Do you wish that you had more energy? I do. I often look at my six-year-old with envy as she jumps out of bed, full of life and excited to face the adventure of the day. But unlike my six-year-old daughter, who has relatively few worries, I have many concerns about real or potential problems—concerns that can affect emotional health and drain emotional energy. Life transitions, grief and loss, mental or physical illness, stress, and relationship distress can all take a toll.
Energy is defined as a usable power source. “E”motions are energy in motion, propelling us to move in certain directions. More than mere physical energy, emotions provide a deeper, internal energy source. According to therapist and researcher Mira Kirshenbaum, emotional energy is “an aliveness of the mind, a happiness of the heart, and a spirit filled with hope.”
Sounds like something we all need, right? So how can we adults recapture some of the emotional energy that powered us, back when we were small and unfettered by worries and concerns? Here are five ways you can do it:
1. Invest in important relationships. We are born to connect with others—it’s necessary for our very survival. Close relationships can emotionally energize you like nothing else in the world. So prioritize the relationships that feed your soul, and take care of your intimate family relationships above all others. Take time to connect with your loved ones, and to let them know on a regular basis how much you value them.
Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. ~Swedish Proverb
2. Pursue your passions. What gets you excited about life? What do you look forward to? What emotionally energizes you? Dream big! Passion is a life compass, pointing you to your unique strengths and life purpose. Being involved in your passions refuels your emotional energy. When my niece was born profoundly deaf, my sister, Rachel Coleman, started working with our other sister, Emilie Brown, to produce Signing Time! DVDs. The DVDs are designed to improve the communication of all children by teaching American Sign Language. My sisters’ passion for this mission is infectious and has inspired many families throughout the world.
3. Live on purpose. What is your life about? What is your greater purpose? How are you making a difference for others? Having a purpose greater than your own life is energizing and can even allow you to transcend physical health problems and chronic illness. A wonderful example of the power of purpose can be seen in the life of the well-known actor Christopher Reeves. After being thrown off a horse, he became quadriplegic, but that didn’t place limits on his passion, caring, and involvement. He dedicated the remainder of his life to advocating for research and life enhancement for individuals with spinal cord injuries.
4. Just say no. When you are asked to do something and are having a difficult time deciding whether take on the additional commitment, ask yourself, “Does this feel emotionally energizing or emotionally draining?” What you want matters. If you don’t want to do it, don’t! If you do things just to please others or avoid guilt, or because you think you should, you may wind up unnecessarily draining your emotional reserves. Resentment is a helpful clue that you need to put “no” back into your vocabulary, and start being more selective about what you commit to.
5. Watch out for energy sinks. Guard your emotional reserves by being selective about who you spend time with and who you listen to. Just as joy can be contagious, negativity can seep into your emotional space and drain you. Complaining, blaming, belittling, gossiping, demanding, rigid rules, and excessive neediness are a few examples of draining relationship patterns. If any of these become chronic in a relationship, consider taking a step back for reflection.
What makes you happy and gives you more energy? Share your favorite moves here.
File under: Expert Spotlight