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Natural Awakenings

Reclaim Vitality!: Reap the Benefits of Enhanced Life Force

May 01, 2010 03:00AM ● By Catherine Guthrie

We know vitality when we see it. People with vitality overflow with that special something; they stand out from the rest like shiny pennies.

Why do some people have more vitality than others? Vitality is often broadcast via physical traits—sparkling eyes, radiant skin or an energetic demeanor. It’s tempting to chalk it all up to good health, but there’s more to vitality than robust physiology. Not all clinically healthy and ostensibly fit people seem especially vital, while some physically frail individuals still manage to emanate an extraordinary life force and joie de vivre.

In the West, vitality is often associated with a strong supply of physical energy, vigor and resilience. In the East, what the Chinese call chi and healers in India call prana relates more to an ineffable life force, currents that suffuse and sustain both the physical and nonphysical aspects of every living thing.

The popularization of Eastern practices such as yoga, Tai chi and meditation now offers more Americans a taste of life habits that can help us understand and cultivate this sort of vitality. Yet in America, vitality is still viewed as the frosting on the cake of life—and not, as in Eastern cultures, its main focus.

While good health enhances and helps signify vitality, it can’t deliver all of vitality’s benefits. So, what is the secret to sustaining our vitality or getting it back?


Reconnecting with What Nourishes

Dan Buettner, bestselling author of The Blue Zones, is an expert on human longevity and vitality. He’s found that vitality has as much to do with social, emotional and mental health as with physical habits. For instance, diet and exercise play a big part in vitality, but so do things like a sense of life purpose, spirituality and community.Identifying vitality zappers is equally important. Constance Grauds, a registered pharmacist, shamana (female shaman) and author of Jungle Medicine, explains that traditional medicine men believe human disease and suffering is caused by disconnection and that its root is a core fear, or susto. She believes that most Americans are chronically afflicted by susto, living in the grip of one type of fear or another virtually all the time.

Grauds suspects that Americans’ excess susto has something to do with chronic anxieties, pressures and “little fears” they face every day: job stress, money worries, social pressures, relationship troubles and so on. The net outcome is a massive vitality drain.

To plug “energy leaks,” we need to build connections to the things that energize and sustain us, such as meditation or prayer, healthy food, loving relationships and mindful exercise, says Grauds. “Energy and vitality come from the joyful things we do in life that are simple, free and right under our noses,” she observes, “like petting your dog, watering your garden and taking a few deep breaths.

“Vitality is a measure of the life force within you,” she continues. “When we’re connected to our sources of vitality, not only do we have more energy to be more active and get more done, but we’re engaged, we’re present. We feel that flow of life force pumping through us.”

Seven Ways to Spark Vitality
--Get outside
--Cultivate community
-- Be a lifelong learner
-- Stay calm
-- Honor promises
-- Plug energy leaks
--Get enough sleep

Where to Start

Americans are slowly waking up to the fact that we need to value our vitality more deeply or we risk losing it. It’s best to review vitality zappers and enhancers daily or weekly and repair minor leaks before a trickle becomes a torrent.

We can start by finding a place of stillness. Consider meditating, keeping a journal, praying or just walking in the woods while asking our self how we are doing and feeling and what we are missing or longing for. Listen for the signals that say certain connections may have come loose, and that other factors may be pulling too strongly. “Plugging into life is the key to more vitality,” says Grauds. “Find ways to connect to the world outside yourself.”


Catherine Guthrie is a freelance writer based in Bloomington, IN. Connect at

Click on “Vitality Compass” at to take a free longevity quiz based on vitality indices ranging from diet and exercise to spiritual practices and connection with family and community.
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