Boost Your Energy With Easy Steps
Restore your mind, body and spirit in minutes.
You wake up exhausted, and then drag all morning. In the afternoon, it takes several cans of soda for you to be alert enough to slog through a mile-long to-do list. And when the evening rolls around, the only thing you have enough energy for is a date with your favorite sitcom stars. Sound like a typical day? You’re not alone.
“We have an epidemic of exhaustion in our culture,” explains Judith Orloff, MD, psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We need to learn to take charge of our energy levels and tap into practices that make us feel vibrant and happy.”
Instead of dealing with all-day exhaustion and forgoing activities because you don’t have the stamina, learn some tricks for getting instant energy boosters:
Turn up the tunes. Listen to your favorite CD on the way to work, or sing along to “Elmo and Friends” with your grandkids. Researchers have found that listening to music helps boost energy and stimulates positive thinking.
Straighten up. Bad posture can slowly sap your energy. According to the International Chiropractors Association, slouching requires your muscles to work harder to hold up your body, and that can lead to fatigue. Just 15 minutes of reading or typing in a slouched position strains the neck, shoulders and upper-back muscles.
Take a break from work every 30 minutes. Go for a quick walk around the office, get a glass of water or do a few slow stretches to get your blood flowing. Practice good posture by ensuring that your shoulders and hips are aligned, and your head is straight. At your desk, sit in a chair that provides good lower-back support, and keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
Do a minimeditation. Setting aside time to do minimeditations throughout the day can help when you’re overwhelmed by demands at work, dealing with a needy friend or just feeling stressed about the state of the world. Meditations help refocus your thoughts and create positive energy.
Dr. Orloff, the author of Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress & Fear into Vibrance, Strength & Love (Harmony, 2004), recommends finding a quiet spot with no distractions, sitting in a relaxed position with your eyes closed and taking deep, slow breaths. Focus only on breathing in and out. As outside thoughts enter your consciousness, acknowledge them and then refocus on your breathing. Do this for three minutes.
Wear red. On days when you’re feeling sluggish, try wearing a colorful sweater or scarf for an immediate pick-me-up. Studies indicate that color has a huge impact on energy level. Red, in particular, has been shown to improve mood and alertness.
Pop a peppermint. The scent of peppermint decreases fatigue by up to 25 percent, according to researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University, in W. Va. Keep a bowl of peppermints on your desk to get you through the late-afternoon slump; or light a peppermint-scented candle, and let the invigorating aroma help you keep from dozing off while finishing those expense reports.
Brush your body. According to the ancient Chinese healing art of Qigong, using a dry brush can help your lymphatic system – located just beneath your skin – to drain toxins. Run a long-handled brush with nonsynthetic bristles over your limbs and torso in the direction of your heart, using long, sweeping motions. Brush from the tips of your toes to the tops of your thighs, and the tips of your fingers to the tops of your shoulders.
“It’s very stimulating, and such a great way to wake up your senses,” says Sondra Kornblatt, co-author with Susannah Seton of 365 Energy Boosters (Conari Press, 2005). “You also can use the brush to tap on each shoulder for a minimassage that releases tension.”
Savor a stretch. A few minutes of stretching can loosen tense muscles and help you feel more alert. Set aside a few minutes to do some simple stretches during the day. In addition to giving you energy, it has the added benefit of decreasing muscle soreness and improving flexibility.
Stock up on snacks. Eat healthy snacks, such as nuts, cheese, fruit or yogurt. These energy boosters will help keep your blood sugar level even, enabling you to avoid experiencing extreme energy peaks and valleys. “Try to have foods from two to three different food groups on hand for snacking,” advises Sue Moores, a St. Paul, Minn.-based registered dietitian. “The combination of fruits and veggies, whole grains and protein will give you more nutritious and lasting energy.”
Avoid high-fat and fried foods, as well as those that are high in sugar. According to Moores, these types of foods provide a quick burst of energy, but can leave you feeling hungry and depleted just 30 minutes later.
Have a good laugh. Giggle, guffaw, chuckle, snicker, chortle – no matter what you call it, laughing is good for your health. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, elevates mood and boosts the immune system. The next time you need a burst of energy, try reading the comics, watching a funny movie or viewing stand-up comedy clips online. Dr. Orloff also recommends connecting with others who share a zest for life and a great sense of humor.
