You know the routine. Even if you are not a morning person, you grab a cup of coffee or tea, maybe sip a little water for posterity’s sake, and head out the door ready to face the world.
By 11:30 AM, your stomach is rumbling, so you head out to lunch with a few colleagues. Or maybe you order in. Or you unpack the bologna sandwich you brought from home. As your food digests, you realize you are going to be worthless for the rest of the day. The afternoon drags on, and it is almost impossible to stay awake. The air-conditioning hums pleasantly, and you wish you were at home curled up in a blanket. You might get out of your chair to grab another cup of coffee. You spend the rest of the afternoon surfing the internet, doing a little bit of work here and there, certainly nothing that will earn you an award from the committee who gives out awards.
At quitting-time, you walk to your car, spend an hour sitting angrily in stop-and-go traffic, and wonder why your body is so exhausted when you haven’t really done anything all day. Where did the energy go?
This is not the story of a successful person. It is not even the story of an unmotivated, unsuccessful person. It is the story of an average person who could go either way.
How do you take that step up from average to excellent? From employee to entrepreneur?
A few scientifically-proven changes to your routine can make all the difference in your daily energy levels and productivity.
Choose Your Meals Wisely
A good deal of controversy exists over WHEN it is best to eat. Some hold to the “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” philosophy. This may be true, for some people. However, most studies seem to agree that if you eat a breakfast packed with carbohydrates (pancakes, donuts, etc.), you will experience the same energy drop due to falling glucose levels in the afternoon. Others believe you should “graze” periodically throughout the day on healthy small meals and snacks, while proponents of the “Caveman Diet” argue that the human body evolved to eat one large feast in the evening consisting of protein and vegetables. It might be beneficial to try each plan for a week, two weeks, or even a month to gauge your energy levels for each one.
The one thing everyone agrees on is the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
Research has shown that consuming fruits and vegetables daily benefits both the body and the brain. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology concluded that the more fruits and vegetables the study subjects ate, up to 7 portions, the greater the positive impact on mood, engagement, and creativity. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that stimulate the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and motivation.
Light Up Your Life
Open your blinds, engage in some outdoor activities, and be prepared to be more energetic and productive in your work. Humans are affected both physically and mentally by light. According to an unofficial study provided for the U.S. government by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), natural daylight has been associated with “improved mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue, and reduced eyestrain.”
It is essential to not only let the light in, but to interact with the natural environment, researchers said. The body uses light in much the same way plants use the process of photosynthesis, converting light to energy. The presence, as well as the absence, of natural light impacts mood and energy levels for the better or worse, respectively.
Additionally, viewing natural scenery can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, help attention
span, and improve mood, the study reported. Subjects exposed to natural scenery
which included water and vegetation had lower muscle tension, faster recovery rates,
and more positive emotional states than a test group exposed to urban scenes.
So, get outside more. Take the kids to the park, go for a walk, and water your plants for
a more positive and productive outlook on life.
Change Sedentary to Successful
OF COURSE, exercise is good for you, you scream. You already know about the health
benefits of regular exercise. But you just don’t have the energy.
Studies have shown that physical activity boosts energy levels, stamina, productivity,
and mental capacity.
And, if you are lucky enough to have a gym at work, even better! According to a study
performed by researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute, it is possible
to use work time for exercise while maintaining the same or higher production levels.
This increased productivity comes, on the one hand, from people getting more done
during the hours they are at work, perhaps because of increased stamina and, on the
other hand, from less absenteeism owing to sickness, the researchers say.The study
group who exercised agreed that they got more work done and were sick less often.
Exercise actually makes your brain bigger, a study at the University of Columbia
showed, and enhances those parts of the brain that retain memory and make learning
possible. Cardiovascular exercise, which gets the heart pumping, was the main form of
activity that increased the volume of the hippocampus.
Exercise also improves mood and sleep, while reducing stress and anxiety. All of these
areas impact cognitive function. The recommendation, according to the study, is 150
minutes of moderate exercise every week. This may include walking, swimming,
dancing, or anything that raises the heart rate for a significant period of time. Some
people find it a good motivator to work out with a friend or participate in a class with an
instructor. Get into the habit of exercise, and watch your energy levels rise as your
thoughts get sharper!
A few basic lifestyle changes can change drudgery to motivation and success. Healthy
eating habits, natural light, interaction with the natural world, and a routine of aerobic
exercise will give you the energy and motivation to reach peak mental performance in