This Brain Fitness for Life blog has delivered several articles on ways to keep your memory sharp. Many of you have also inquired about ways to keep your natural energy up throughout the day to help you concentrate better. There are some simple, scientifically proven, things you can do during the course of the day to assist in maintaining a high energy level. Here are our top picks:
1) Eat a healthy breakfast
There is an old proverb: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” A good breakfast gives you the fuel you need to get through the day. However, do not indulge in donuts or other such sugary snacks. Your breakfast should be made up of high-quality carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
According to the New York Times article, The Claim: Skipping Breakfast Can Affect Your Mood and Energy Levels During the Day, a team of British researchers had 144 healthy adults fast overnight. One group was allowed to eat a moderate breakfast, another ate nothing and a third had only coffee. Those that did not eat breakfast did the worst on memory tests and had the highest levels of fatigue at noon, four hours after their day started.
2) Laughter is good medicine
For some, laughing and smiling can energize their mood almost instantly. Even if you have to force yourself out of a bad mood by faking laughter it can help. In other words, just the act of smiling or laughing can lift our spirits. To learn more about the positive effects of smiling, read Nature’s A serious article about laughter.
3) Break the monotony
As we have discussed in the previous blog article Does Your Brain Need to Go Back to School?, small changes in your routine – like taking a new route to work – can trigger new neural pathways to fire. When you engage your brain in things that are not routine, you increase your brain activity which gives you a natural energy boost.
4) Drink small amounts of caffeine throughout the day
We are actually doing ourselves a disservice by getting that big cup of coffee in the morning. Multiple research studies have shown that the amount of caffeine we need to receive to get a boost is far less than what the normal person consumes. Getting a little bit of caffeine throughout the day instead of one big dose in the morning has proven to be a far better strategy for people looking to maintain their energy levels. To learn more about caffeine check out Coffee: A Little Really Does Go a Long Way from NPR.
5) Make sure to take a mental health break
Workaholics that naively believe skipping lunch and staying glued to their chair will increase productivity are most likely actually getting less done than their relaxed counterparts. One CSU Long Beach study on energy shows that if you get up to take a 10-minute walk, it is enough to boost your energy level for up to two hours. Second, our body simply needs recovery. Most of us are familiar with the 24 hour sleep cycle, but many are not unaware that our mind and body also are wired to need a break about every 2 hours. Making sure you get this break will help you maintain your energy level and likely increase your productivity. Suffering workaholics will likely benefit from reading the article Stop That Wandering Mind! from Entrepreneur Magazine.
6) Listen to inspiring music
The power of music is well documented. Not only is positive music enjoyable, but music with a fast tempo can really get us going when our energy is low. Music also engages one of our five senses. For a fun mental exercise, listen to your favorite music and then consciously take note of the various smells around you. Training your brain to be fully aware of two mental stimuli at the same time is a good way to exercise the brain.
7) Stay hydrated
In a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition entitled Impaired cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration it was found that even mild dehydration is a reliable predictor of impaired cognitive status. Remember to get plenty of fluids throughout the day. If you are using caffeine, make sure to drink extra fluids to counteract caffeine’s diuretic effect. Staying hydrated is another great way to keep your energy level up and you mental focus sharp.