During the past three summers I've spoken at conferences in Mediterranean countries. While the supper hour is later than by American standards, Italians, Spaniards, and Greeks have a distinct type of joie de vivre (or joy of life). The streets are filled every evening with people greeting their neighbors and friends, while drinking wine, sharing meals, and toasting vita (the Italian word for life).
The following are seven examples of ways to add more vigor to your life and to increase your zest for living.
1) Count your blessings. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCollough at the University of Miami, authors of The Psychology of Gratitude, have done numerous studies on counting blessings versus burdens. They've found that the process of writing down or listing what we are thankful for each day improves our emotional outlooks and makes us feel more refreshed. Phone apps make the process easy to do. I use Momento and Evernote and start a new list each day as soon as I awake. Throughout the day I add to the list, adding a minimum of 10 things, and I finish the list at bedtime.
2) Count your steps, but also pay attention to what's around you. Thanks to so many fitness tracking apps and devices, counting our steps has never been easier. But sometimes we are so focused on getting those steps in that we forget to notice the things around us, like the gorgeous colors in the changing leaves, a nearby dragonfly or hummingbird, or even our neighbor in his yard. Yes, 10,000 steps a day can lower your BMI, reduce your waist line, and decrease your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association , but stopping to appreciate the beauty and life around you also releases health-beneficial endorphins...and provides entries for your blessings list.
3) Consume a rainbow every day. Eating foods of every color daily assures get a variety of nutrients in your diet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, red fruits and vegetables are likely to be rich in the antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins. Yellow and orange foods are rich with betacarotene and folate. Green veggies contain vitamins K, C and E. Blue and purple foods contain anthocyanins, flavonoids and ellagic acid (which may destroy cancer cells, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research). And fruits and veggies are full of fiber, and may lower your risk of stroke, according to a study published by the American Heart Association.
4) Believe in impossible and improbable dreams. This advice is in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...'."
The advice has also been given by Sir. Richard Branson, who just last week wrote, "Remember Virgin started with a simple idea to sell mail-order records. No idea is too small, and all sorts of ideas have potential to change the world as we know if for the better."
5) Revel that you're a new person each day. Again I'll quote Lewis Carroll in Alice: "It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." Every day we evolve. From a biological standpoint, we lose 500 million skin cells a day, says Science Daily. We gain more knowledge and experience with each thing we read, with every encounter we have. We come to new conclusions and viewpoints. And when we reach a new goal, most of us are glad we weren't the same as we were pre-goal achievement. Growing, stretching and reaching forward feels good to our bodies and our souls.
6) Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto. "Eat well, laugh often, love much" is the translation for this Italian motto. I wrote about laughter and its benefits in my first HuffPo blog. The National Health Service in the U.K. says that love reduces tension, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and can reduce the risk the of angina and ulcers.
7) Have faith in the present. Gautama Buddha said, "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live in the present." The present moment has everything we need, if we are open to experiencing it fully. We never know from whom or where will come a lesson, a spiritual guide, a friend, or a miracle. I have learned fascinating lessons, experienced awe with life, and had needs filled that I didn't even know existed through interactions with homeless strangers, with wild animals and pets, with my students and my kids, and by taking time to watch the clouds. C.S. Lewis wrote, "Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."