Life is busy. Let’s be honest, there are times when our flagging energy levels just can’t keep up with that lengthy to-do list. Coffee (or your caffeinated beverage of choice) is a great pick me up, but relying on it can mess with your body’s natural rhythm. Instead, try these five ways to boost your energy, without resorting to another cup of joe.
Watch What You Eat
Instead of loading up on white bread, processed grains and fatty foods, start the day with whole grains. Unlike white flour, whole grains give you real energy right from the source. Try a breakfast of whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat toast and an egg (for protein). Then incorporate a few more servings of whole grains into your daily diet - Triscuits, Quaker Rice Cakes, Whole-grain SunChips and even Nutri-Grain bars are all high in whole grains. The B vitamins are also very effective at boosting energy levels - foods like spinach, eggs, shellfish, fish (mackerel, smoked salmon, herring, tuna, trout), swiss cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, milk and yogurt are all vitamin B rich.
Chew Some Gum
Just the act of chewing helps people feel more alert. According to a study conducted in the UK in 2012, all it takes is 15 minutes of chewing. “Chewing gum increases heart rate, which increases blood flow to the brain,” says study author Andy Smith, PhD. “It also stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which can increase alertness.” Purchase a pack of mint or peppermint, sugar-free gum and chew away in the afternoon - the scent will help boost your memory and information processing speed at the same time. (Note: Back at the beginning of the year, we drew up a list of 5 Energy Boosting Essential Oils you may want to check out.)
Brighten Your Day
There’s a sort of trigger built in to everyone that is located in the eye - when natural light hits our pupils, our brain springs to action. So it makes sense that stepping outside during your afternoon coffee break will help boost those drained energy stores. If you can’t get away from the desk (really, you should), try switching out the yellow light bulb for a blue bulb with a higher wattage. Blue light has been proven to increase awareness and give you a calm alertness that helps with problem solving and productivity.
Learn Something New
Taking a class, listening to an interesting podcast or even brushing up on your computer skills can help make you feel more alert. Learning something new engages your brain, stimulating it so that it absorbs the information. It can be something as simple as downloading a brain teaser app on your phone or doing a crossword for 10 minutes.
Take Up a Hobby
While reading, watching TV and sitting on the couch are all very relaxing things to do, your evening routine may actually be draining you for the rest of your week. Take up a new hobby, like gardening or making crafts - something active that’ll teach you something new. The feeling of accomplishment stimulates your brain (and it doesn’t hurt that it’ll give you a little confidence boost at the same time!) Not big on hobbies? Take a walk instead - stretch those legs out for 10 or 15 minutes after work. The activity boosts your heart rate, metabolism and blood flow. Or perhaps you’re stuck at your office after hours? Stretch out your aching muscles with yoga at your desk
, this will increase your energy by decreasing muscle fatigue.
Crank the Tunes
Upbeat music helps motivate you to stay alert (which may explain why it’s used in aerobics and other high-energy activities). Make yourself a playlist with upbeat songs that have a higher tempo. If you’re feeling confident, sing along - it’ll help you let go of any stress that may be weighing you down. In fact, researchers in London found that singing solo increases energy and decreases tension nearly as much as a cardio workout. One more reason to skip the gym!
Remember to Laugh
Laughter is cathartic - it can break any bad mood, decrease stress, boost your immune system and releases endorphins that make you feel really good. It really is the best medicine, especially if you’re feeling tired. So queue up those funny cat videos on youtube and treat yourself to a short laugh break - your boss may actually appreciate that you did (once you explain why you’re doing it).