By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple things that you can do every single day to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing, based on quality research.
This is Episode 67 and this week I’m talking about energy. I’ll be discussing what energy is, why it matters for good mental health and how to work with your energy and other peoples’ energy to improve your mental health. So, let’s talk about mental health!
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the article/transcript version.
Watch this week’s episode of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV, focused on how to stop overthinking and negative thoughts:
This episode was originally released on 21 February, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 67, and thanks so much for joining me! 2021 is The Year of Wellbeing here on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast… because wellbeing doesn’t just happen; it takes work. So each week on the podcast I’ll be exploring lots of different things you can do every day to make a positive difference in your life.
This week is all about energy. We talk about this idea of ‘energy’ a lot, especially in the context of wellbeing, and it was even mentioned in the quote I shared at the end of last week’s episode… but what does it actually mean? Is there any basis in fact behind the idea of positive or negative energy and, if so, how does it influence your mental health and wellbeing? Well, that’s what I’m going to be exploring this week.
Before I start, Episode 5 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV is out now on YouTube where I’m talking about things you can do when everything seems to be going wrong in your life. Find it on YouTube or watch it at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/YouTube, and while you’re there please take a moment to subscribe to the channel.
So, now, on with this week’s episode about energy…
Have you ever wondered where your physical and mental energy comes from and how it gets replenished? Have you ever stopped to think about how you manage your energy, as well as how your energy interacts with other people’s energy? Well this week is all about those things and more…
Let me share a story about the idea of energy. About six or seven years ago I was attending a workshop run by a friend who had decided to leave the corporate sector and follow her passion into coaching and facilitating around wellness (which inspired me to also strike out in my own way), and she said something which has stuck with me to this day; she was talking about energy and being able to choose who we spend time with, and someone asked about balancing that with the need to earn money so we can pay the bills, and she replied, “well, just remember that money is just energy” in a very matter-of-fact way and then kept on talking.
Meanwhile, as she spoke, I was having one of those moments where you tune the world out while your brain goes into overdrive, and I sat there pondering the deeper implications of what she had just said. The thing is that at first I’m not sure I fully agreed, but over the space of a few months her meaning became clearer and clearer (and yes it really took that long!). The thing is that money, as an example, is just this thing that we give value to and so that’s why it’s valuable, and so it’s the energy we apply to it which either brings it to us or takes it away. If you are desperate, that tends to make it harder to see how you’re going to get past your issues and can contribute to a spiral of negativity — I did this myself when I was in a massive financial mess back in 2012-2013 because I couldn’t work, since my depression and anxiety was so severe I couldn’t leave the house (or the bed for that matter) — and instead of taking any action about my mounting debts, I refused to answer the phone or open my mail… which resulted in more phone calls and more mail and so on, which made the problem FAR worse than it needed to be. The point is that even if we feel stuck, sometimes it’s the energy that we put into that which serves to keep us stuck.
Now that doesn’t mean you can just abracadabra your way to more money or a hot body (I mean, Britney Spears was right when she told us that if you want a hot body or a Maserati then you have to work), but what it means in that your experience with money or relationships or work or whatever is either positive or negative based on your energy and whether that is negative energy or positive energy. And that applies to absolutely everything in life — relationships, success, happiness, etc. And the thing is that the more you chase those things, the more hard-to-reach they become.
It’s like with meeting someone; before I met my partner I had been trying to find someone I clicked with and nothing ever seemed to work out, then one day I decided I was done with the chase — actually, funny story here, because I was 19 at the time and that night I had dinner with a group of friends from high school, and I distinctly remember saying to them that I was done with dating for a while and was just going to take a break… the very next night, I went to a party with friends and met my now-partner, and we’ve been together for 25 years and counting (mind you it wasn’t all perfect; for the first two years we would break up and get back together at least once a month… anyway, I digress; you didn’t come here to listen to a tale of my love life from the olden days!).
