“An insightful, uplifting read about how to bring more liveliness into our lives. Whereas most psychiatrists focus on alleviating mental illness, Samantha Boardman cares deeply about promoting mental health too. She combines an impressive command of science with deep empathy for her patients. If you’re depressed, burned out, or languishing, this book is brimming with practical ideas – and even if you’re flourishing, it’s full of valuable reminders for sustaining energy and well-being.” – Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again
We often yearn for simpler lives, imagining a future where our stressors have diminished. We envision a day when our responsibilities ease up, when our circumstances become less demanding. However, the reality is that we may never experience a completely stress-free existence. Rather than surrendering to the parts of life that present challenges, we can learn to coexist with them.
In the captivating book ‘Everyday Vitality,’ Samantha Boardman advocates for the cultivation of vitality as a means to transform challenges, hard work, and even stress into sources of personal strength. This review delves into the book’s insights, providing guidance on navigating difficult times and utilizing them as fuel for our journey.
Dr. Samantha Boardman is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and an Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Boardman holds a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Medical Degree from Cornell University Medical College. She is also a founder of PositivePrescription.com, a website that integrates her knowledge and experience to provide practical and insightful advice.
Dr. Boardman has been recognised for her excellence in psychiatry, receiving the prestigious Oskar Diethelm Prize during her medical studies. Samantha Boardman has contributed to various academic journals, including Translational Neuroscience, The American Journal of Psychiatry, and The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
What is the book about?
The book ‘Everyday Vitality’ is a comprehensive guide that explores how to cultivate vitality and transform everyday stress into strength.
Dr. Samantha Boardman presents the concept of vitality as “‘health of spirit,’ vitality is that sense of feeling psychologically and physically up to a task. Like resilience, vitality is often thought of as a quality people are born with. But possessing vitality is not a matter of luck. Vitality isn’t in your head; it’s generated by your deliberate actions.”
She emphasises that vitality is linked to positive effects on health, including increased productivity, improved resilience in the face of stress and difficulties, enhanced mental well-being, and the capacity to effectively handle negative emotions. Throughout the book, the author provides valuable insights on how to cultivate vitality and effectively handle challenges, hard work, and stress.
Dr. Boardman introduces the taxonomy of Professor David Almeida who divided people into Velcro and Teflon individuals, highlighting the difference in their responses to difficult situations. Velcro people tend to get stuck in negative thinking, while Teflon people demonstrate vitality by staying engaged and pursuing activities that make them feel good and strong.
The book emphasises the importance of personal choice in cultivating vitality and encourages readers to share their experiences and strategies with others. By doing so, one can inspire and encourage a positive mindset and approach to life within their community. Building connections and maintaining social support are also highlighted as powerful sources of vitality. The book provides evidence that social support and loving relationships can help individuals cope better with stress and shield them from life’s hardships.
Practical strategies such as mindfulness, positive thinking, gratitude, and physical exercise are presented to help readers build vitality in their daily lives. The book concludes by emphasising that vitality is not innate but can be developed through intentional actions and choices. By embracing challenges and seeking new experiences, individuals can thrive amidst chaos and uncertainty.
Table of contents
- PART ONE: CULTIVATE VITALITY
- Chapter 1: The Pebbles in Your Shoe
- Chapter 2: Tired, Stressed, Bored
- Chapter 3: Little r Resilience
- Chapter 4: People Change
- PART TWO: CHOOSE VITALITY
- Chapter 5: Hard, But in a Good Way.
- Chapter 6: Be Un-you
- Chapter 7: Everyone Stumbles
- Chapter 8: Better Days
- Chapter 9: More Life
- Chapter 10: Take Action
- PART THREE: CONNECT WITH OTHERS
- Chapter 11: Skip the Casseroles
- Chapter 12: Gain Some Distance
- Chapter 13: Tailwinds
- Chapter 14: Better Conversations
- Chapter 15: Look Around
- PART FOUR: CHALLENGE YOURSELF AND EMBODY VITALITY
- Chapter 16: Constructive Negativity.
- Chapter 17: Expand Yourself
- Chapter 18: Embodied Health
- Chapter 19: Fortify the Body, Fortify the Mind
- PART FIVE: BEYOND YOU
- Chapter 20: Contribute Value Chapter
- 21: Make Yourself Useful
- Chapter 22: Deliberate Vitality
Key takeaways from ‘Everyday Vitality’
1Vitality cultivation requires autonomy, competence, and relatedness
People who display vitality understand that it’s important to have control over their actions, feel capable of what they do, and have meaningful connections with others.
