Great Ways to Boost Your Energy
January and February are a time of renewal and setting our sights on getting a good start for the New Year. It is also an interesting time to consider boosting our energy; a time when the rest of the natural world is hibernating and stillness has settled over the land. The trees have dropped their leaves and many animals are hibernating or have flown south.
While the natural world has been settling down for a nap, we have been busy hustling about for the holidays and keeping up with school or work. And now we are searching for ways to boost our energy even more. We call it a disorder to feel the need to slow down and to rest more. The National Institutes of Health characterizes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as “fall/winter major depression with spring/summer remission, and describes it as “a prevalent mental health problem” related to “circadian rhythm dysregulation”. Sustainable energy comes from honoring this normal tendency to slow down and recognizing what our bodies really need.
Whether you have the winter blues or are just looking for a way to boost your energy levels, nature offers several solutions.
1.The foods that we eat have an immediate and a long-term impact on our energy levels. Research has shown that raw and unprocessed foods carry more energy boosting nutrients than highly processed food. Researchers have also found a link between the health of our digestive system and our overall well-being. The use of probiotics and eating live foods that are natural sources of friendly bacteria are proving to be effective ways of boosting our immune systems and energy.
While caffeine is a favorite short-term fix for an energy kick, studies have found that people who regularly consume caffeine struggle more with energy fluctuations than those who do not. Consider eating plenty of raw, whole foods throughout the day and try replacing a cup of coffee with some antioxidant-rich tea to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels and stable energy throughout the day.
2.The key to creating energy is expending energy. Our bodies are beautifully adapted such that when we expend more energy, our metabolism shifts to provide us with more fuel to produce energy. The easiest way to exercise is to do something that you have always enjoyed doing. If you rode a bicycle everywhere as a child, then get a bike. If you did yoga or danced, go back to these familiar forms of exercise. Find the “fun” in being functional.
3.The key to maintaining balance in your energy levels is to give yourself the time to regenerate and rejuvenate. While we sleep, our bodies are healing and regenerating, restoring the resources that we need to feel energetic in the morning. Make healthy sleep a top priority—and if you struggle with restful sleep, remember that practices such as yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven to be the most effective sleep aids for restoring quality sleep.
4.Meditation is proving to be more than just a stress-relieving practice. Scientists have now elucidated the multiple mechanisms by which giving yourself the time to surrender and slow down, actually revamps the processes for your “get up and go”. During the practice of meditation, hormone levels rebalance; and even our blood-glucose levels stabilize. If you are not sure how to meditate, join a meditation class, such as the ones offered at The Mindfulness Center or your local yoga studio and find out what the buzz is all about.
5.Light therapy has proven to be the most effective clinical therapy for the wintertime blues. Exposure to the infrared rays of light actually shifts our hormones in such a way to boost our energy levels. There are two ways to experience more light at this time of year. Do as the birds do and escape on a retreat to a sunnier climate. Or if you don’t have the resources for a retreat, find a local resource for near-infrared light therapy, like those offered as The Mindfulness Center.
Deborah Norris, Ph.D. is founder of The Mindfulness Center, a nonprofit wellness center in Bethesda and Director of the Psychobiology of Healing Program at American University. She leads meditation and yoga retreats locally and in Costa Rica. Visit TheMindfulnessCenter.org.