Everyday Vitality | Samantha Boardman

Summary of: Everyday Vitality: How to Thrive, Survive, and Feel Alive
By: Samantha Boardman


Welcome to the world of ‘Everyday Vitality’ by Samantha Boardman, where you’ll explore the art of building resilience and thriving in the face of stress. This summary will introduce you to the concept of cultivating vitality, a critical difference between those who handle stress well and those who don’t. Discover the steps you need to take to become a ‘Teflon person’, someone who remains flexible and engaged even in challenging times. Learn the key elements of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and how they contribute to your overall wellbeing. Unravel the concept of ‘desirable difficulty’ and the importance of challenging work in boosting vitality, and find out how building connections with others and challenging yourself personally are vital aspects of a fulfilling life.

Cultivating Vitality Amid Stress

Managing stress effectively depends on how well we cultivate vitality in our lives. The distinction between those who handle stress well and those who don’t lies in how they react to challenging situations. “Teflon” people demonstrate vitality by staying engaged, flexible, and proactive, while “Velcro” people get stuck in difficult situations, engaging in unproductive activities that ultimately bring them down. To cultivate vitality, focus on autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and engage in deliberate daily actions that bring strength and positivity.

We’ve all experienced rough weeks, filled with personal losses or distressing news about loved ones. During such times, it can be tempting to isolate ourselves, shut out the world, and indulge in instant-gratification activities like binge-watching TV shows or overeating. However, these seemingly comforting actions only drag us deeper into negativity. So, what’s the secret to overcoming life’s worst moments?

People who can shake off these difficult situations, like Teflon, are those who cultivate vitality. Contrastingly, those who get ensnared in negativity, like Velcro, often spiral further into despair.

How can one cultivate vitality? The key lies in “doing.” Engaging in deliberate activities daily that make you feel good and strong fosters a sense of vitality. Teflon people maintain their resilience by being flexible, staying engaged, and proactively planning for positive experiences. They also provide support to others in need, which bolsters their emotional well-being.

Vitality isn’t only developed in the face of life-altering events. It’s the everyday stressors that deplete our emotional reserves. Minor frustrations, such as traffic jams and unscheduled obstacles, can test even the most resilient individuals.

Vitality thrives on three fundamental concepts: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. By being proactive, making plans, and engaging in meaningful activities both independently and with others, you develop a sense of self-direction and confidence in your abilities. This strengthens your resilience and equips you better to handle the continuous onslaught of daily stressors.

So, embrace the power of “doing” to build and sustain your vitality. In doing so, you’ll become more resilient, better prepared to tackle life’s challenges and setbacks, and ultimately, achieve a more fulfilling and less stressful life.

Embrace Desirable Difficulty

Rather than seeking stress-free lives, embracing desirable difficulty and cultivating vitality is key to our well-being. Research shows that we derive more satisfaction when we work hard for something and face challenges. Coexisting with stressors and operating within their framework allows us to develop vitality and resilience that positively impact our lives.

Imagine two groups of rats being tempted with Froot Loops. One group has to search for the cereal in their bedding, while the other receives it effortlessly. When challenged to retrieve the Froot Loop from a clear plastic ball, the hardworking rats worked harder to get the treat. This experiment tells us that hard work and coping with stress can be good for us, rather than waiting for a stress-free life.

This is the concept of desirable difficulty, which suggests finding the right balance of challenge to thrive. Studies have shown that people enjoy work – especially when it’s challenging. The feeling of striving towards a goal is just as important as achieving it.

Consider the example of General Mills introducing a cake mix in the 1950s. Initially, the mix only required adding water, making it seemingly too simple for housewives. To make it feel more rewarding, an egg had to be added to the mix. This small change turned the product into an instant success.

The paradox of desiring challenge yet struggling with the accompanying stress can be addressed by nurturing vitality and resilience. By learning to cope within the parameters of stressors, we can reap the benefits of challenges without being overwhelmed.

Choose Vitality Intentionally

Dealing with tough situations can sometimes require you to not be your true self but instead, act as someone else who is more suitable for the situation. By making a conscious decision to act a certain way, you prioritize achieving the desired result. This same principle applies to cultivating vitality; intentionally choose it. Channeling strong or confident characters can help you rewrite negative traits from your past and adopt more valuable ones. Remember that role models aren’t perfect, and avoid envying them. Embrace the positives in your life, creating a spiral of uplifting energy, which contributes to your vitality.

Tough situations can sometimes make it more beneficial to channel someone else’s persona, like a confident aunt or a superhero, rather than being your true self. By acting like these characters, you make a conscious choice to behave differently and achieve better results in the situation at hand. This concept applies to cultivating vitality as well; it’s essential to choose it with intention.

Take this idea a step further and use it as a way to adjust your view of the past. If you have a history of helpfulness and obedience but feel resentful for always having to pick up the slack at work, try rewriting your story by changing your traits. Reject those that have become affixed to you and begin to embody the ones you genuinely value.

It’s crucial to remember that even role models have their flaws. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admire and emulate someone, becoming envious of them can trap you and prevent you from feeling joy in your life. Instead, choose to see the positives, no matter how big or small, such as someone holding a door open or a loved one visiting. Focusing on these pleasant everyday occurrences can create uplifting energy, contributing to your overall vitality. Trigger this positive spiral by reflecting on these good moments, like thinking about all the great things that happened during the day before starting your car after work.

By intentionally choosing vitality, you not only improve your own well-being but also make it possible to include others in this learning process.

Power of Connection and Vitality

Nurturing connections with others is a potent source of energy and well-being that helps us cope with life’s challenges. Engaging in meaningful conversations and practicing active constructive responding in relationships allows us to feel genuinely loved and supported. Small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way in reducing stress and fostering long-term contentment.

Research has revealed that people find it easier to tackle difficult tasks, like climbing a hill, when they have company and that a simple hug can make someone less nervous about public speaking. Supportive relationships also contribute to better sleep, even for paramedics after a high-stress day. This illustrates the incredible power of connection in buffering us from life’s hardships.

To make the most of these benefits, it’s essential to engage in meaningful conversations with others, rather than relying on small talk. Be genuinely curious and inclusive in discussions, avoiding monologues about yourself. Create a dynamic where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued by being present and putting your phone away.

In romantic relationships, effective communication becomes even more critical. Develop a routine to leave the day’s stress behind before engaging with your loved ones and avoid an emotional transfer. When listening to your partner, practice active constructive responding (ACR) by showing wholehearted enthusiasm, eye contact, and asking follow-up questions. ACR makes your partner feel more loved and cared for in the relationship. With this approach, “Tell me more” might become the sweetest three words you can say.

Going beyond communication, putting love into action with small acts of kindness adds to the connection’s ability to foster well-being. It’s not the grand gestures, like extravagant gifts, but the everyday support – like filling up your partner’s gas tank – that leads to lasting happiness. These thoughtful actions can greatly alleviate another person’s stress, making for stronger, healthier relationships.

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