Here’s my point (I do have one!): the energy you put out affects how you feel about yourself and how other people feel when they’re with you, and in that example of not chasing things I personally believe that when we stop lusting after outcomes and trying to control the outcome, we’re able to get out of our own way and then things are more likely to play out in our favour (even taking us to surprising places!). If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I’d be sat here talking to you on a podcast, living in the countryside, I would have told you you were mad! But when you get out of your own way, sometimes life takes you where you need to be.
Anyway, let’s talk about some broad definitions of ‘energy’.
What is ‘energy’?
The main definition for energy that I’m using here is, ‘The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity’ which is from the Oxford Dictionary.
And there’s also a great definition of emotional energy from Mental Health at Work, which is an organisation in the UK, and it is:
“Emotional energy is how we feel about what is going on in our lives: our work, our relationships, ourselves, and our general situation. Understanding your emotions and getting better at emotional regulation is important because our wellbeing is directly impacted by how we feel.”Mental Health at Work (UK) – source: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/resource/emotional-energy/?read=more
Then beyond that, ‘energy’ is a term that often gets used to describe the vibes or feeling that we get from a person or situation, as well as what we project to others, and it’s something that’s a lot less tangible; in fact, in reading a few articles as part of researching this episode the term ‘pseudoscience’ popped up a lot, which is a term often used to look down on things that cannot be measured and so therefore aren’t seen as being ‘real’ science.
Can you directly measure energy or observe it? No. Does that mean that it’s not real? No. I’m going to give the simplest examples I can think of here… it’s like when you know that somebody is looking at you (and before you even see they’re looking at you, you can feel someone’s eyes on you); you turn around, and you’re correct. Or, when you feel somebody enter a room well before you see or hear them. Or, the one that for me reinforces this idea of ‘energy’ and why I think it’s a bit of a no-brainer (on the fact that it does exist) is when you walk into a room where people have been arguing; for many of us, we can feel the tension in the room — there’s even a saying to describe it; “you could cut the tension with a knife” which refers to how it can feel so thick and heavy in the air that it’s almost physical in form. That’s energy.
Really what I’m talking about is that there is energy that permeates everywhere, and in fact the idea of ‘energy’ can be found in a number of different spiritual and philosophical belief systems. In some Ancient Chinese philosophies, the notion of ‘chi’ is about our life force and the energy that permeates everything and sits at the core of practices including feng shui and qigong (which ties breathing, movement and awareness together and has become even more popular around the world over the past few years for its mental health benefits — but that’s a discussion for another day!).
I’m sure many, if not all, of you have had the experience of getting a ‘vibe’ from someone — bad vibes or good vibes, depending on the type of person they are… and have you ever had the situation where you’ve had an instinct about the type of person someone is, ignored it and then later found out that you were right in the first place? All of that stuff is about understanding your energy and how it interacts with other people.
Why does understanding energy matter for good mental health?
I think that when most of us talk about the idea of energy we’re talking about the feeling that we get from other people, and a lot of that is based on how they are consciously or subconsciously projecting their feelings. We project a lot of our own needs, wants and insecurities onto how we read the verbal and nonverbal cues of other people, so being able to understand that when we interact with others and taking a step back in order to remove that emotional stuff and look at things more objectively can have a positive impact on our interactions, and I’ll talk about that more shortly.
The other reason why understanding this stuff is important is that we need to be able to recognise our own energy and what it’s doing to ourselves internally as well as what we’re projecting out into the world. Emotions can be contagious, something outlined in an article in Psychology Today which I’ll link to in the transcript (find it here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-empaths-survival-guide/201703/the-science-behind-empathy-and-empaths) so being more aware of what we’re putting out (and how we’re taking on board other people’s emotional energy) can serve to help us stop issues before they snowball into major problems or even arguments, and then we can hit the mental pause button and take 5-10 seconds to calm ourselves and refocus on a logical and rational response.
So with all of that in mind, let’s talk about…
How to work with your energy and other peoples’ energy to improve your mental health
Alright, so I’m going to break this into four parts, being:
- Your internal energy
- Your external energy
- Other people’s energy
- Dealing with toxic people
As always you can find all of this in the full transcript which is available at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes (and if you sign up at the website you can actually have the full transcript emailed to you every week when the new episode goes live so you’ll have it in your inbox; it can be really helpful for when you’re listening to this show and you’re wanting to cover off on some of the key points, rather than having to take notes).
