Emotional Vibrancy Explained

research Jan 02, 2020

By Elaine O'Brien

Would you like to experience, and generate, more joy and energy in your life? Do you want to wake up in the morning feeling ready to embrace a bright, beautiful new day? If the answer is “Yes,” you can actually learn to cultivate your emotional vibrancy.

Emotional vibrancy is the quality of harnessing zest, positive energy, and radiant, glowing health. Emotional vibrancy can offer us a sense of calm and inner peace even during life’s challenges. Becoming more emotionally vibrant can act as an antidote to distress, feelings of being lost in life, and help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Having emotional vibrancy means having the energy to carry out your day-to-day activities, the strength and flexibility to be at home, work, and play, with vigor and enthusiasm.  

People with emotional vibrancy tend to engage in activities that bring them joy, rather than barely getting through the demands of the day before collapsing on the couch, exhausted.  Positive Psychology researchers have found that cultivating emotional vibrancy can be developed via physical activity training, somatic interventions, and the power of positive self-determination. In my doctoral studies, I’ve found that how we move and carry ourselves impacts how we think, feel and perform. Positive movement can promote flourishing. 

Engaging in enjoyable, meaningful physical activity is a great way to increase our health, well-being and boost our emotional vibrancy. Sport, play, dance, and physical activity offer opportunities for us to gain mastery, confidence, positive engagement, and enriched social connections. Not only does positive movement increase our quality of health, but also the quality of our lives. 

The relationship between physical movement, and social connection is another key to thriving.  Moving our bodies with others, through classes or team sports, can help us to build emotional resources, shoring us up to be resilient and to bounce back during times of adversity.  We have the ability to prime, activate, and build our capacity for emotional vibrancy. And, once harnessed, emotional vibrancy can continue to promote greater embodied positive energy across the lifespan. 

Emotional vibrancy is ageless and timeless. Because physical activity boosts our physiological reserve and helps us age with fewer decrements, regular exercisers often look, feel, and present much younger than their actual chronological age. Through body, brain and movement science, we can improve our functional age, quality of life, and health into our 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and even 100s! There is no term limit to the possibility of embodied emotional vibrancy!

I recently ran into one of my former adult Dance/Fitness students, Evelyn, and her daughter, Maureen.  I hadn’t seen this lovely duo for about six years since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 forced them to relocate from the beach area at the Jersey Shore, where we all lived. I couldn’t help noticing that the mom, Evelyn, had retained her lively spirit, a quality I remembered about her. At age 98, Evelyn, exuded zest, joie de vivre, a sense of fun, and a love of life and people. Despite her advanced chronological age, Evelyn was an exemplar of emotional vibrancy. She was lit up, smiling, laughing, curious and kind. 

What are some of the ways we can harness greater emotional vibrancy in our lives? 

The art and science of positive psychology and aging well offers some ideas:

  1. Be physically active most days of the week. Moving more and well increase the possibility to look, feel, and do better. Aerobic exercise, exercising the large muscles of the body, like the arms and legs, continually and rhythmically, boosts health, well-being and energy. Aerobic exercise, in the presence of oxygen, also sparks your brain’s health.  Think of activities like brisk walking, dancing, cycling, hiking, and some of the activities you might have enjoyed as a child. Additionally, moving frequently during the day prevents the blood from pooling and turning to “sludge” while promoting greater energization and whole fitness.
  2. Aim to increase your strength, balance, flexibility and coordination by incorporating movement during the day. You can do toe tapping (dorsiflexion, to increase your balance, flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury) while you are on a checkout line, brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand to boost brain cells, and do wall push ups, while waiting for your cup of tea to steep. You can fit positive movement into your busiest days.
  3. Take time to rest and recharge. Precious time relaxing or in contemplation can present an opportunity to build focus, perspective, and increase our whole well-being. 
  4. Be “otherish.” Caring about others is one of the best ways to build emotional vibrancy. My friend, Evelyn, at 98, is lovely, kind and interested in others and their well-being. One of the first things she said was to ask me about my mother’s health! Many of the most emotionally vibrant people I know give the gift of volunteering, including reading to young students, working at the food pantry, cuddling newborn babies, teaching Latin. Sharing your talents with others and giving the gift of your presence builds true joy.
  5. Be open to new experiences and learning new things. In a fitness dance class I teach, FitDance, I aim to offer opportunities that challenge my students and allow them to build fitness, play and experience mastery (and fun). I continually modify the music and choreography to help build progression, interest, skill levels and the practice. The goal is to help people feel welcome, encouraged, appreciated, and to leave class feeling great, with a sense of accomplishment and connection to themselves and others.

We can adjust our attitude, and amplify our mood and well-being by focusing on what’s good. Are you going to be the person that people are attracted to, and remember? Building emotional vibrancy is a quality certainly worth cultivating. 

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