‘Energizers stimulate vitality in others; by interacting with energizers, others feel motivated and inspired. Energy givers are optimistic, attentive, reliable, and unselfish. They attract others.’
- Marcella Bremer (Positive Energizers)
Have you ever been around someone who literally exudes optimism, positivity, and sunshine? You know those people who enter a room and you feel the energy shift upwards in a good way, the ones who when you’re in their presence the entire building feels as if it’s smiling? Are they born that way? Do they work at it? Are they really that filled with magnetic, energetic, joy? Can they bottle that?
Can we get it, too?
Whether you’ve had the experience, been that individual, or solely witnessed the interaction in the confines of Hollywood magic, you know. When these people are close by, somehow the resonance changes, the pulse is happier, the light brighter, work is done more quickly, and it seems more things are possible. Do you know one of these sunshine elevators? Are you one of them? Here’s the thing— while some people are generally gifted with a sunnier disposition, it is absolutely possible for each one of us to learn the skills and implement the practices to become a positive energizer. Interested?
Consider how during the throes of the global pandemic, we craved community, compassion, artistry, and empathy. There were countless musicians, artists, museums, theaters, poets, and wellness gurus offering free services through all sorts of streaming platforms to lift the spirits of humanity in struggle, thousands of humans signed up to audit a Science of Well Being Course at Yale University, and one actor even started his own Good News show. It was the good stuff, the feel good stuff for which we yearned to help shift the doom and gloom energy of the world around us, if only for a short while. But the thing is, each little nugget of that good energy makes a very big difference. The question is: how do we cultivate that energy to enliven ourselves and those we impact?
These days, there’s a change afoot in the world of education (and yes, life in general). Across the globe, researchers are designing and implementing well-being programs to weave the benefits of positive psychology, positive coaching, positive education, and positive energizers into the fabric of work, life, and school. Kim Cameron, a world leader of positive organizational scholarship, works with businesses and students to cultivate those positive energizers and positive energy cultures into future CEOs, companies, and careers. Embedding the facets of wellness wisdom throughout the educational and business process reaffirms the holistic approach to learning and growing.
Science terms this life giving stuff the heliotropic effect. The heliotropic effect is the ‘tendency of living things to move towards sources of light and positive energy’. Regardless of whether we’re talking about plants, people, or animals, living things seek light—and if we can’t find it, perhaps the answer is to shine it ourselves. Today, when we need it, we scour the internet for TED talks, good news, or animal videos. Perhaps building those skills within our schools, communities, and workplaces are a truly productive way to foster that flourishing, sunshine, and heliotropic effect. Are you in?
Five ways to foster positive energizers in your circle
According to psychology professor and researcher Michael Steeger, ‘meaning in life refers to the feeling that people have that their lives and experience make sense and matter.’ Tap into that feeling. Find ways to list the things that matter. Perhaps, take a moment and make the list. Whether it’s written in sharpie, crafting a photo story, building a Pinterest board, or displaying colourful post-its around your kitchen, write it down. While each one of us may have different things that provide our lives that sense of meaning, we need to be sure to take the time to strengthen that meaning. Lives get busy, people are overscheduled, and sometimes even a day meant for rest gets filled with routine undertakings that steal our time and drain that energy.
Like plants that need food, water, and sunlight to grow, people too must spend time to feed the parts of us that need meaning. Take the time to do just that. With the right nutrients, we can flourish and thrive; that energy catapults, spirals, and shines on all we touch.
In the world of positive psychology, engagement describes the way one is involved in a task. When was the last time you were thoroughly engaged in what you were doing? A friend of mine speaks of it as being where your feet are. A yoga teacher of mine talks about staying present in the moment. Researchers term it ‘flow’. Conjure the image of a child in the throes of playing with legos, an artist crafting, an engineer building, a writer creating...place and time stand still, thoroughly entrenched in the task at hand, our mind and body fully focused on the now.
This is engagement.
Whether you find it in volunteering, reading, drawing, meditating, puppy snuggling, or a myriad of other pursuits, that kind of focus where time ticks by and you remain happily engaged in the present moment is the aim. That state of flow is an energy boost, and all around you will feel its effects.
Reframe the negative
On any given day, there’s something that can frustrate, shake us off our path, or even kick our confidence. Working to reframe the message, turn the negative to a positive, or focus on the gratitude can shift the entire focus. There are heaps of elite athletes who toiled for years before they got their shot, designers who crafted in tiny spaces before that IPO took hold, and writers who’ve received a zillion rejections before getting the opportunity to share their stories with an audience of billions. If, for example, JK Rowling had listened to the negatives, we would never have been gifted the magic and life lessons of the wonderful world of Harry Potter.
Stumbling is a part of moving forward, yet it’s not always easy to see. Look for the lesson instead of focusing on the feeling of failure. Seek what is good in the act of trying. While it’s a constant work in progress and we will all lose our footing along the path, each act of reframing the negative engages mindful muscle memory—and before we know it, the positive outlook is perhaps that first thought or at least, more within our reach. Positive energy exudes around us; we all have the capacity to learn the skills to make it happen.
Build on strengths
Whether we know it or not, we all have strengths. Those talents, skills, traits, and moral virtues that make up our unique personality are our strengths. Positive psychologists have coined 24 character strengths that fall under the umbrella of 6 larger virtues; to put it bluntly, this is the stuff that makes us, well, us. When we utilize our strengths, we have more successes, feel stronger, and perform better. Perhaps we don’t know the exact name for our personal character strengths, but we do know what feels good. These traits run the gamut from enthusiasm to fairness, humility to optimism, leadership, integrity, and more. Some might be stronger at one time or another, or be those ones with which we choose to work on further in the present moment. Regardless, finding ways to exude those strengths boosts us up, enhances our confidence, and helps us to feel like our authentic selves; anyone in range of that energy will feel it too. Find out more about your character strengths here.
Bring progress & perspective into focus
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hike Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. Located on a Native American reservation, in order to hike the brilliant slot canyon, hikers need a local guide. While his knowledge and wisdom of the history and geography of the land and its people was plentiful, it was something different our guide shared that has stuck with me all these years. Somewhere along our journey, he reminded us all to never forget to turn around, check out the view of where we came from, and remember the discovery we gained along the way.
This is the message positive energizers utilize. Be mindful of that progress. Your story wasn’t made overnight, and it’s taken a bunch of twists, tumbles, and turns to make you who you are today; there’s growth in that process. Perhaps an even greater message is that perspective. We are all a tiny part of a much bigger story. Whether it’s your friend group, family, community, volunteer associations, colleagues, or that global community of which we’re all a part, our story is one of billions. How do we want to use the time we’re given?
Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.
Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.