I’ve been pondering a lot lately, about what the special ingredient is when life feels really good, and what it is that’s lacking when life just feels a bit… bleh. I mean, we all know that health is the foundation to living a good life, but what is it about being healthy that makes us feel like we’re on top of the world?
I’ll tell you what it is, it’s energy. Energy is our life force. It’s the currency we exchange with life to do, be and feel amazing. Energy is the essence of an incredible life.
You see, when you’re tired and lethargic, it’s hard to concentrate at work, it’s hard to be a loving partner, it’s hard to be empathetic and kind. It’s hard to do the things you love because you just don’t have the space for it. Without energy, life can feel like a drag.
When you eat well, when you exercise, when you take time to recharge and prioritise you, you have the vigour to do the things you love. You have the energy to give, to feel positive, to feel well, because you aren’t pouring from an empty cup.
But health should never be considered a two dimensional thing. It needs to be a whole, holistic picture. Food and fitness can give you vitality, absolutely, but that’s not the whole picture. There are so many other elements at play when it comes to increasing or zapping your spark; sleep, water intake, relationships, stress management, how you spend your time, your mental and emotional health, the list goes on.
So if you’re on the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment in your life, then trust me when I say that energy is the currency to get there. The more energy you have to expend on the things you love, the better your life will be.
Here’s a few things you can do to improve your overall health to increase your energy:
1. Take micro breaks. Because we’re often running around stressed out and anxious, our nervous systems are often being overworked, defaulting to fight or flight mode to get us through. Operating in fight or flight mode (the sympathetic nervous system) is a stress response designed to serve a purpose - to keep you out of danger. But because of how stressful the modern world can be, our body often thinks that we’re in trouble. Taking downtime, even for 5 minutes a day (especially combined with some deep breathing - which actually helps switch your body from fight or flight mode - your sympathetic nervous system, to rest and digest mode - your parasympathetic nervous system), can flip you from feeling depleted and strung out, to feeling energised again.
2. Eat LOTS of bright coloured fruits and vegetables. We all know we need to eat our fruits and veggies to be healthy, but why is it that eating a nutrient rich diet improves your energy? Well firstly and most obviously, fruits and veggies are a natural food source containing a huge amount of vitamins and minerals which fuel the body. They’re also jam-packed with antioxidants, which help to fight cell damaging free-radicals (which are a result of pollution, pesticides in our food, stress etc.) to keep our cells nice and healthy. And if we want to go deep into cellular function, let’s talk about mitochondria. Mitochondria are our cell’s energy factory. They take the food you eat and the air you breathe and turn them into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which the body then uses as fuel for everything it needs to do. Eating nutrient-rich foods will give your mitochondria the essentials they need to power you through your day. If you feed them poorly, you’ll likely feel like you’re dragging yourself out of bed every morning.
3. Have a mental and emotional clear out. Write a list of the things that fill you up, and a list of things that no longer serve you. You might start with physical things in your life - people, clothing, clutter in your house, and then move onto thoughts and habits. Do you speak poorly to yourself, do you worry about things you can’t control? Once you’ve written this list, have a think about how you can create boundaries, rituals or habits that help to ‘fill you up’ instead of ‘drag you down’. We often disregard mental clutter as something that affects our energy levels, but having a brain full of doubt, regret and worry can weigh you down and zap your zest for life.
4. Get moving. We all know that exercise makes you feel good, but why is it that movement has energising effects that last long after you’ve finished your workout? There are PLENTY of reasons movement is great for you, including a big hormone boost (helloooo endorphins) and its positive impact on cardiovascular health, but let’s talk about mitochondria again. We now know that mitochondria is our energy powerhouse, and the better it functions, the more energised we’ll feel. As your body uses up more energy from exercising, it’s actually prompting your mitochondria to generate more of the energy provider (ATP), and in return, the body increases mitochondrial quality and function. So what I’m basically saying is the more energy you use, the more energy your body will have available. Interesting, huh!?
5. Organise a ‘you’ day, just for the sake of it. Take some time to fill up your own cup. If you’ve got kids, ask a friend to look after them or hire a nanny. Go out for a big walk, do some journaling, have a coffee by yourself, read a book by the beach. While you might feel guilty taking a day away from the family and all the things on your to-do list, it’s so important you take time to replenish, to reflect and restore. You need to charge your batteries so you’ve got the energy to give to the ones you love.
6. Have a pantry makeover. Look at the items in your kitchen and bathroom cupboards. What could you swap for healthier, more natural alternatives? Could you swap your mainstream skincare for natural skincare? Could you swap your white pasta for wholemeal pasta, or your pre-packaged chips for roasted chickpeas? Opting for healthy alternatives will help lighten your chemical load, which means your body doesn't have to work as hard to keep itself toxin free - meaning more energy to work on other things! It’s also much better for the planet too.
Ultimately, the more you look after you, the more energy you’ll have to give to the ones you love. You need to put your health and well-being first.