Your internal energy
First, it’s important to be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. Some days you might feel on top of the world, whereas other days it’s like pushing shit up hill to get even the most basic things done. Know how you’re feeling and label it, and look at ways to address what you’re feeling (something I looked at in Episode 57: Emotions and Episode 28: Feelings). The other day I was exhausted and anxious about a few things, and it set off a chain of events because I tried to push myself through it rather than giving myself the space I needed to just take a bit of a mental break so I could recharge my energy… and if I’d have done that, it would have allowed me to take things in a much more positive way. So just think about that and be aware of your feelings. Which leads me to the next point:
Be aware that decisions made from a negative place tend to have negative outcomes — when you’re irritated, frustrated, fearful, defensive, angry… all of that emotional energy is highly negative and it tends to mean that decisions you make when you’re in that headspace often make things worse (think about when you tell someone off and then you have to deal with the fallout later). Instead of just reacting, give yourself the time and space you need to let go of the strong negative emotions so that you can then revisit things in a calmer and more rational way.
Reflect often — I love reflection and I talk about it almost all the time (I mean, I finish every one of these episodes with a little reflection exercise for you to think about the quote of the week for a few seconds so… yeah, you could say I’m obsessed with reflection!). I looked at this subject in Episode 12 but in a nutshell it’s about consciously stepping back from your feelings and asking yourself, “What’s really going on here?” without judgement, and just taking the time to understand yourself. Self-awareness is a massive part of wellbeing and personal growth, and I explored that in Episode 62 so check that out for more on the subject.
Your external energy
This is about how you project to other people. First, be aware of your feelings when you’re around other people. This continues on with the self-awareness bit I discussed before, and it’s about being able to identify how the way you are feeling is influencing you. If you feel happy that often tends to radiate from you, and on the flip-side of that if you’re feeling cranky that’s usually radiating from you as well. Which leads me to…
Be aware of your words and actions, as well as your body language. You know how you probably interpret a lot of what other people are thinking or feeling based on their facial expressions and body language? That’s the same thing they’re doing to you. Now be aware that we don’t always interpret these things accurately, because we are highly biased due to our own way of doing things (and not everyone is the same), so think about how your verbal and non-verbal language is coming across to others. You are responsible for what you’re putting out — if you’re feeling angry, that stuff is noticeable to others even if you say nothing… so just be aware of what it is that you’re putting out.
So now let’s talk about…
Other people’s energy
OK, so it’s probably no surprise after the last point but I’ll say it anyway: Be aware of how you’re interpreting other people’s words, actions and body language and consider your own biases. A lot of misunderstandings come from misreading verbal and non-verbal cues — that’s why email is such a pain in the backside, because it’s so easy to misread something or read more into it than what is actually there. So just be mindful of it, and a lot of the time you are reacting emotionally and instinctively when you are reading verbal and non-verbal cues from other people… so just take a step back and remember that sometimes your thoughts are not facts.
If you think something is about you, chances are it’s really not. The majority of things that people do and say around you have absolutely nothing to do with you, but of course we think it does because our ego wants everything to be about us (and spoiler alert, I’m talking about ‘ego’ in next week’s episode)! Sometimes we get this ‘vibe’ that someone is angry with us or doesn’t like us or whatever, and to be honest maybe it’s right or maybe it’s wrong, but it really doesn’t matter. The things that other people do and say are driven by their own needs, wants, feelings and insecurities. The sooner you stop listening to your ego, or at least observe what’s happening and label it as your ego thinking everything is about you, the easier it will be to take the emotion out of the situation and respond more rationally and thoughtfully.
Remember: you cannot control other people — I say this because a lot of negative energy in terms of frustration and anger can happen because we’re trying to get someone to do or say what we want them to, and I’m sorry but unless you’re a miracle worker, that just is not going to happen. All that you have any control over is yourself and your energy, and how all of that is tied up in your words, actions and feelings… so focus on yourself and what you can do in any given situation, and let go of what you cannot control (and I talked about control back in Episode 48).
