I’ve been challenged for some time now by low energy. Maybe you’re feeling it too. Maybe it’s the low level light of winter? I find my mind falling into negative thought patterns. I have less patience and am more irritable. I’ve come to the point where I’ve had enough of that and decided to make some changes. I’m cultivating optimism.

I looked that up on the internet, “cultivating optimism,” and came up with some interesting results. Did you know that the hallmarks of pessimism are permanence (it’s never going to get better), pervasiveness (everything is going poorly), and personalization (there’s something wrong with me that makes bad things happen)? Optimists have a different outlook. They tend to see setbacks as temporary, isolated, and transformable by their own efforts. I can improve my tilt toward optimism by choosing a specific circumstance (like failing to get the grant I wanted) and then looking at my underlying beliefs regarding that setback. I can question those beliefs and choose to develop other, more helpful, thought patterns over time.

I can change my thinking patterns with mental effort and practice. I can also change my thinking patterns by looking at my physical habits. My disordered energy was starting to impact my ability to sleep well at night, for example. This improved when I increased my Vitamin D supplements (winter is a time of low sunlight and low Vitamin D in our bodies). I can also improve my mental health by looking at my diet. I’ve eliminated sugar and dairy, things that I know cause inflammation and other internal problems. I’ve gone through periods in my life without these two trouble-makers and always felt better, but they somehow sneak up on me again when I’m not paying attention. It’s time to send them packing.

In a similar way, I needed to take a look at my media diet. I’ve been consuming a lot of “processed” junk media––endless negative new cycles, and mindless scrolling on social media. Uggh. What a bad habit that becomes! So now I’ve taken a media vacation, too. I’m giving my phone addiction a rest, starting with one week and likely extending beyond that.

All of the above––beliefs, food, media––describe negative inputs that I’ve been allowing into my energy zone. It made me realize that I also needed to look at my outputs: how am I spending my vital energy? The minute I asked that question I knew the answer. I have been focusing primarily on the needs of others. Five grandchildren (including a brand new baby) and their parents live within a few miles of my house. I’ve been traveling to Canada several weekends a month to follow the end of my daughter’s athletic career. I live in a small space with my partner, and our dog. I’m working several days a week to get my third book print-ready (which is more about business, the less-sexy part of being an author). It’s not that these activities don’t feed me in any way. They certainly do, and I’m happy for the opportunities. But they are not primarily about me, they are about others––others’ schedules and others’ space. I am draining my energy outward.

It’s not selfish to want to take care of my inner life. It’s absolutely vital that I am centered in my spiritual core. Everything that I think and do and feel relies on that energy source. When I imagine going on a personal retreat, just the thought of it brings me back to the vibration of grounded-ness and freedom that feeds my soul and allows for creative growth. I need to build that energy practice back into my daily life. Cleaning up my inputs and outputs is good preparation for that change.