mental energy mulling things over and over in your head.
We’ve all experienced the same kind of exhaustion that comes from mental tiredness as physical tiredness.
Getting enough sleep is essential for normal human function. There’s just no way around it. Back in June, I strived to get 8 hours of sleep each day.
I have a chart here that shows my sleep patterns over time, going from August on the left side all the way back to April:
Looking at this over time, I can see I generally get about the same amount of sleep each night, sometimes my watch conks out (the days where it says I have zero hours of sleep), and there’s the occasional night of sleepless sleep which tend to coincide with life events (like changing jobs).
There’s the one errant dot at the end of May where it looks like I slept for 11 or 12 hours. Maybe I did, but I think it’s more likely that I was charging the device and it thought I was sleeping.
So, you can see there are two major drawbacks to these charts.
First, for whatever reason, my smartwatch doesn’t start tracking sleep until midnight each night. I have no idea why, but reviews on the smartwatch have this as a complaint, so it’s not just me.
The second is that there are times it just doesn’t register sleep at all. If I need to charge the device, or if it’s the first part of the month, it doesn’t like to record data. This goes for walking, too.
Don’t know why, but I didn’t pay big bucks for this thing, either. So, really, I can’t complain (nor would I want to).
However, I know that to feel my best, I need 7.5 to 8.5 hours of good sleep. I can do 7 hours for a few days, but then I’ll need to have a solid 8-9 hours after that to restore my energy.
Practicing gratitude is such an energy-booster for me. It gets me excited about life and all that life has to offer.
There really is so much to be thankful for, and despite the political situation in the US and other distressing events around the world, I know that there is still more good in the world than bad.
We hear about the bad news because it naturally gets our attention. But most things run “right” during the day:
- The car gets us safely to work.
- The refrigerator hums along, faithfully delivering freons to keep food cold.
- The microwave warms our tea.
- The walls of our dwellings remain standing.
- I spend the majority of my life free from debilitating health effects.
- Our pets shower us with love.
- Farms around the world continue to churn out fresh, edible food.
- The computer fires right up, ready to do our bidding.
- The world continues revolving around the sun.
- And so many more things just go right.
Do these things change? Yes. Do thinks break down? Of course. Will the earth one day stop revolving around the sun? A long, long, long after I’m gone, yes.
But think about it: most things in our lives actually go just fine. Taking time to be grateful for that gets me so excited to be on this planet.
I get energy from the satisfaction of practicing gratitude for all the things that are working just fine. And if not, I try to be grateful for the lessons I learn or the hidden blessings in a situation.
Do I think I could give more?
Absolutely. I’ve even made it part of this LIFE project to do so.
But, in the meantime, I try to always look for ways I can give of my time, my heart, my sympathies, and my expertise.
(As a side note, if you’re subscribed to the newsletter – via email, not WordPress, hopefully you folks got the free desktop/background photos.)
The other day, I bought flowers for my elderly neighbor. I hadn’t seen her in awhile and took them over and put them in a vase for her.
She was so happy she gave me an art deco vase to keep. I tried to refuse, but I could sense the pride and happiness in her voice, so I gratefully accepted it.
In turn, I was ecstatic, too. It made my day to have her appreciate and smile at something I’d done.
I can honestly tell you that I was on a high all afternoon just because of doing that one act of kindness.
I share this not because what I’m doing is so special, but because you get so much out of giving and it seriously boosts your energy.
Being Mindful of Your Needs
All this meditating, self-exploring and introspection has me really knowing myself. This also makes me aware of how I’m socially awkward sometimes.
I’m introverted and I’m a clark, and when I’m not around the people in my “inner circle”, natural conversation can be hard.
I mention this because when I feel like an awkward situation is coming up, I am learning to address that directly and can take measures to mitigate my own suffering and awkwardness that others might feel as well.
I politely excuse myself, or practice mindfulness by taking deep breaths and turning inward so that outwardly, I project a sense of confidence and calm.
