1) Sleep More
Most of us need at least 7 hours, if not 8. Here is an interesting story. When I was in Army boot camp, we went to bed at 9 and got up at 5 every single day for 13 weeks. Physically, I never felt better in my life. Every week or two though, I would have to get up for an hour of “guard duty”, which meant I would only sleep 7 hours that night. I could tell a huge decrease in my ability to focus and my mood by missing 1 hour of sleep! I’m convinced many people would feel so much better and deal with stress better by taking sleep seriously.
Make the room cold, dark (but interestingly not too dark or you may not be able to wake up as easily), and comfortable. Sorry, but put the animals in the other room. I love dogs but they are not good for a good night’s sleep.
2) Take a Nap
Throughout the day, fatigue develops as the brain takes in a large amount of stimuli. Shutting off for a few minutes allows the brain to reorganize and “cull” unimportant information. Thus, after a nap, we wake refreshed and able to focus better. The best nap time is 20 minutes, unless you have time to do a full sleep cycle of 90-120 minutes. This is because an hour nap tends to wake you up in the middle of a deep sleep, which can make you feel groggy and tired. I try to take at least a 10 minute nap every day.
3) Go to bed at the same time every day
There are 2 sleep cycles: 1) REM, and 2) DEEP sleep. Together, these cycles normally last about 90 minutes. REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the brain’s prefrontal cortex doing it’s active work in processing the day’s events or thoughts or concerns. DEEP sleep is the longer time of more unconscious sleep, of the brain releasing the hormones necessary to repair the body. Dreams occur in REM sleep, while the unconscious brain is active in DEEP sleep.
4) Refrain from digital devices for an hour before bed
Light from digital devices can create a type of autistic overstimulation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This means that if you look at a cellphone or tablet for a long time before bed, more than a minute, it could “fire up” the brain and make it harder to wind down and relax. It is better to read or listen to relaxing music than it is to watch TV or look at devices. I really don’t see how people watch the news before bedtime! I would never be able to sleep.
5) Exercise in the morning
If you exercise in the morning, your adrenaline will be higher, and your circulating growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin will be higher throughout the day. This means you will feel more awake, alert, and you’ll be more energetic.
6) Cut out sugar, excess alcohol, and processed carbs
Sugar and processed carbs, as good as they may taste, do cause energy spikes and crashes. To feel better and have more energy, moderate your intake of these items. Alcohol is a depressant so it is obvious that it will kill your energy.
7) Eat more good fat
Good fats are excellent for the brain and an excellent source of energy. And they taste good! Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat, and they are basically a miracle food for brain function, improving memory, blood flow, and focus. The brain is at least 60 % fat and it is mainly made up of Omega 3 fats which must be obtained from the diet. This is one reason these types of fat are so important during pregnancy when the baby’s brain and nervous system are developing. Nerve cells in the brain are what allow the brain to function and these are refreshed by new supplies of fatty acids. A healthier brain is a more energetic one.
From Amy Paterul of the Cleveland Clinic:
To improve brain health, experts recommend reducing the amount of saturated fat (which is very common in the American diet) and replacing it with healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3s. One of the best ways to make the switch is by following a Mediterranean diet — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish. The staples of this diet are loaded with omega-3 fats such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based fat found in flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and canola oil, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in fish oil, cold-water fish and supplements.
In a study of 1,600 Dutch men and women published in Neurology, researchers found that those who ate fish regularly scored higher on a battery of tests for memory, psychomotor speed, cognitive flexibility and overall cognition. Moreover, the researchers claimed that consuming EPA and DHA specifically contributed to the boost in brainpower.
“Several studies show a link between omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as overall cognitive decline,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of disease reversal at the Cleveland Clinic. The best sources of DHA are fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon.
In one study, researchers tracked roughly 15,000 people in seven countries and found that those who ate the most fish were the least likely to develop dementia. Incidentally, they also found that eating meat increased the risk of dementia.
“There’s an interaction between diet and genes that determines how much and how soon plaques build up in the brain,” says Murali Doraiswamy, MD, professor of psychiatry, chief of the Biological Psychiatry Division at Duke University Medical Center and coauthor of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan. “For example, if rats eat a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, their brains get riddled with these amyloid plaques.” Not so if they’re on a low-cholesterol diet.
Need more reasons to load up on healthful omega-3 fatty acids? Studies show omega-3s can improve your mood. Researchers think the powerful fatty acids help nerve cells communicate better. That means feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine can get in and out of the cell more easily, translating to a better mood. In fact, researchers from the National Institutes of Health report that omega-3 fatty acids are as effective at treating major depressive illness as commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs. Other studies have found that frequent fish consumption is associated with a decreased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. What’s more, there’s increasing evidence that omega-3s help alleviate symptoms associated with other mood disorders, including psychotic disorders and bipolar disorder.
8) Move more
Sitting has been called the new smoking for good reason. It is bad for posture, for digestion, and it contributes to weight gain and other health issues. Plus, not moving can make you feel sluggish. Get up and walk every hour or use a stand up desk.
9) Focus on 1 thing at a time
After 10 minutes on any subject, attention wanes. The cognitive switching penalty is the focus-killing penalty for multi-tasking. The brain literally cannot switch back and forth between two stimulations and function well. Multi-tasking is impossible. It is better to stay focused on 1 thing at a time and try to get into a sense of flow.
Focusing on deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and heart and lungs and muscles. Oxygen is required for cellular energy production. If you breathe deeper, you will have more energy and feel better. This is actually one reason smokers, even though they are killing themselves, feel better temporarily after smoking- the deep breathing.
11) Listen to upbeat music
This has actually been studied extensively. Listening to upbeat music decreases fatigue and increases motivation. So go ahead and put on that techno club music or the Rocky theme song. It’s scientific!
Caffeine is a tricky subject. Too much can cause energy crashes, but just the right amount can significantly help with energy, performance, and focus. Too much caffeine can cause crippling anxiety because it blocks the calming hormone GABA, so be careful. 1 or cups of coffee in the morning and 1 cup of tea in the afternoon seems to be the best mix. I love coffee and tea so these are two of my favorite part of the day.
13) Improve Your Posture
Did you know that by standing upright, breathing deeply, making eye contact, speaking louder, and taking up more space and spreading your chest out, you will boost your energy hormones? Sometimes you have to pretend like you are more energetic until you really are.
14) Avoid Energy-Sucking People, or at Least Beware of Them
Some people are going to suck the life out of you. They complain, they are low-energy, they are not happy, and they could care less about goals, projects, or about making your situation or their situation better. These people will literally suck the energy right out of you. I’m sorry but you need to avoid these people if you can, or at least beware that that’s what they are doing. Their “game” is usually one you are playing without even realizing it. The next thing you know, you feel bad and tired after being around them.
There are other ways to have more energy but these are some of my favorites.
Print this list out and study it.
Practice these things and you will feel better and have more energy.
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