When I was asked to write about living vibrantly, I had to stop and think. Do I live a vibrant life? Do I know how to live vibrantly? What is living vibrantly? Sure, I put on a great smile for most people and I seem to always be having fun, but do I live in the moment? Do I live a healthy and balanced life? Do I take time to focus on me?
Over the last few months, I have been working on those very things. I have been trying to create an environment that is working towards a happy and healthy lifestyle. I have been pushing myself to exercise more, I have made changes in my daily work life, and I have started/stopped/started eating healthier. But is this enough?
Living vibrantly comes through living in the now
How many people can truly say they live in the now? Throughout your day, do you find yourself daydreaming, imagining a better future, or maybe you’re planning that trip to the beach. To live in the now means to be conscious, aware and in the present with all of your senses. It means not dwelling on the past, nor being anxious or worrying about the future.
So many of us struggle with that. I know I relive that embarrassing moment over and over again. I dwell on something I should have done or how I could have done it better. I worry if I will ever “get it right”. And even worse, I focus so much attention on other people’s happiness, that I forget to worry about my own.
Since I was asked to write this blog, I have been working on those very things. I have been trying to stay in the moment, focusing on my happiness, and working towards a better me. I have found a few tips that have really worked well and want to share those with you.
1. Manage your stress and you’ll fix almost everything.
Stress is the cause of a staggering number of health problems and worsens any medical condition. Stress causes us to age faster, throws our hormones out-of-whack, and makes us feel anxious, fearful and irritable. Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your own body and mind, and counteract them actively.
2. Sleep is ground zero.
If you don’t get enough sleep, everything else will suffer. Sleep deprivation puts you in a pre-diabetic state, messes with your metabolism, makes you dramatically more likely to be overweight, increases your appetite, decreases your productivity, hampers your immune system, and makes you tired, moody, anxious and likely to be depressed.
3. Be childlike.
Who said you had to grow up and be so serious? Cultivate the very best of the child within you. Practice childlike awe for majestic things, childlike silliness, childlike faith, childlike hope, childlike play, and creativity. When it comes to certain things, children do them way better than we do. Recapture it – it’s still inside you.
4. Don’t wait.
Don’t put off something that you know you need to do, don’t wait until things are perfect. Figure out how you can start now, start small. Just start. You’ll be so glad you did.
5. When your body says stop, listen to it.
Learning to listen to your body is a key skill in life. Drink water when you’re thirsty. Eat good food when you’re hungry and stop when your body says it’s full. Sleep when your body wants to. Stop pushing when you feel tired. Take a vacation when every ounce of your body and mind is screaming for it. Take a break when your shoulders tense up or your neck starts aching. Take really good care of your body, and listen to it. In turn, it will take really good care of you.
What I have learned most over these last few months is that everyone has a different definition of living vibrantly. What is yours? What steps can you take to be happy and successful in your life?
Nikki Lewis is the Foundation Manager at the Mansfield-Richland Area Educational Foundation, more commonly called the Chamber Foundation. She coordinates the Foundations programs, Leadership Unlimited, Young Entrepreneurs Academy, and the Economic Club. Nikki moved to the Richland County area just over ten years ago after spending most of her life in Tucson, Arizona. She graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. After graduating, she began her journey with Richland Bank, where she was a branch manager and lender. During that time, she realized her passion for community service. Nikki has since been a part of many area organizations, like Richland Young Professionals and the Parent Aide Program, all while trying to help create a better community. Her drive to make Richland County a better place and her desire to see others succeed were some of the many reasons she felt compelled to make the move to become the Foundation Manager.
Many people see me as lively, animated, and energetic so writing on the topic of vibrant living seems a natural fit. Those adjectives are synonyms for vibrant, sure, and yet, I think sometimes the most accurate description of me is a Type A person who needs to learn how to relax! I think living vibrantly may be viewed differently by different people but to me, it is a practice in mindfulness; noticing what gives us joy, purpose and embracing those things with enthusiasm. Taking the time to truly feel what life gives us in the moment is key. And, for someone like me, a bit of forcing myself to slow down from time to time to smell the roses and see the joy in the slower pace.
I’ve always felt that life is too short to fit in all of the things I’d like to try, taste, and see; places to visit, people to meet, experiences to savor. I long ago realized the only possible way to approach my life would be to pay close attention to each opportunity that comes along and take full advantage. It’s a necessity for me. A few ideas to help with that:
- Eat right and exercise. Vibrant Living isn’t possible if we’re overloaded with sugar and alcohol, sitting on a couch in front of the TV. Mindful eating and moving make it possible to better enjoy life’s opportunities. And yes, sometimes that enjoyment means a great dessert, an awesome cocktail, and a Netflix binge!
- Stay positive. When we focus on what bugs us, especially if we give it voice, it becomes who we are. If you’re annoyed about the snow, you’re not noticing the opportunity to learn to ski.
- Keep tabs on your spending. If a big house gives you joy, by all means, buy the biggest house you can afford. But if what you want is travel, you might rethink how you divide your disposable income. I don’t have the biggest house or best car by any stretch, but I have awesome photographs from my travels and interesting stories to tell about being in plays in New York or raising my children in France. It’s all about making the spending choices that are right for you.
- Appreciate what you have. If you don’t count your blessings, you’ll be unhappy with your lot in life. It’s impossible to live a vibrant, meaningful life when focused on what you don’t have.
- Keep a record of your experiences. Something as simple as taking a minute each evening to think back on your day; acknowledging what you enjoyed and, this is very important, what you did well can make a huge difference in your attitude toward life.
Recently, Yale University began offering a class on happiness called “Psychology and the Good Life”, a course teaching how to be happier; how to live a better life. Enrollment exploded with 1200 students signing up. They didn’t have a classroom large enough so the course was simulcast around campus. Their tips include spending less time on social media and more time on real experiences, expressing gratitude, performing random acts of kindness, etc. It sounds obvious yet it’s not how many of us live. While I’m not sure that happiness necessarily equates to vibrant living, the similarities outweigh the differences and we benefit.
Learning to retrain where I focus my energies is one of my more recent life lessons. I’m not from Richland County and my main focus upon moving here was my kids. The people I met were largely other parents. It was a lot of fun working with these parents on school-related projects; organizing a school party, sewing costumes for drama club and chaperoning kids on marching band trips. However, our interactions stopped there and I never gave it much thought. Now my kids are grown and I see I’ve neglected to form my own personal relationships over the years. Shifting my prior focus toward my own needs by better-recognizing opportunities to make friends through shared experiences and connecting in meaningful ways is helping me live my new, best, most vibrant life.
Jennifer Enskat is an Actor, Producer, Director and Award-Winning Filmmaker and Editor. Beginning her acting career at the ripe age of four, Jen worked for decades in film, TV, theatre, radio and television commercials everywhere from Los Angeles to New York, from the Pacific Northwest to the Navajo Nation, from Jamaica to Miami to France. Turning to the production side in 2012, Jen added the roles of director, producer and editor, working in short film, documentaries, commercials and web series, winning Best Editor at Long Island International Film Expo, Best Web Series at Austin Revolution Film Festival plus a nomination for Best Director at Austin. She is currently in pre-production on “The Bride Price”, a documentary about forced marriage in Malawi, Africa and as Executive Producer of TEDxMansfield, putting together Mansfield’s first ever TED Event, coming this November.