I’ve gotten so good at this, people often mistake me for an extrovert.
(Oh, if people only knew the inner sense of turmoil I sometimes experience when talking to others and I’m even more grateful how much mindfulness helps me with this.)
The other day I was at a conference with lots of people.
Knowing that this type of thing drains my personal energy, I intentionally stood while eating my lunch and focusing on my breathing. Folks often came over for a chat and when I finished, I walked outside to enjoy the sun.
My needs are that I crave smaller groups of people and the solace of the outdoors. I found a few other people standing outside at that conference and instantly I was able to commingle with a smaller group that offered more intimate, less nerve-wracking conversation.
Though conferences and big-group activities are a regular part of life, as an introvert, I can mitigate the social challenges of these events by honoring my needs without making a big deal about it.
I also gained energy from the small conversations that brought smiles of understanding to my face.
This just comes from knowing myself, as well.
This is similar to knowing my needs. Knowing myself will tell me when to do certain things and when ask for help with others.
For example, knowing that I strive to stand for my values, I participated in the Women’s March.
Crowds and being around strangers send me right out of my comfort zone, but my discomfort outweighed my desire to be part of something bigger.
I brought headphones and creature comforts that would help me endure the large crowds and long bus trip.
At other times, such as when starting a new job, I’ve neglected to make my needs clear in favor of “not wanting to rock the boat.”
This is a mistake, and I now know there are perfectly professional ways of addressing my own needs while fulfilling the needs of the workplace.
Now, whenever I begin a new job or have to work somewhere, I say that I need a more private space, or at least have access to one when I need to concentrate. Having a place to make tea or have softer lighting is also important to me.
This allows me to do my best work and not have the energy sucked out of me because my own needs aren’t being met. Naturally, I’m left with more energy as a result.
Doing Work I Love
But, one of the biggest ways I actually derive energy (well, in combination with these other items) is doing work that fuels my heart.
Writing, creating, and helping others all give me energy.
The work I do with my website here, the marketing I do for the little mindful school where I now work, and giving of my time all “fill my cup,” and I can’t get enough of it all.
Working on my coloring book or journal isn’t work to me (except, admittedly, when it comes to formatting and proofreading, then I have to make myself do these things – ha!).
Meditation isn’t work to me.
Journaling isn’t work to me.
Helping a school spread love, kindness and mindfulness isn’t work to me.
Writing flash fiction stories, blog posts, and other written publications isn’t work to me.
Creating daily haikus on Twitter isn’t work to me.
It’s all in the perspective.
I would do these things – ALL these things – if no one paid me. In fact, I’m not paid for most of the work I’ve listed here. At least not yet.
I do it because it’s all a labor of love – a love that gives me a lot of energy.
I cannot stress the importance to striving to do work that is in alignment with your heart, your values, your personality and what you’re capable of.
It might take awhile to find that balance, but keep searching until you do – because the benefits are worth it.
The energy you derive from doing the right activities with right action can give you energy – especially as you live your right truth.
As a final note, these things transcend personality types and experiences (the stories I could tell you from a childhood of growing up in a nursing home and being adopted…).
I have been prone to depression in the past, but a lot of this involves choosing to challenge myself to be all that I can be.
I proactively take measures to ensure good mental health and good physical health for myself.
I will be the first to admit that I am human, nowhere near perfect.
I just aim to try to do what I can to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. Alas, I am still far from fulfilling that intention, but each day I choose to work at it.
Do I Really Have Endless Energy?
Nah. I’m like the Energizer Bunny. Or a hummingbird. People have called me both names. The Energizer Bunny has to recharge its batteries from time to time. And hummingbirds perch on a tree branch to rest.
So it is with myself. When I need to rest, I honor that. I honor my need to recharge when my body tells me to. As we all should.
So, friends, I hope you have an energy-filled week and with the solar eclipse happening where I live in just a few hours (I’m incredibly grateful to live in the path of totality!), I must sign off and “take a day” to soak up the sun and watch the moon dance in front of it.