What Makes You Feel Alive?

Figure out what makes you feel alive and how to carve out more time for it in your everyday life. 

We discuss the question: What makes you feel alive? It’s been on our minds during this mid-winter period, when we often get the blahs or the blues. We talk about what energizes, fuels us or puts us in a flow state – and how we make time for it. 

Looking at the research, here are a few strategies you can use to figure out what makes you feel most alive:

Go outside: Take a walk in nature, even if it’s a quick stroll around the park in your neighborhood. Studies show that being in nature helps improve your mental and physical health, reducing stress and anxiety levels, boosting creativity and problem-solving abilities, reducing cortisol levels and lowering heart rates and blood pressure. 

Get nostalgic: Reconnecting with your younger self can help you get back in touch with things that make you joyful and energized. In our Ep. 52: How Nostalgia Helps Us Cope with Stress, we talked about how research shows nostalgia has a number of benefits, including counteracting loneliness, boredom, anxiety and meaninglessness, offering hope and inspiration, and helping you cope better with adversity and promoting personal growth.

Other experiments have found that looking back on positive memories can increase feelings of connection between who you are now and who you were in the past, making you feel revitalized. 

    Think about what you loved to do as a kid – whether that was making up stories, playing basketball, building things out of Legos or going on long bike rides. How could you incorporate doses of similar activities into your adult life? 

    Find your flow: Getting into a “flow” state, when you are completely absorbed in a rewarding activity— focused on the experience and not on yourself or your thoughts—is what researchers call an autotelic experience. The word autotelic comes from the Greek “autos” (self) and “telos” (end or goal). Flow experiences are worth doing simply for the experiences themselves; in other words, they are intrinsically rewarding. 

    Benefits of being in flow include being able to concentrate without being distracted, feeling a sense of clarity, happiness and positivity free from worry, stress and self-doubt. Think back to recent times you’ve felt in a flow state, when you lost track of time and felt engrossed in an activity you enjoy. What captures your interest or sparks your curiosity? How can you carve out small blocks of time for these experiences? 

    Mix up your routine: Novel experiences activate the dopamine system, contributing to a positive mood, outlook and motivation. Creating a sense of novelty can also help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression. We talked more about the benefits of balancing novel and familiar experiences back in In Ep. 30: Balancing Novelty & Familiarity

    Make small changes to shake up your normal routine and engage your mind and body in a new way. Take a new route for walking or jogging. Listen to a different genre of music or pick up a book you normally wouldn’t read. Try a new restaurant, coffee shop or activity.   

    Get In Touch

    What makes you feel alive? Tell us at podcast@semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.

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    Ep. 30: Balancing Novelty & Familiarity

    Ep. 52: How Nostalgia Helps Us Cope with Stress

    Ep. 80: Finding Everyday Awe

    What Maslow Overlooked: The Need to Feel Alive (ADHD: A Hunter in a Farmer’s World)