Fatigue and tiredness doesn’t have to slow you down each and every day. Try these 10 science-proven tips for a quick energy boost that will revive your vim and vigor in minutes — no matter what’s causing your tiredness!
1. Peep at Pansies
Next time you feel your stamina flagging, pop outside to admire the zinnias in your garden. According to researchers at the University of Essex in the UK, taking two minutes twice daily to gaze at flowers’ vibrant “faces” will provide a quick energy boost and improve mood by 35 percent. The bright colors kick-start the brain’s production of rejuvenating beta waves, plus stimulate the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that helps you feel clear-headed and sharp. While you’re at it, snapping a few photos of the blooms will improve blood sugar control by 33 percent, say researchers at Missouri’s Logan University. That’s because capturing memories and anticipating enjoyment of them later tamps down on the production of blood sugar-disrupting stress hormones.
2. Go Full Fat
Swings in blood sugar can leave you feeling draggy for hours after a meal. But there’s great news from Australian researchers: Enjoying a couple of slices of cheese and a cup of yogurt daily (regular or lactose-free) reduces the odds of blood-sugar troubles and tiredness by 59 percent, as long as they’re full fat. That’s because dairy’s protein, calcium and milk fats slow carb absorption in the digestive system and help muscles soak up and burn blood sugar for fuel. Plus, research in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that enjoying full-fat dairy daily significantly lowers risk of metabolic syndrome — a group of conditions including diabetes and high cholesterol.
3. Try a ‘Micro Burst’
Small cellular furnaces in our bodies, or mitochondria, produce the energy our body needs. And while they slow with age, it’s easy to rev our “energy engines” back up by boosting a helper compound called NAD, says Ronald Peters, MD, director of the MindBody Medicine Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. NAD levels dip in our 50s but raising them back up is as simple as rapidly marching in place for 60 seconds or walking up a flight of stairs a few times a day. The ‘micro bursts’ of movement boost energy-engine function by 69 percent.
Plus, Canadian scientists say moving the large muscles in your legs can send energy levels soaring by 80 percent for 90 minutes. Turns out, even a short burst of motion — as long as your moving some of the large muscles in your body, like your thigh muscles — switches on genes that heighten insulin sensitivity, helping your muscles and brain cells soak up 23 percent more energizing glucose. When women walked up and down stairs at a regular pace for 10 minutes during the workday, they immediately felt two percent more energetic. Study author Patrick O’Connor, PhD, says even quick, low-intensity exercise activates the brain to boost alertness while caffeinated drinks tend to lead to an energy crash.
4. Slow the Tempo
It’s easy to attribute tiredness in the warmer months to heat and humidity, but flagging energy levels can be caused by a dip in thyroid function that some 40 percent of women experience. The good news: turning to tunes puts pep back in your step. And while you might think fast-paced, upbeat music would chase away tiredness faster, five studies suggest soothing background music does a better job, boosting energy levels by as much as 40 percent. Explains immunologist Kate Bauer, MD, relaxing music drops the production of thyroid-damaging stress hormones by 25 percent. Tip: Choose a tempo of 60 beats per minute or less, like Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” or Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”
5. Sit on the Porch
High temperatures, muggy air, and sleep disruptions can make 65 percent of us feel draggy and blah during the summer months, according to Georgetown University researchers. A quick fix: Step outside after the skies clear and you’ll increase your energy level and mood by 52 percent! Rainstorms prompt the formation of negative ions, and Columbia University researchers say these tiny molecules increase the flow of energizing, oxygen-rich blood to your brain, plus prompt your neurons to release the happiness-boosting hormone serotonin.
6. Look Up — Literally
When summer heat coms around, your body has to work harder to keep a steady core temperature, sapping your energy. So much so that British researchers say that 80 percent of us feel draggy during the summer. When your energy starts to slide, try taking a one-minute break outside and looking heavenward. According to Boston University researchers, this quick pick-me-up will boost your energy, focus and alertness by 55 percent for two hours straight — better results that drinking a cup of coffee! Turns out the sun’s blue light waves, which reach your eyes even on cloudy days, stimulate a cluster of brain nerves that energy the entire central nervous system.
7. Lift your legs
If you climb out of bed wishing you could climb right back in, blame a sluggish lymphatic system. This network of vessels shuttles metabolic waste to your liver for disposal — but during sleep, this cleansing system can slow, allowing tiredness-triggering waste to collect in tissues. The good news: Scientists at the University of South Florida in Tampa say getting gravity on your side kick-starts lymphatic flow in two minutes to chase away grogginess for up to three hours. To do: Before getting out of bed, lift your legs in the air and spend two minutes doing gentle knee bends, ankle rotations and toe wiggles.
8. Pop a mint
We carry our water bottles and snack on watermelon. Even so, summer is prime time for subclinical dehydration, a fluid imbalance that slows the production of energizing beta brain waves, leading to sluggishness. But British scientists say sucking on a mint can increase your pep by 23 percent in two minutes. Mint energizes the brain, prompting the formation of beta waves, says neurologist Alan Hirsch, MD. It also activates the thirst mechanism, so eating three mints a day help you effortlessly add 18 ounces of water to your daily quota. Bonus: Drinking more water daily can boost your brain power by 49 percent, since it requires more mental resources to complete tasks when you’re dehydrated.
9. Add splashes of red
Next time you’re feeling groggy, instead of pouring another cup of coffee, pull on a red T-shirt or prop yourself up with a red throw pillow. Research at the University of Rochester in New York suggests gazing at the color red sharpens focus in as little as 30 seconds, and frequently seeing red objects increases energy by up to 31 percent. Why? Red stimulates the parietal lobule — a brain region that tamps down tiredness and heightens your ability to think clearly.
10. Breathe in a fresh scent
Inhaling the earthy scent of vetiver, a tropical grass, can help you beat the dreaded afternoon slump, suggests research in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology. In an animal study, the scent increased alertness by 125 percent and cut sleepiness by nearly two-thirds. The study authors say vetiver contains compounds that boost alertness. Studies in humans have shown as much as a 100 percent improvement in mental performance from inhaling the scent three times a day. Get the benefits with vetiver essential oil or by crushing a few blades of grass in your hands whenever you need a boost.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Cure Your Tiredness.