Improving Well-Being: Developing Zest for Life

Zest for Life

“The saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing to make it last.”―Nicholas Sparks

A woman drinks several glasses of wine before bed to kill the boredom in her life. She wakes up exhausted the next morning. A student dislikes his university courses, puts in little effort, ponders quitting. A successful middle-aged manager who drives in bumper to bumper traffic to his office each day, feeling tired and anxious, wishing he could quit his job. These people have lost their passion or zest for life.

What is this zest for life?

According to Dwayne Dyer, The zest for life “is a feeling that tells you: this is the right thing to do. Nothing can stand in my way. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. This feeling is so good that it cannot be ignored. I’m going to follow my bliss and act upon this glorious sensation of joy.”According to Positive psychologists, “zest” means having “energy” and “enthusiasm” for life. It is also signature strength that improves a person’s quality of life, life satisfaction, well being.

How is Our Zest for Life Depleted?

Life can be stressful. We must work and have responsibilities, which create mental pressure. Sometimes we experience misfortune, setbacks, obstacles, grief, which results in personal suffering. Many people who suffer or experience stress lose their energy and enthusiasm. Here are a few reasons:

  • Physical illness. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes deplete body and mind of energy.
  • Grief. The death of a loved one often results in sadness, despair, hopelessness, anguish that drains the life out of many people.
  • Mental illness. Depression and anxiety prevent people from feeling inspired to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams.
  • Overwork. A stressful job or career can drain the energy and enthusiasm from a person. At its worst, overwork can lead to burnout. To cope, many people telephone their boss and tell them their unable to make it to work because of illness. Others take a leave of absence or search for other employment. Most people who suffer from burnout lack the energy to enjoy their leisure time.
  • Poor eating habits. Some people prefer eating junk food and fast food instead of a well-balanced diet. This can deplete a person’s energy.
  • Insufficient sleep.  Most people require eight hours sleep to feel refreshed and energized. Those people who get insufficient sleep will often feel tired and irritable, and will lack the desire to embrace life with energy and enthusiasm.
  • Routine. Some people’s days are filled with routine, cooking, cleaning, shopping, socializing with friends, and watching TV. The person never experiences anything new, such as travel, reading a good novel, learning something that will improve the quality of their life. Routine often leads to boredom, which can deplete a person’s energy and enthusiasm.
  • Responsibilities. Most people must work, and after work they must complete a variety of responsibilities, such as mowing the lawn, tidying the house, cooking dinner. Parents with young children, disabled children, or aging parents, must often act as caregivers. Responsibilities and work often reduce the amount of leisure time a person has to enjoy life away from work.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle. This includes smoking cigarettes, sedentary lifestyle, abusive drinking of alcohol, lack of exercise, poor diet. Smoking cigarettes reduces a person’s lung capacity, making routine tasks, like climbing the stairs, difficult. A sedentary lifestyle will result in reduced strength, lack of stamina, poor flexibility. It is one of the leading causes of obesity. Being overweight means dragging extra pound around, draining the energy from a person. Consuming too many alcoholic beverages in a single sitting will leave a person with a hangover next morning. A hangover is like having the flu. A poor diet of junk food and fast food will also siphon the energy from a person.
  • Lack of focus. Many people write out a to-do list each day. Too many tasks can overwhelm and stress a person out. If is not enough time or a delay, the task won’t be completed. Other people plan nothing for the day. Not having any focus on what is important in life will often cause boredom, aimlessness, poor use of leisure time. Boredom is often stressful. As the mind wanders, the person ruminates on what they should be doing with their life. The stress of boredom depletes a person’s energy and enthusiasm.

How We Can Develop a Zest for Life

Zest is passion, and passion is having energy and excitement for life.  We can experience the optimal zest for life by leading a balanced life— making time for work, time for leisure, time for physical fitness, time for loved ones, time for socializing, time for spirituality. Here are a few suggestions for increasing your passion or zest for life:

