"Good Vibrations" isn't just the name of a Beach Boys song; Plenty of people make an effort to stay attuned to what "vibes" they give off. If you believe in the concept that what you put out into the world is what you get back in return, then you understand the appeal of maintaining positive energy as a general best practice whenever possible.
If you're a bit skeptical about the concept of an energy system of your body, though, you're not alone. While it's prevalent in Eastern medicine, the concept of personal energy resulting from the body vibrating at different levels has not been well studied or proven by Western science or medicine, notes Yufang Lin, M.D., an integrative medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic. So energy is a little tricky to pin down into scientific terms, despite the fact that you may feel it in your own way through your emotions.
"Intuitively, I think most people understand that emotion has an energy to it," says Dr. Lin. "When you're upset or stressed, your body feels denser, heavier, cold, [or] 'lower in vibration,'" she says. "When you're happy or joyful, your body feels lighter, brighter, warmer, or 'higher in vibration.' However, none of these concepts have been validated by modern medical research."
With that in mind, a lot of the most common advice for how to raise your energy is worth trying, regardless of whether you buy into the concept of energy systems. "Although energy systems can't be yet mapped through imaging studies or measured, managing your emotions clearly can impact your physical health," says Dr. Lin. "Whether you want to attribute that to physical response or as an energetic response, the effect is the same."
Operating at a "high vibrational frequency" is really a matter of clearing out any "blockages or stagnations in the flow of qi," according to Gudrun Snyder, founder of Moon Rabbit Acupuncture in Chicago and an Eastern medicine specialist. Qi is the term used to describe the energy that circulates through your body, according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The blockages can cause you to feel fatigued and generally low, or even experience physical pain, says Snyder.
"There are many reasons why energy blockages can occur, from trauma to lifestyle choices, your energy is affected by everything you encounter and how you respond," says Snyder. All that is to say, becoming your best self is not about adding something to make sure you have the right energy, it's about clearing anything negative or harmful that could be holding you back.
Dr. Lin agrees, adding that "TCM, reiki, and therapeutic touch all work on the aspect of energy medicine, or what we call the energy body. Vibration is a way to think of it but it has not been scientifically validated."
If you're hoping to clear out the blockages, here's what you should know about maintaining optimal qi — aka how to feel those good vibrations.
How to Raise Your Vibration
Again, you shouldn't be so fixated with asking, "How can I raise my vibrational frequency," but rather how to address stagnant energy. "When your energy is flowing you feel rested, clear-headed, and ready to engage with the world around you," explains Snyder. Resetting your energy is all about checking in with yourself and pinpointing exactly what you need. For example, if you're stressed out about work, try writing out a schedule or jotting down everything you need to do for the next day at night before you go to bed so you can sleep clearly.
Here are five approaches that can help promote energy flow, according to Snyder.
When you hear the word meditation, you may picture yourself sitting silently in a room and trying to focus on your breath. If you've already found that's not for you, there are other options as well.
If you're looking for something a little more active, Snyder recommends trying Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Tai Chi is a type of "internal" martial art focused around harnessing your spiritual and mental energy. It combines sequences of movements that flow together with the mental benefits of meditation.
Qi gong may be a bit less intimidating than Tai Chi as it focuses more on the meditative aspects and less on moving your physical body to increase energy flow. Qi gong is a set of exercises that includes "posture/movement, breath practice, and meditation," which are all designed to enhance Qi function, according to an article in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Both forms of moving mediation "work to increase the flow of energy in your body through slow deliberate movements and sounds," says Snyder.
Acupuncture is a key part of Chinese medicine that "involves penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles which can be activated through the practitioner's hands or, in some cases, via electrical stimulation," as Shape previously reported. This is designed to unblock negative energy flows and reset the body and mind, though there's no scientific explanation to why it might work. "The science just isn't there yet," Julie Barefoot, D.A.O.M., L.Ac, an acupuncturist previously told Shape. "There are a lot of arguments from Western medical science. Some say it's the nervous system, some say it's the placebo effect, but [acupuncture is] really us working with the energy of the body. We were written off as a pseudoscience, but as our MRI equipment grows more sophisticated, we're starting to understand how energy flows a little better."
If you are afraid or squeamish of needles, try a simple approach that mimics the effects, such as ear seeding, which is sort of a DIY version of acupuncture, suggests Snyder.
There's no one-size-fits-all method for optimal energy flow, says Snyder, so if one doesn't work, keep trying until you find one that works with you. Reiki is one route, which may help re-balance your energy. Reiki is a relatively new energy healing technique that originated in the early 1900s, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It is said to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. During Reiki, the practitioner lays or hovers their hands atop their client's body to improve energy flow. Reiki is thought to help shift your nervous system from a sympathetic (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.
Since you can experience an exchange of energy when spending time around others, hanging around those that make you feel positive and uplifted that is a smart move. And catching up with close friends and spending time laughing with those you love can be a great stress reliever, which may help reset your energy levels. "When your stress eases, you breathe easier, you think clearly, and your body feels better," says Snyder.
If your energy feels off and you can't pinpoint the culprit, recall when was you last truly enjoyed yourself and lived in the moment. If it's been too long, call up your best friends for a Zoom hangout or wine and cheese night.
Just as important as finding time to relax with your friend is surrounding yourself with new people who may challenge the notion of what you already know. The people you surround yourself with can affect your energy flow. "Often we find ourselves too busy or too afraid to leave the comfort of our known contacts," says Snyder. "Meet and learn about someone who is completely different from you. You just might find they help to take you to a whole new level."
On the other hand, spending time around others may also have negative consequences. "When someone has negative energy, or what might be considered stagnant qi, it can cause our qi to stagnate if we let it," explains Snyder. "If we are given the tools, such as acupuncture, meditation, or other energy modalities, our own qi is better equipped to continue to flow freely and not stagnate even if we are presented with negative energy."
If you've been wondering, "How do I raise my vibration," now you have some tools for promoting optimal energy flow. If one of the above methods doesn't work for you, the key is to keep trying and exploring new approaches, until you figure out what makes you feel your best.