Energy is an essential ‘health’ trait because it is behind our ability to actually do healthy things for ourselves. Let’s learn more with nutrition Expert Janice Chow about the different forms of energy that impact our day-to-day.
Have you been feeling groggy and tired on a routine basis lately? Do you feel stressed out or find yourself heavily distracted?
Ask yourself the following:
How different do you feel when you wake up from a good night’s sleep? Or go for a quick walk and take a stretching break at work?
If the difference is noticeable, it’s time to reassess how your energy is being managed. Having adequate energy is essential to support our daily lives so we can go about doing the things we love. When we are feeling tired, frustrated or worn out, it’s difficult to focus and motivate ourselves to make positive, healthier choices.
Let’s take a moment to learn about different types of energy and how we can improve each one:
Food provides us with the fuel for physical energy. Your body breaks down and extracts nutrients from the food you consume, from which nutrients are used to support body cell growth and energy production for our daily activities.
By adding a variety of whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, your body will be reinvigorated and pumped with renewed energy. Some of the major nutrient powerhouses for creating energy in your body include magnesium, B vitamins, iron and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods high in B vitamins include whole grains, lean meat, eggs and legumes. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in iron, as well as magnesium. To ensure better iron absorption, eat food that is high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits. Fish and nuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Often times, we tend to forget that our mind is part of our body. If your mind is energy-deficient, it affects the rest of the body. When you feel stressed out, worried or sad, your body will produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol that will disrupt your blood sugar control, blood pressure, sleep cycle, appetite, and much more.
On the contrary, your cortisol levels are lower when you have higher levels of productivity, confidence and happiness. Here are some ways to boost your mental energy:
Positive self-talk. When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to think, “Everything is going wrong”. Instead, try to rephrase it as: “I am going to handle this step by step.” Try positive phrases like, “I will do my best” and “We all make mistakes. It’s OK.” Positive self-talk will get easier as you practice more – essentially anywhere (in your room or car) or anytime you start feeling negative.
Take some time for yourself (even just 5 minutes). Giving yourself time away from stressors, even temporarily, will help to clear your mind. Go get a massage, listen to relaxing music, or practice yoga.
Get social support. Share your concerns with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor who you know will understand your feelings. However, it may not be helpful if these people are the source of your stressors too!
Exercise. Exercises produce endorphins, which are the “happy hormones” that help improve your ability to sleep and reduce stress. Exercise is a well-documented and effective way to reduce fatigue, enhanced concentration, and overall cognitive function. Try to do activities that you like, whether it is taking a walk, dancing or yoga. Any movement is good for you!
Spiritual energy is about connecting yourself with a greater purpose, beyond the limits of your physical body. This doesn’t mean you have to be religious. Rather, you are just seeing new perspectives with more mindfulness of yourself and your surroundings, and acknowledging that there are things beyond your control.
When practicing mindfulness, people release emotions that may cause physical stress. For people who have specific religion preferences, this means having a connection with a higher divine power through activities such as praying.
Meditation is another way to gain spiritual energy which helps the mind and body to relax and focus. Similar to exercising, research has shown that meditating briefly can provide immediate benefits of stress reduction.
The environment we are surrounded with also plays a huge role in balancing our energy levels. Identify how your environments make you feel. Where do you feel the most calm, or the most energized? It may be a park, a beach, or a hot shower.
Are there places that tend to deplete your energy levels? For example, some people don’t enjoy being in places where they are surrounded by a larger crowd. Identifying places ahead of time will be helpful in knowing where you can go or what to avoid when you need to calm your nerves and regain energy.
Energy is the foundation of our health as it touches all facets of our core being. That’s why gaining energy is so essential when we are actively improving our overall health. Be mindful of the energy fuel that your nourishing food and activities provide.
And most importantly, maintain a positive outlook to enjoy your life, every single day!
Janice Chow, MS, RD is a San Francisco-based dietitian, food enthusiast, and food photographer with a passion for promoting health and wellness to people of all different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. With a focus on helping others with their everyday health, Janice sets out to empower individuals to achieve a healthier life by forming a deeper connection with their mind and body. Make a visit to learn more about Janice!