“Everyday Vitality”: Self-Care, Other-Care, or Both?

Boardman’s most successful argument is that society’s focus on self-care does more harm than good, as building community and finding supportive friends and family is crucial to well-being, while focusing too much on the self can increase rumination and, ultimately, depression: “Self-care might be all the rage,” she writes, “but it’s important not to forget ‘other-care’ as a source of vitality and resilience.” Publishers Weekly, regarding Everyday Vitality: Turning Stress into Strength by Samantha Boardman, MD

In her new book Everyday Vitality psychiatrist Samantha Boardman describes vitality as “the positive feeling of aliveness and energy that lies at the core of well-being and at the heart of a good day,” per the publisher. “You will discover how increased vitality boosts productivity, builds coping skills, and enhances your ability to manage negative emotions.”

Furthermore, there are three main wellsprings of vitality:

  • meaningfully connecting with others
  • engaging in experiences that challenge you
  • contributing to something beyond yourself

The ways Boardman thinks you can achieve everyday vitality include “reflection questions to help one ‘understand oneself and one’s inner conflicts’ and…activities such as helping others out, learning something new, and exercising…” (Publishers Weekly).

What does she say about self-care? From Boardman’s website post titled Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Self-Care? ...Here’s the thing,” she says. “You can take care of yourself and be there for others at the same time.” You can and need to do both. An excerpt:

It is well established that having a shoulder to lean on helps us get through a bad day, and studies show that social support is one of the best salves for stress. Less well-known are studies that show how providing a shoulder to lean on helps buffer against stress. In a University of California, Los Angeles, and Yale School of Medicine research article titled “Prosocial Behavior Helps Mitigate the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life,” participants who engaged in other-focused behavior, such as holding open a door, asking someone if they needed help, and lending a hand, reported better moods and lower daily stress levels than those who didn’t. In sum, self-care is a good thing. Just don’t let it become the only thing.

Bestselling author Andrew Solomon‘s review of Everyday Vitality:

In this gloriously insightful, intimate, eminently readable book, Samantha Boardman has captured and extended the dynamics of positive psychology, teaching us how to rebuild our lives and invest them with joy. Mixing rigorous scholarship with sophisticated common sense and an underlying generosity of spirit, she writes in readable, accessible, captivating terms about how to experience the world more fully and richly. Her flashes of profound insight, her mastery of the complexities of her topic, her gentle sense of humor, and her cheerful celebration of our capacity to achieve positive change all make this a must-read for anyone who seeks meaning and fulfillment. This is a brilliant and necessary volume, written with grace, style, and, most of all, a deeply moving compassion.

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