Energy. AKA vibes. Why do interactions with some people infuse you with happiness while others drain your joy?

The answer is energy…it’s contagious. Energy transfers from person to person. You can choose to transmit good vibes—or if you’re not intentional about choosing, you may unintentionally steal others’ sunshine.

My teenage daughter talks about “vibes” and “vibing with people” all the time. This word takes the form of a noun and a verb in her friend orbit. When these younger people are getting along well, they say; “We vibe.” When things are not feeling right0000, I hear, “Oh, Mom…that is not the vibes!” There is something to this youthful interpretation of energy that is worth examining.

Developing and maintaining positive energy involves more than thinking happy thoughts. Shifting to positive vibes—positive energy—is a skill to be mastered. It requires the ability to see the possibilities that are available to you every day, with each interaction.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which relies on the importance of focusing on what is right and good with people and situations, is a strategy for organizational change that can also be harnessed on the individual level.

Appreciative inquiry devotes attention to strengths rather than weaknesses. According to David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, “Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them…AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.”

In short, AI is about appreciating processes that already work well; envisioning how things might work well in the future; prioritizing those processes; and sustaining positive changes. Applying AI to our daily thought process can electrify us with positivity that makes those around us light up, as well.

At my gym, there are many different instructors who teach classes every hour, on the hour. There is one instructor named Trevor whose classes always have a sold-out waiting list  (while classes taught by other instructors have plenty of availability). The difference? It’s how Trevor makes you feel. He smiles. He gives you a knuckle bump. He finds and highlights the positive in you. Then he teaches you how to be better. That grueling, one-hour sweat makes you want more.

The secret is not endorphins (otherwise, the class instructor would be irrelevant). The secret is Trevor’s thought process. We can all be a Trevor when we focus on the good.

Here are five tactics to manage your vibes and put positive energy out into the universe:

1.Start and end each day with gratitude

To shine when you rise and as you close out each day, jot down three things for which you are grateful in that moment. By focusing on what you have to be thankful for, you trigger a state of mind that generates contentment and joy.

2. Create positive energy, from the inside out

Movement, exercise, stretching and breaking a sweat—tending to the wellness of your body—is a sure way to feel good on the inside, which will be perceptible from the outside.

3. Schedule smiles into your days

Often times, we neglect that which sets our souls on fire. We are the hamster on the wheel, fighting the good fight to make a living and cover all of our responsibilities…but we forget that we are also responsible for our own happiness. Make a list of what makes you smile (Cuddling up in your favorite sweatshirt with a book? Enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend? Watching the sunset by the lake or ocean?) and then book those things into your schedule, just as you would a dental appointment.

4. Pause to power up

We tend to run from event to event, or Zoom call to Zoom call. There’s not enough buffer between appointments and obligations to reset, map out our next steps and envision positive outcomes to ensure that we are bringing the right energy into every interaction. The point is, always pause so that you can show up in a way that conveys your best and highest self.  

5. Make eye contact to connect

Looking into someone’s eyes says more than words. How do you feel when someone stops what they’re doing and gives you eye contact when you’re speaking to them? When they don’t? Eye contact makes the difference between someone feeling priceless and feeling worthless. Get comfortable with eye contact and use this superpower to forge human connections, whether in-person or on Zoom calls. The energy transfer is immediate.

As author Emily Maroutian said, “When you ‘pay’ attention to something, you buy that experience…Be selective in your focus because your attention feeds the energy of it and keeps it alive…”

Focus on what is right and good with every situation and every person that you encounter, and positive energy will build inside of you as a result. Your good vibes will leave every person that you meet better off, and all the good things—from friends to opportunities—will be on YOUR waiting list.