  1. Find time for Solitude. Spend 30 minutes in a quiet place by yourself doing nothing each day.
  2. Develop the habit of meditation. Learn to mediate and make it a routine. Do it each day for 20 minutes. Meditation will clear and calm your mind, and it will invigorate you.
  3. Schedule time for leisure pursuits. Life is more than work. In your leisure time, imbue your life with experiences and activities that are pleasurable, enjoyable, rewarding. Take up creative writing, and write personal essays, poetry, short fiction. Enroll in photography course. Watch a quality film at the cinema. Visit the art gallery. Attend a baseball game. Read a fascinating novel. Do something relaxing and enjoyable.
  4. Live a healthy life. Develop the habit of regular physical fitness. If you are out of shape, begin a fitness program that improves your stamina, strength, and flexibility. Weight training, power walking, and yoga are excellent exercises for getting fit. Moderate your consumption of alcohol. Eat a well-balanced diet. Get eight hours of sleep per day. Manage your stress.
  5. Disconnect the digital gadgets. We are bombarded by a tsunami of information on our smartphones, tablets, and computers. This can result in information overload, which is overwhelming to the psyche. Furthermore, we often multi-task, which is distracting. Both can drain the energy from a person. Disconnect from the digital gadgets after work and on weekends. Complete one task at a time.
  6. Detach from drama. Some people are constantly needy, complaining, criticizing, imagining the worst outcome. This sort of person can drain the energy and enthusiasm from you. Consider distancing yourself from people who create drama.
  7. Add flow experiences to your life. Find a passion that will add meaning and purpose to your life. A passion is some activity or experience that elevates your enthusiasm and energy. It makes you excited and motivated. It is something you dream of accomplishing and are willing to put in the time and energy to achieve the dream. Often creative pursuits will spark your passion—writing, learning to play the piano, becoming an artist.
  8. Become a lifelong learner. Most people stop learning once they have finished their studies at college or university. People who are curious enjoy learning about new things.  What are you curious about? Consider learning how to play a musical instrument, travelling to some new place in the world, learning a new language.
  9. Nourish your spiritual self. Most people have the need for spirituality, to transcend the self and experience the divine, to savor awe or wonder, to express compassion with humanity. There are many ways you can feed your spiritual hunger, such as taking a walk in the woods. Noticing the beauty of the ordinary. Reading books on spiritual wisdom. Living mindfully instead of becoming lost in thought. Focusing on the sensory details of a moment.
  10. Discover your purpose. This is a plan for how to live your life. It is rooted in what you value and cherish.  What is the lifestyle you wish to lead? Goals? Dreams? What do you value? Are you living by your values? Live a purposeful life—your own.

Finding and Living Your Passion

Before you can live your passions, you must discover what they are. Some people know what sparks their zest for life, while others don’t have a clue. Here are a few suggestions for discovering your passion:

  1. Take inventory of your skills, talents, and interests. What skills do you enjoy using? Perhaps you enjoyed writing poetry in university but gave it up once you established a career. What are your talents? Perhaps you learned to play the piano as a child but stopped. What are your interests? Perhaps you have passion for film, art, photography, travel.
  2. What did you enjoy doing as a child? Answering this question might provide you with a direction. Perhaps you enjoyed playing baseball or house league hockey.
  3. What are your dreams? Perhaps you desire to travel the world, run a marathon, learn to paint landscapes.
  4. What sort of legacy do you wish to leave when you die? In other words, what would you like to accomplish with your life?

Taking Action

Once you have discovered our passion, do the following: First, define a specific passion. For instance, suppose you dream of learning how to play the piano. Write down the goal. Secondly, create an action plan, which will enables you to live the dream. This action plan will include several tasks you desire to achieve. Perhaps you’ll will purchase a used piano, take music lessons, and hire a music tutor. Thirdly, establish a deadline for achieving your dream. On what date, you wish to accomplish it? This might be weeks, months, or years down the road. The important point to remember is to set a deadline. Fourthly, take steps each day to achieve this dream. Perhaps each day you’ll schedule time for practising on the piano. Finally, review your dream list on a regular basis.

Benefits of Living with Zest

What determines our happiness and well-being? Positive psychologists have learned that we have a happiness “set point.” According to the research, 50% of our happiness is genetically determined, which we cannot alter. Secondly, circumstances, such as a loving partner or career we love, determine another 10% of our optimal level of happiness. The other 40% of is determined by the decisions and actions we take in life. Zest or passion is a character strength we can develop and then use to live with energy and enthusiasm. According to Positive Psychologists, having a zest for life adds meaning and purpose to your life. Instead of feeling disconnected, bored, aimless, listless, you will know how you intend to spend your time, and you’ll have energy and enthusiasm for these pursuits, whether work or leisure. Having a zest for life will also improve your happiness and well-being.
Few things in life are achieved without passion or zest. “Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred…the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”(John Whedon)

Additional Reading:

  • The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
  • The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
  • The Art of Flourishing by Jeffrey Rubin
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
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About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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