This morning I received some good news. Nothing earth-shattering, but despite having mostly ditched the caffeine, I now feel like I’ve had 12 hours sleep and a double espresso. The fizz of excitement I got from this happy missive brought me energy.
Energy is a lot more than the stuff we get from food. We get our energy, or prana, in a multitude of ways; and food, although an important source, is only one of them.
1 – Sleep tight.
We regenerate our own energy when we sleep – the difference between getting enough shut-eye every night and being sleep-deprived is fundamental to how alive we feel. (There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.) Waking rest is also vital – if you go like the Duracell bunny every day and only rest when you sleep you’ll soon start to feel depleted, even if you get 8 hours in bed. We all need to put our feet up on a regular basis and just be.
2 – Keep good company.
Our relationships are a major source – or suck – of energy. We’ve all heard of energy vampires, and know how different it feels to spend time with them in comparison with someone who leaves us feeling uplifted and nourished. Sometimes spending time with energy vampires is unavoidable; for example, if the boss is such a person. In that situation the best thing we can do is make sure our own cup is full and find ways to protect our own energy. But in our private lives we can exercise wise discernment (known in yoga as viveka) over who we choose to spend our time with, opting for friends who support and encourage us rather than those who subtly knock us down and hinder our growth.
3 – Get outside.
You’ve probably heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This very real condition affects some of us more than others, but we all need daylight, every day, to feel our best. Getting outside on a sunny day is a must for energy, but being outside even on a grey day beats the hell out of staying stuck indoors the whole time. Nature is an abundant source of prana – in Japanese culture there’s even a formal practice of spending time in nature called shinrin-yoku, which means forest-bathing. It’s proven to reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, boost immunity and increase our overall sense of wellbeing. Whilst we may not all have regular access to a forest, why not get creative and think of ways to get into daylight and amongst greenery at every chance you get? Take a picnic to the park with friends instead of having a weekend pub lunch; get some plants in your office and move your desk near a window; swap the gym treadmill for outdoor bootcamp sessions!
4 – Have fun.
Kids are rarely short of energy; nor are they the slightest bit inhibited about doing things simply for fun. We could learn a thing or two! Make time regularly to do something you really enjoy, however silly and frivolous it may seem, just for the sheer fun of it. Dance around to your favourite music, play with plasticine, do a jigsaw or colouring-in, sing at the top of your voice, jump on a trampoline – ideally something unproductive and simply joyful! It’s far from self-indulgent; it’s a vital source of abundant life-force.
5 – Share your energy…
Used wisely, our energy can be like the flame of a candle – it can ignite many others without becoming diminished. In fact, sharing our energy can actually increase it, because it’s frequently reciprocated – I’m thinking of how it feels to smile and make eye contact with someone, anyone, and have it returned. It gives you both a little lift, right? Shining your light with smiles and heartfelt connection means you illuminate others, and you in turn get to enjoy the warmth of that glow.
6 – But don’t give it away.
Protecting the energy we do have by setting healthy boundaries is vital to sustained wellbeing – we have to stop saying ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’! It’s a hard habit to break if you’re a natural people-pleaser, but you’re entitled to save some of your energy for you, and there’s no need to feel embarrassed about claiming that. Be polite but clear and firm, and try not to fudge or make excuses – something along the lines of ‘I’d like to help but that’s not going to work for me right now’ is perfectly fine. Some people will try and push you; stick to your guns and don’t be bullied into giving your energy away to something you’ll end up resenting.
7 – Listen to uplifting music.
Music is unusual in that it activates all areas of the brain. Our motor responses are stimulated when we hear a compelling rhythm and we feel the urge to tap our feet or dance; the emotional reactions of the limbic system are triggered by a melody and we feel our mood shift to one of joy or melancholy; and we’re instantly transported back in time upon hearing the opening bars of a familiar song as the memory centres are activated. When we hear a tune that we like, the auditory cortex of the brain releases the reward chemical dopamine in response – the same chemical which is also released in response to sex, Facebook ‘likes’, chocolate and even cocaine – making music one of the healthier ways of getting your energy high!
8 – Tidy up.
Imagine getting up in the morning to a messy apartment, with clutter everywhere and washing up in the sink. Now contrast that feeling with the sense of waking up to space and order, with everything where it belongs. What a difference! The Chinese principle of feng shui is all about letting energy flow freely around an area, and whether that concept appeals to you or not, there’s no denying that a lack of clutter is considerably more calming to live with than ‘stuff’ in all directions. I think of tidying up my space as ‘clearing energy traps’, and whilst I’m far from a mimimalist, there’s a definite sense of liberation in getting rid of things that aren’t necessary to your life.
9 – Be honest with yourself.
Honesty is always the best policy – lying means you have to remember what you said to whom, and that’s an energy suck if ever there was one. But lying to yourself – well that’s a next-level way to drain your own resources. You know the sense of relief you feel when you finally say something that you’ve been sitting on, and it’s all out in the open? The sense of freedom when you stop making excuses to yourself and face up to your own reality is immense – and it’s the only way you can actually start to change anything.
10 – Live with intention
It’s empowering to take control of our personal decisions. Making a positive, present-tense commitment to yourself each morning in line with how you want to live is a great way to make sure you use your energy well. For example, you might say ‘today I am taking care of myself by eating three fresh veg/fruit at every meal, walking at lunchtime and being in bed by 10pm’. It helps keep you on track; and taking responsibility for your life gives you, yes, you guessed it: energy!
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