To live is a rare thing. Most people just exist.
The warm summer air blew in through the windows and tousled our hair as we cranked the music and giggled about some silly story of when we were teens. Dierks Bentley’s song Freedom on the stereo was the perfect pairing to our girls wine tour. We cruised around the twisty Naramata roads, without a plan and lost in the moment; smiling, laughing and full of energy.
You could say we were full of zest. In positive psychology, zest is one of the five character strengths that contribute most to a sense of life-satisfaction. As a component of the virtue of courage, zest means approaching life enthusiastically, as an adventure and being excited about life.
Benefits of having zest
Zest is the ability to face life’s ups and downs with energy, eagerness and enthusiasm. To be zestful is having an optimistic attitude and perspective in all that you do. As one of the 24 strengths possessed by humanity, zest involves performing tasks wholeheartedly, whilst also being adventurous, vivacious and energetic.
- It makes life more fun. The yeeeehaaa kind of fun!
- It’s attractive to people. Enthusiasm is probably one of the most attractive qualities any person can have.
- It makes you psyched to do things. The result is rapid growth and learning.
- It makes for powerful communication. Your words become more captivating.
- It gets things done. The eager beaver wins every time.
The zest test
Many people over time have lost their zest. The depletion of zest often comes from burnout; the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion from excessive and prolonged stress, high pressure jobs, emotionally demanding interactions and not enough recovery. Your lifestyle, personality traits and your outlook on life can all play a role in causing burnout. A few key indicators are:
- Exhaustion. Are you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted?
- Negative Emotions. Do you feel overly cynical, detached or have decreased joy?
- Lack of Motivation. Do you feel a lack of desire to do things?
How to harvest some zest
The trick is to understand what activities rejuvenate you and nurture and grow those seeds of wisdom—only then can you harvest your zest.
Savour the Moment
Modern life encourages us to speed through breakfast, have a non-stop day and finish with a quick workout. Choose instead to relish your moments and your meals—Think of wine tasting; you swirl it around in the glass, admire the colour, smell the subtle aromas, imagine the fruit notes, swish it around in your mouth letting your tongue savour and detect the flavour, and finish with a thoughtful contemplation about your experience. You’re sensing every aspect of the wine and your attention is totally focused on the moment.
Life is but the ongoing moment-to-moment living. If you can learn to slow down in life and enjoy every morsel, research shows that present-moment awareness increases stress resilience, well-being and zest! Savouring moments in our lives helps us develop a greater sense of excitement about the present.
A great way to cultivate zest is to break up the usual routine and introduce some discomfort or risk. In doing so, you’re able to see the world differently. It doesn’t have to be a crazy, dangerous or far from home adventure, it can be small and achievable. The goal is to interrupt normalcy—it should be fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.
Find a hobby
Think back to when you were younger, was there something you loved to do? Painting, bike riding, baking, music, camping? …Mindlessly watching TV, shopping or sitting at the computer are passive in nature and don’t cultivate zest. Whereas hobbies are more immersive and lead you to a zesty life.
Zest is wholehearted living and it involves having a potent connection to satisfaction in life. Opportunities for play aren’t solely for kids, they’re all around us! Things like a bike ride with your friends, wrestling on the floor with your dog, tossing the frisbee around with your partner, colouring (there are some amazing adult colouring books!), board games, flying your drone with some pals or going tobogganing.
Limit your contact with zest vampires
Hanging out with pessimistic zest vampires who do nothing but complain will only drag you down. Try to limit or eliminate your time spent with people who aren’t positive and zesty!
Don’t feel pressured to sit and listen to a negative person. Their negative energy will seep into your own life and suck your zest reserves. Set boundaries and put some distance between you and Dracula.
Hang out in the woods
Are you sitting at your computer reading this? Go outside! Being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior. Something about nature keeps us psychologically healthy, gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve stresses, opens our minds to creativity, encourages kindness and makes us feel more zestful!
Authenticity is a juicy ingredient of zest! It means letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are. So get busy being you! Make value-based decisions, care less what people think, listen to your intuition, do things that reflect your deepest needs, wishes, and values and don’t forget to speak up for yourself and ask for what you want.
Live the Zesty Life
Zest, along with gratitude, hope, curiosity and love are important aspects of positive psychology and key to harvesting beautiful character development.
Zest can be applied to every aspect of your life and can bring out a positive change in your life. The effects of zest are contagious and the more you practice, the more zest you’ll attract.
A special thanks to Sun n’ Sup in Naramata for making our day extra zesty! If you’re thinking of going on an adventure, I highly recommend cruising to Naramata, grabbing an Airbnb and picking up a paddle board from SUN N’ SUP!