Choose who you spend time with because their energy can, and will, influence yours — have you ever spent time with a friend, family member or co-worker who just complains constantly and by the end of the interaction you feel completely drained? Those types of people are often referred to as energy vampires because it feels like they’re sucking the life out of you (and maybe they are: if you’ve ever watched the recent series What We Do In The Shadows, which is one of my favourites, you’ll know what I’m talking about!). Compare that to when you spend time around someone who is positive and uplifting, and that leads to you walking away from that chat feeling positive and inspired yourself — energy is contagious, so if you choose to spend your time with people who are positive, you’re more likely to absorb positivity from those interactions.
Which is a nice segue into the final part of this how-to segment…
Dealing with toxic people
Always trust your instincts — if someone feels a bit toxic, don’t just write them off but instead be cautious and remain aware of that feeling. Usually it doesn’t take too long to see if your instinct was right in terms of the person’s words and actions. If a person or situation feels a bit ‘off’ you’re probably right, so follow your gut (besides, it’s better to be safe than sorry).
Don’t be the audience — drama requires an audience, and most toxic people are pumping out all of that toxic energy to get attention… so don’t engage. If you engage you’re going to make it bigger than it needs to be, and if you don’t engage they will eventually run out of steam (or go and find someone else to try to bait with their tales of woe).
Stick to the facts — toxic people love to argue and they love to put themselves on a pedestal, even when they’re in the wrong; don’t engage. Stick to the facts in all conversations and if you find yourself getting drawn in emotionally (for example, feeling defensive, worried, hurt, upset or angry) step away from the conversation for a while and come at it once those feelings have subsided, so that you can remain objective. When you do that you make it harder for the toxic person to manipulate you emotionally.
Be aware of how the company you keep rubs off on you — the people you choose to spend time with will have a direct impact on you; have you ever been in a situation where you were hanging out with a group of people doing dodgy stuff and you fell into that as well? Toxic energy tends to rub off on other people, and so does positive energy; the choice is yours in terms of which one you allow to rub off on you, and you are the only one responsible for that choice.
Make choices that are right for you, even if that means walking away — you can absolutely walk away from toxic people and toxic relationships, regardless of who the person is or what their relationship is to you. I personally believe in giving people several opportunities to change the way they interact with me (and I do so by calmly setting boundaries, which I looked at in Episode 53 of the podcast), but if those boundaries aren’t respected then at some point there has to be a consequence. Nobody is going to look after your mental health and wellbeing for you, so you need to do what you need to do to protect yourself.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to energy and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: the energy that you put out into the world and the energy that you allow yourself to absorb from other people is entirely up to you. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our feelings that we’re not completely aware of how we’re projecting that to others or how we’re absorbing energy from the people around us, but it’s one of those things that becomes a bit clearer each time you remind yourself of it and take a conscious step backwards so you can see the bigger picture. If you can train yourself to stop and be more aware, and find ways to focus more on the positives (both within yourself and from other people around you), you’ll see more and more positive energy heading your way.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will you make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:
“Everything is about energy. The way you feel around certain people will tell you if this connection needs to be stopped or not.”Unknown
Next week I’ll be talking about ego. A lot of our identity can be tied up in our ego in terms of our sense of self-worth and value, and it can play a big part in how we get our energy from our ourselves internally plus from external factors like work, status and other people. So next week I’ll be talking about what ego is, why understanding what your ego is doing matters for your mental health and how to work with your ego to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday 28th February. And join me for Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV on YouTube, with new episodes released every Wednesday.
Head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for links and past episodes (including audio links and full transcripts) and while you’re there join the Let’s Talk About Mental Health mailing list to have exclusive updates land in your inbox — those of you on my email list receive the full transcript for each episode every week and you also find out about new stuff related to the show and my work at least a week before anybody else, so if you like this show then sign up at the website: letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au.
You can also find Let’s Talk About Mental Health on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as @ltamentalhealth, where I post extra content throughout the week, and if you follow me on Instagram then you’ll notice that I make a point of interacting with as many people as possible there so it’s a great way to continue the conversation!
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.
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Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2021 Jeremy Godwin.