This energy makes you happy

Welcome to the energy series!  This is the fourth of six posts that describes how you can refuel energy so you don’t have to rely so heavily on stress to take you through your days.  Why? Because relying on energy as a life fuel gives you more performance, productivity and feels so much better than relying on stress…

Happiness can be simple: We are social beings, and we thrive in our lives when we feel needed, cared for, loved and valued.  We need to matter, to care and be cared for; to contribute to our families and communities as they contribute to our wellbeing.  Much of what we do is defined by our need to be part of the human community.  We crave and need love and human warmth.  There is a name for this: it’s relational energy.

Relational energy makes you happier.   You probably define the most life satisfaction and happiness by how you care, belong and contribute towards your family and community, making your world a better place to live.  Other happiness quick-fixes, such as buying something new, are superficial and short-lived.  You won’t remember this in a month; it really doesn’t matter.  What you will remember are the people and moments that gave your life meaning, purpose and dimension.

Relational energy doesn’t stand alone. It’s part of the bigger picture of your energy profile, and it interacts profoundly with all other forms of human energy, whether physical, emotional, cognitive or spiritual.  Think of it this way: it’s hard to be nice or kind if you are stressed, exhausted from lack of sleep, hungry for food or needing time alone.

Relational energy impacts your mental health.  When you have enough, of the right kind, it makes life more satisfying, whereas loneliness contributes heavily to mental illness, so much that countries such as England are developing policies and institutions to counterbalance social isolation (you can read more about this here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/world/europe/uk-britain-loneliness.html).

Relational energy is about authentic human interactions, bonding and relationships, not social media.  Posting your vacation pictures online is nice, but superficial.  Clicking on “like” is not a real interaction; neither is texting, because there is too little emotional, cognitive, physical or spiritual content to make it matter.  Think of having lunch with a close friend, reading a book with your kid, or holding hands with your partner as you chat: these are complex, meaningful, multi-dimensional interactions; they create a sense of belonging, caring and intimacy, whereas your social media friends? Not so much.

Time with yourself matters.  The little voices inside your head that try to convince you that you’re not doing enough?  That you “should” work more, be more, seize the day, look better, entertain more and sleep less?  They are lies.  The bad news is that they are still inside your head.  It’s hard on you to have a shame-based relationship with yourself.  Shame and guilt use up a lot of vital energy; they never allow you a break, burdening you with an unrealistic, perfectionist, self-defeating fake beliefs.

Take a moment to honour yourself.  You work hard; you try to do your best.  Take a moment to appreciate who you are and how much you do for others.  Take time to define a better relationship with yourself: you are good, and you are enough.  Bask in this realization. Enjoy a slow moment of stillness, focus on being as you are instead of doing.  It’s okay.

If relational energy makes you happy, would more make you happier?  Actually, no: you need to balance time to connect and engage with time alone.  If you’re exceeding your limit in either direction, you become needy or distant.  You’re out of balance, that’s all.  You can fix this easily by determining what you need.  But everyone is different, life is not a “one-size-fits-all” and if you’re more of an introvert who lives by “less is more”, the balance will be quite different than if you are an extravert who feels that more is  always better.  There is no perfect “dosage” except the one you choose for yourself.  Today, do you need more social time, or more alone time?  What would make you happier?

Relational energy is not all about soul-baring deep talk; you also need laughter, lightness and chit-chat.  They balance out – the light and heayy-duty, the fun and the challenging.  It makes your life what it is, a supportive soup of relationships.  What do you need more of, in your life, lightness – or soul-searching, time together – or time alone?

Drop the bad ones.  You know the picture: chronic complainers who tell you all about their bad luck, who blame everything and everyone, and show you how powerless they are.  The irony is that people who tell you these tales spend a lot more energy being a victim than moving forward.  Yes, life can be challenging, but listening at everything that’s wrong in the whole universe only makes you defeated and powerless.  You having to listen to them? A heavy toll on your energy.  Excuse yourself.

What if… You feel like the victim of your own negative spin on life? In terms of relational energy, this is a real bummer, since hard-core pessimists tend to live unhappy lives.  If you expect the worst, this is the only thing you see.  Life’s no fun.  But pessimism is not ingrained, it’s a habit, so it can be unlearned progressively.   What do you need to unlearn to have a more positive spin on life?  What would happen if you did?  Who will make this happen for you (cue: it’s not someone else)?

Fuel your relational energy with these five suggestions:

  • Relational energy doesn’t stand alone: you need adequate fuel from all sources of human energy. Whether you’re short on sleep, food, or deep breaths in fresh air and nature, cuddling won’t be enough
  • Have more real, meaningful conversations – but balance them with lighter,  fun ones – you need it all.  
  • Be more affectionate; cuddle more!  Appropriately, of course!  But physically distancing yourself tends to cut yourself off you, too.   
  • Drop the infectious pessimistic talks about life. Forget the coffee break from hell, where everyone competes as who has had the hardest luck.  Instead, build connections based on hope, not fear and defeatism.   
  • Balance time together with time alone – you need both, to connect with yourself and create a supportive inner space, and to engage authentically with others.  
  • Build a more constructive relationship with yourself, by changing your self-talk to be more authentically positive and encouraging – you are doing your best.  
  • Build and maintain real, lasting relationships: invest yourself in your family and community

Choose something from this list, something that feels right for you today.  Then do it, instead of waiting for someday.  You’re in charge, and your life matters.  Create positive, meaningful, supportive relationships that support and fuel you. Including with yourself.

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