Call it vim, vigor, or life force, vitality is the energy that drives your health, happiness and ability to be productive as you get older.

Your personal choices, such as how you decorate your home, who you invite for dinner, the hobbies you engage in, and what you eat from day to day, all affect how you feel mentally, physically and spiritually. Here's what you can do to give yourself a lift:

1. Breathe in relaxing scents.

"Stop and smell the lavender," advises environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, Ph.D. A lavender sachet under your pillow can help you relax and fall asleep faster at night. You can also use jasmine for deeper sleep, she says. Either way, you'll feel more refreshed the next day and ready to take on the world.

2. Add peppermint to your lemonade.

When it comes to the effect of scents on your mood and performance, Augustin says lemon enhances your brain's performance, while peppermint enhances your ability to do physical work, such as exercise or folding the laundry.

3. Break bread.

Organize a group dinner party with a theme that is meaningful to everyone involved, such as a "heritage potluck," where everyone brings a dish that's an old family favorite. Anyone who wants to come but doesn't want to bring a dish can help set up, clean up or bring a beverage!

4. Expand your social circle.

Join or organize a group such as a book club or film club. New friends bring new ideas that can enhance your understanding or provide alternative viewpoints of the books you read and the movies you see. If you already belong to a group you enjoy, try getting more involved.

5. Listen to low-key music.

According to Augustin, slower-paced music with lower pitched sounds physically slows down your heart beat and in turn, helps you to relax.

6. Change your light bulbs.

Warm white light helps boost mood, memory and brain function better than cool white light. Even better, fill your home with as much natural sunlight as possible.

7. Paint your walls.

Deeper, brighter colors, such as red or green, help energize a room, while whites, pale blues and neutral grays and tans subdue the mood.

8. Try a new fruit or vegetable every week.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of our richest sources of vitamins and phytonutrients that only come from plant foods and the more variety in your diet, the more you can be sure you're getting a wide range of these nutrients. If you're an adventurous eater and you've already tried all the fruits and veggies available to you, prepare them in a new way.

9. Keep your houseplants healthy.

Houseplants improve the air quality in your home by absorbing toxins, releasing oxygen, decreasing dust, and increasing humidity. Bonus: Augustin says just the sight of lush, leafy greens around the house can reduce stress and lead to more creative thinking.

10. Seek support.

If you have a physical or psychological issue that interferes with your ability to enjoy life, turn to friends, family, local community centers, religious organizations, or medical centers to find a support group, or search the internet for an online forum dedicated to the issues that affect your life.

Sally Augustin, PhD, reviewed this article.



Ryan, R and Frederick C. "On Energy, Personality and Health: Subjective Vitality as a Dynamic Reflection of Well-Being."  Journal of Personality Sept 1997 65(3)529-65 Web Oct 2012

University of Hawaii at Manoa: Using Houseplants to Clean Indoor Air. OF-39; Nov 2007 Web Oct 2012

Mayo Clinic: Support Groups: Make Connections, Get Help