“Laughter is contagious,” she says. “It increases endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers, and reduces our stress hormones. Laughter is good therapy.”
Get enough sleep. You know that getting enough sleep is important, but how often do you sacrifice a few hours of shut-eye in favor of crossing one more thing off your to-do list? According to the Better Sleep Council, 26 percent of women have difficulty sleeping, and many admit to losing zzzs due to worrying about family issues and finances. The result: They feel moody, as well as less alert and less energetic.
Find your sweet spot. Acupressure techniques can be natural energy boosters, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Applying pressure to key points on the body stimulates the nerves that regulate attention and alertness. Kornblatt suggests pulling on your ears – a practice touted in acupressure and craniosacral massage. (Start by gently tugging around the ears and lobes, then move up the tops of the ears and back down the sides.)
Research also shows that the acupressure point in the center of the top of your head can have a huge impact on pumping up energy. To find the point, place your thumbs on the tops of your ears, and stretch your hands up until your middle fingertips meet at the top of your head. Tap on this spot lightly for a few minutes while taking deep breaths, and feel the results.
Break a sweat. Regular exercise is good for much more than just losing weight. The National Institutes of Health also promotes exercise as an effective way to gain energy. Aim for 30 minutes a day. Can’t spare a half-hour? Research published in the journal Health Psychology found that 10 minutes of exercise can improve mood, increase energy and reduce feelings of fatigue.
The next time you’re dragging, walk around the block, go for a short bike ride or swim a few laps in the pool. The energy boost you get from exercise will be far more effective than the short-term effects of caffeine or sugar.
Chug some H20. Believe it or not, dehydration is a major cause of fatigue. Water makes up about 80 percent of the brain and is an essential element in neurological transmissions. When you’re dehydrated, your blood is thicker and travels more slowly to the brain to deliver oxygen.
To avoid feeling sluggish from a lack of fluids, aim for eight glasses of liquid a day. “Water is the best choice because it has no calories, but decaffeinated coffee, natural fruit juice, herbal tea – even zero-calorie sodas – count toward your overall fluid intake,” notes Moores. “The most important thing to remember is to avoid liquids that have a lot of sugar, such as smoothies, because the energy gains are only temporary.”
Talk to yourself. Positive self-talk plays a huge role in your energy level. Having a personal mantra, such as “It’s going to be a great day!” can put a positive spin on your outlook. Tape an inspirational quote to your refrigerator, or look at yourself in the mirror and admire your favorite facial feature. On the days when you’re in pain, repeat the phrase “I’m strong enough to get through this.”
Staying positive, says Dr. Orloff, is the very best thing you can do to boost your energy and promote good health.”
Avoid the four energy drains. Want to feel energetic all day long? The trick is to do things that ramp up your energy and steer clear of the ones that suck it all away and make you feel drained. Eliminate these energy vampires, and watch your vitality skyrocket:
1. Caffeine. Drinks such as Red Bull, Full Throttle and Mountain Dew are loaded with caffeine. Even coffee and regular sodas contain enough to give you a buzz. It’s true that a little bit of caffeine can provide a burst of energy, but it doesn’t last long. Drinking caffeinated beverages after lunch also can affect the quality of your sleep, leaving you without much energy the following morning.
2. Sugar. Eating too many high-sugar foods, such as candy bars, soda and ice cream, can cause your blood sugar to drop, making you want to curl up for a nap. These foods also are filled with empty calories, so you won’t feel full for long. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, choose snack options that contain natural sugars – such as fruit – for a lasting lift.
3. Energy bars. Contrary to their name, energy bars are not the best source of energy. Many are highly processed and high in calories, making them inferior to other snacks, such as nuts, cheese and crackers. “Avoid energy bars that are filled with gooey ingredients. They might sound tasty, but they aren’t that healthy,” Moores says. “If you must have an energy bar, choose one that has 10 to 15 grams [g] of protein, 2 to 3 g of fiber and fewer than 300 calories.”
4. Television. Curling up on the couch to watch TV might seem relaxing, but the opposite actually may be true, Kornblatt says. “Television entertains us, but it doesn’t relax us. We have to make a lot of decisions when we watch TV – ‘What show should I watch?’ ‘How do I feel about the characters?’ ‘Is there something else on?’ ‘Do I want to eat the snack I just saw advertised?’," she says. "Those thoughts are exhausting. You’ll have more energy if you turn off the TV and go for a walk instead.”
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