This was shown in a study done by the University of Richmond using rats. One group of rats had to work to find their treats, while the other group had their treats given to them. When the treats were presented in a clear plastic ball, the hard-working rats put in more effort than the ones who had their treats handed to them. This idea is called desirable difficulty, which means that people actually enjoy doing tasks when they are challenging.
General Mills, a company that makes cake mixes, also discovered a similar concept. They released a cake mix in the 1950s that only required adding water, but it didn’t become popular because it felt like taking a shortcut and didn’t give the same satisfaction as baking a cake from scratch. So, General Mills changed the mix to include adding an egg, and it instantly became a success.
2Social connections can become a source of strong vitality
The book also emphasises the importance of connecting with others for vitality. Research has shown that having social support can help individuals better handle stress, and experiencing love and being loved can protect individuals from life’s challenges.
For example, a study found that married couples who were in a loving relationship felt less pain when holding hands during an electric shock. Effective conversations that involve meaningful exchanges of information, rather than just small talk, can improve communication with others and contribute to happier interactions. In romantic relationships, asking questions, including everyone in conversations, and actively listening can lead to better communication. To avoid taking work stress out on family members, it can be helpful to create a plan for decontamination and respond with constructive and positive communication. Simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, such as filling up a partner’s gas tank, can also reduce stress and provide meaningful support to others.
3Challenging yourself can help to build up vitality
The book emphasises the importance of personal growth and vitality through self-challenge. It encourages questioning assumptions, embracing emotions, and engaging in activities that expand knowledge and perspective, such as hobbies and achieving a state of flow.
The author also highlights the significance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including sufficient sleep, exercise, and good posture, which can enhance mood and reduce the risk of depression. Starting with small positive actions can create a ripple effect of positivity and habit formation. Building vitality is crucial for thriving and finding purpose in life, and it involves challenging oneself, considering choices in context, and rejecting pessimism.
Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews
Fresh and thought-provoking content.
Provides instances of personal and relatable experiences on the topic.
Gives practical advice on achieving vitality.
Lack of diversity and perspective. Readers criticise the book for its limited awareness and perspective, failing to address experiences outside the realm of white, able-bodied, middle-class individuals.
Repetitive content. Some readers express frustration with the book’s repetitive nature, stating that it reiterates commonly known advice without offering fresh insights or addressing underlying systemic issues.
Insensitive generalisations. The author argues that the current generation lacks resilience and struggles with hardship, particularly contrasting it with the supposed toughness of the boomer generation. The book fails to acknowledge the genuine challenges faced by people today, such as the pandemic, inflation, and societal issues.
Best quotes from ‘Everyday Vitality’
“According to a study of Danish men and women, tennis players (associated with an extra 9.7 years), badminton players (6.2 years), and soccer enthusiasts (5 years) enjoy longer lifespans than people who engage in solitary activities such as jogging (3.2 years), swimming (3.7 years), or cycling (3.7 years).”
“Professor David Almeida divides people into two categories: Velcro and Teflon. 'With Velcro people, when a stressor happens it sticks to them; they get really upset and, by the end of the day, they are still grumpy and fuming,' he explains. 'With Teflon people, when stressors happen to them, they slide right off. It’s the Velcro people who end up suffering health consequences down the road.'”
“According to self-determination theory, first introduced by Ed Deci and Richard Ryan, these three fundamental needs are essential for human growth, integrity, and health. The satisfaction of these needs sheds light on the not particularly surprising finding that people are happier during weekends, which present more opportunities for rewarding social interaction (relatedness) and fewer obligatory and more self-directed activities (autonomy) than during the workweek.”
Everyday Vitality by Dr. Samantha Boardman offers valuable insights and practical advice on cultivating vitality and navigating life’s challenges. The book has resonated with many readers and offers valuable reminders and strategies for sustaining energy and well-being.
It is recommended for individuals seeking to enhance their mental health, build resilience, and cultivate vitality in their lives.
Where to buy
You may purchase ‘Everyday Vitality’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in Kindle, audio, paperback and hardcover versions, so you are free to choose the format that suits you best.
Receive Exclusive Tips & Weekly Digest – subscribe to our newsletter