With less daylight coming in each day, many people feel less energetic and more prone to sitting on the couch, straying from healthy habits. Here are a dozen ways to increase your energy and make the most of your time:
Exercise daily. Exercise helps your cells burn energy and circulate more oxygen in your blood, making you more alert. The dopamine release not only elevates your mood but improves movement, memory and focus.
Stay hydrated. Among the first signs of dehydration are fatigue and feeling lethargic. Make sure you’re also getting enough electrolytes through water consumption; you need a balance of sodium and potassium.
Limit alcohol. It may make you sleepy initially, but alcohol is a major sleep disrupter. You may find you’re waking up in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling back asleep. It also limits the amount of REM and deep sleep.
Reduce stress. Anxiety, fear and anger spike cortisol levels, creating inflammation and consuming a massive amount of energy. Seeing a therapist to work through anxiety and anger can have major benefits. Meditation, hypnosis and yoga are effective in cutting stress.
Cut unhealthy carbs. Processed foods high in carbohydrates can leave you feeling tired. Simple carbs – found in sugar and starchy, processed foods, provide a quick boost but are immediately followed by a crash from rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels.
Consider a vitamin B supplement. B12 supports energy production and maintains blood cell health. If you’re deficient, an early sign can be low energy.
Take a nap. Research by the National Institute of Mental Health found afternoon naps improved cognitive function, especially alertness.
Go for a walk. If you feel sluggish, get up and move, especially after a meal. A brisk 10-minute walk improved energy with effects lasting up to two hours, in experiments conducted by California State University.
Be strategic about caffeine. A cup or two of coffee or tea can help enhance mental clarity. But to get the right benefits, consume caffeine judiciously. Chronically high consumption can lead to adrenal dysfunction, throwing energy and sleep cycles off.
Improve sleep quality. One-third of Americans don’t get the amounts of regular uninterrupted sleep needed for our bodies to repair themselves. Head to bed earlier, and maintain a sleep schedule.
Cool it. Heat can make us more relaxed and sleepy. Try a cold shower, or even a cold plunge or ice bath. Lower the thermostat before bed; experts say 65 degrees is the perfect temperature for optimal sleep.
Get your labs checked. Thyroid issues, anemia, depression and certain medications may cause fatigue. If you’re experiencing low energy levels, talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is past commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District and Hollywood Post 43.