By Christine Schulz on Mon, Jul 26, 2021
About 30% of doctor’s visits involve the complaint of “being tired all the time,” so if you’ve been asking yourself “How can I have more energy?” you’re certainly not alone.
Assuming there’s no larger underlying health problem, there are many factors that can make us feel tired throughout the day, from losing stamina with age to a lack of exercise. There’s not much we can do about the former, and we don’t always have time to solve the latter — but there are quick ways to get energy by making a few small changes in your day-to-day routine. These changes tap into your four main sources of energy: food, sleep, state of mind, and breath.
Eat for energy
Eating food is like filling up your car’s gas tank, and similarly, quality, volume, and timing all make a difference on how far you’ll get. Food converts to energy, so make sure you’re taking in a sufficient amount of calories. And, make sure you’re consuming the right types of foods — sugary, fatty foods like donuts become short-lived energy bursts followed by a long-lasting sugar crash, which will make you feel sluggish. Good energy foods for breakfast include bananas, berries, yogurt, and oatmeal. Opt for snack foods that provide a higher energy quotient like peanut butter, avocados, apples, and hummus.
Energizing drinks like coffee (which many of us simply can’t give up!) should be paired with high-protein, natural energy foods (like eggs, quinoa, and salmon) that will help carry you after the caffeine in your system has diminished. Some people like to add protein shakes or powder to their coffee. You can also experiment with phasing out coffee for drinks like Yerba Mate, which has tons of nutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids.
Eating small “mini-meals” throughout the day is another great way to sustain energy (no heavy meals weighing you down) and stave off hunger (making it less likely that you’ll binge on quick, less healthy options). Drinking plenty of water is also key to feeling energized — dehydration can mimic the feeling of a hangover. New habits can be hard to form, especially when it comes to our diet. Learn about creating new habits using Total Brain’s new habit framework.
What you eat (and when you eat) can also determine how well you sleep. For example, heavy lunches can mess with your circadian rhythm. Alcohol can also result in fitful sleep. That brings us to #2…
Rest the right way
The link between sleep and energy is obvious — it’s one of the most natural ways to have more energy. But what’s less obvious is the right amount and the quality of itself. If we’re sticking with the car analogy, not getting enough sleep (or enough quality sleep) will cause your battery to die. Many of us try to jumpstart a dead battery with a jolt — energy drinks, for example — but it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Up to 20% of people report feeling excessively sleepy regularly, and while there can be many reasons for that, one may be that they’re getting too much sleep. Oversleeping (hypersomnia) can make you feel groggy (and it’s been linked to heart disease and diabetes). If you’re skimping on sleep, you may notice a “less sleep, more energy” pattern — and it’s an illusion. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases a stress hormone that creates a feeling of alertness. But too many nights of this will take a toll on your health, and carries many of the same health risks of oversleeping. The right amount of sleep you’ll need changes throughout your life, so make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for your age group and activity level.
Another potential culprit is sleep apnea. If you’ve said, ”I sleep a lot and have no energy” or “why am I always tired in the morning?” you may be experiencing a form of sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop for extended periods while you’re unconscious. About a quarter of Americans aged 30 to 70 have sleep apnea — which is why Total Brain’s initial 15-minute assessment includes questions that screen for potential sleep apnea. If you suspect it may be a problem, download the app on Google Play or the Apple Store to get an idea. See your doctor for a diagnosis and learn about ways to improve sleep quality if you have sleep apnea.
Sometimes, our quality of sleep is disrupted by anxiety and other anti-rest influencers, like blue light from phones and TV. Get better quality sleep through engaging in relaxation techniques —like a warm bath or meditation —about an hour before bedtime. Keeping bedtime consistent can also help. If your worries are keeping you awake at night, try training with Total Brain’s games during the day to help better control negative thought patterns at night. Re-wiring your brain with exercises like Self Regulate and Resonant Breathing, which can train your calming reflexes, could improve your sleep quality.
For the days following a less-than-good night’s sleep, short naps have also been linked to positivity...which bring us to #3:
Lift your spirits
Science has proven the power of the mind-body connection, making it no surprise that different states of mind can boost — or reduce — your energy levels. Depression can lead to fatigue, and negative thinking can reduce your sleep quality, which will leave you feeling wiped out. (Negative thinking can also be a side effect of too little sleep). For those unfamiliar with the definition of negative thinking, it’s a repetitive and persistent pattern of disproportionately seeing the downsides in yourself and your surroundings — and it can get so bad that it defeats your ability to do well at work and maintain healthy relationships.
The best way to get more energy via your state of mind is by cultivating a positive mindset. There are various ways to boost your brain’s viewpoint, from spending more time around uplifting friends or taking time to be in nature (just ask Japanese “forest bathers”). Doing something that you enjoy — biking, art, or watching your favorite comedy — can really make a difference.
Mindset is also about how you view situations and react to them, and practicing compassion can drastically alter your state of mind. Practice compassion with others but also yourself can make it easier to see the brighter side of things. Many of us feel exhausted after a stressful workday because of the negative emotions that accompany mental and emotional duress — so make time for yourself to relax.
At Total Brain, we’ve used the neuroscience behind how to stop negative thinking in many of our brain training exercises. Reframe negative thoughts with Thought Tamer, tune into your positive feelings with Bubbletopia or Word Smith, and become more positively focused with Happy Seeker. Positive affirmations have also proved effective in cultivating a more positive mindset — but require regular practice over time to have an impact. Try these games and within a few weeks, you’ll become a master at overcoming negativity.
Music is another tool that can change your state of mind. Change your mindset with music by listening to Total Brain’s library of neurotunes, which range from uplifting ambient music to soothing nature sounds.
To learn more about how to increase energy levels naturally, read our blog on 7 ways to uplift your state of mind.
Inhale and exhale
Did you know that when you yawn, it’s like a shot of espresso to the brain? Yawning delivers more oxygen to the blood, which can increase energy. Breathing and energy are intertwined, meaning a few minutes of conscious, deep breathing can rejuvenate you.
In the 20,000 breaths we take per day, we release 70% of the body’s toxins. Feeling tired all the time could (among other things) be a sign that you’re not breathing correctly — and a lack of O2 to the brain and a build-up of toxins can lead to a nagging sleepy feeling. Stress could also be to blame — when we’re stressed out we tend to take shallow breaths. Breathing through the mouth and not the nose, where essential nitric oxide is produced, can also make you feel more fatigued than you actually are.
Whether you’re at work or home, you can remedy this with conscious, controlled energizing breathing exercises. Pranayama breathing, which is used in yoga, is seen as a type of energetic breathing, as is alternate-nostril breathing. Check out our blog on breathing exercises for step-by-step help.
Part of breathing more deeply is being present — a tall order in the era of the internet. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be more aware of the present moment and is often centered around focusing on your breath. Total Brain’s Body, Breath, Thoughts meditation will increase your sense of presence, as well as our 10 and 15-minute Awareness Meditations.
If it’s hard to get in the habit of doing this, set alarms or calendar reminders for yourself throughout the day. Log into the Total Brain app and choose one of the six breathing exercises (like Victory Breath or Full Yogic Breath) or 11 meditations, and practice for five to ten minutes. To see if these techniques are working for you, keep a log of when you practice controlled breathing, how you felt before, and how you felt after. If you notice that you don’t have more energy, see your physician for further guidance.