Energy to Burn – 7 Strategies to Fire it Up 5/14

runners.10136238May 2014

Given my mother-in-law’s slower pace than our own, her presence in our home over the Christmas holidays slowed us down too. As much as I enjoy her company and enjoyed slowing down, I reached my slowing and sitting threshold. Consequently, I had energy to burn. You know that feeling of ants in your pants?

It was quite fascinating to discover that the moment we delivered grandma to the airport I felt exhausted. I wondered why, as I was very well rested. “How could I possibly be so tired?” I asked myself. “What changed?”

My thoughts and feelings changed, that’s what. Her leaving meant the end of the holidays. That created a feeling of sadness, and with that a complete, albeit temporary, loss of energy. Identifying the cause was the cure.

I haven’t met a client who doesn’t want to have more energy. Poor health and excess weight can certainly be barriers to energy. But, so too can negative thoughts and feelings, as the above example illustrates.

Often we look to the wrong places for energy, like the vending machine during that mid-afternoon slump. Consuming sugar creates another slump not long after the high from the ingested sugar. Start by looking to nutrition for a healthy source of energy.

1. Nutrition
You are what you eat and drink. All humans need the right balance of nutrients, mostly carbohydrates (45-65 % of your caloric intake), proteins (10- 35%) and fats (20-35%), together with vitamins, minerals and, of course, water (see below). Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are what you need most. And make those high fibre carbohydrates!Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, easily used by the body to create “ENERGY.”

Good quality carbohydrate sources, together with protein and healthy fat go a long way to feeling good and feeling energetic. Ideally, you will have the right balance of the three macronutrients each time you eat.

What you eat makes a huge difference to your energy level, so too does how muchyou eat. Yes, you can have too much nutrition. How do you feel when you’ve overeaten? Eating just the right amount will avoid both pain and lethargy.

2. Water
Water consumption is an integral part of healthy nutrition. It’s required for most of the body’s processes to function. That’s no small thing. The jury’s out on how much is enough, from 6 to 12 cups (one cup = 8 oz. or 250 ml) a day. Larger people require larger quantities. Know that vegetables and fruits also contribute to hydration. Let the color of your urine be your guide. Very pale yellow is the goal.

3. Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep you’re going to lack energy. As much as sleep is the most obvious solution to fatigue, it isn’t widely valued in our culture of operating 24/7. Sleep is often the first thing we let go because we want to get more done. I suggest getting more sleep in order to get more done.

If time is a barrier to a good night’s sleep, are you trying to do too much? Could you be more productive with the time you have? A word of warning – while caffeine offers a temporary fix, it can also be a barrier to sleep.

If it’s the quality of sleep that’s lacking, see some tips here for healthy sleep practices. When stress and worry interfere with your sleep, try to mentally, or symbolically, put your stress aside. Make a deal with yourself that you can address it in the morning, that nothing will be resolved during the night.

If you’re still struggling with sleep, maybe you need to talk with your doctor to rule out, or identify, medical issues.

4. Exercise
Most people think they need or want more energy in order to exercise. The truth is you get energy from exercise. Energy begets energy. Like attracts like. In the beginning there might be more push than pull. Hang in there. It doesn’t take long before you feel better being active. Start slowly and build up your stamina.

If, like many, you spend most of the day sitting, it’s really important to get up frequently. Going for short walks, doing squats in front of your chair, any way of moving your body, (which is really meant to move) will help prevent the snoozies from coming over you.

Exercise in the outdoors is particularly invigorating.

5. Nature
There is a healing, restorative effect to being in nature. And that creates energy. You know you’ve been there. Unfortunately, sometimes we wait for vacation to be outdoors and then expect a command performance in the weather. Try not to make the outdoors about the weather. Where I live there’s usually more bad news than good in that regard. Make it about appreciating the beauty and wonder of nature. That creates happy thoughts and feelings. Complaining about the weather does not.

In 1990, Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki conducted a small study in the beautiful forests of Yakushima, Japan. Dr. Miyazaki reported that walking in a cedar forest compared to walking indoors was associated with improved mood and feelings of vigor. A lower level of the stress hormone cortisol was also reported in subjects who did the forest walks. As a result, forest walks have become a form of employee wellness for the Japanese. They call it shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing.

6. Breathing
Breathing is how energy moves through the physical body. The benefits of deep breathing exercises ensure that oxygen is distributed equally through the body, thereby producing more energy through the oxygenation of blood.

Effective breathing builds energy. Labored, shallow or irregular breathing as a result of stress or disease diminishes it. The practice of yoga is an excellent way to learn to breathe effectively.

7. Happy Thoughts and Feelings
Every thought or emotion experienced in the mind or spirit is also experienced in the body. Sadness, or a negative outlook, will certainly impact your energy negatively. Making time and space for simple (or grandiose) pleasures creates positive thoughts and feelings. And positive thoughts and feelings contribute to positive behaviors, which create more positive thoughts and feelings. Again, like attracts like.

Optimism, an attitude of gratitude, and a balanced life that includes simple joys and pleasures will go a long way to firing up your energy.

In metaphysical terms, everything in the universe is energy, and so are we. It is our responsibility to know how and what fires us up and act accordingly to live our best life.

What creates happy thoughts and feelings for you? Grandma’s visit? A music video?