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Optimize Your Energy Everyday With Intentional Movement, Mood & Food Practices

My frame of reference for making choices during my day is based on one primary factor – how will the action affect my energy level? I want to maximize my energy levels as much as I can. I don’t want to waste my hours and days because my energy levels are needlessly depleted. Now I’m not a scientist however I’ve been studying this topic and experimenting on myself long enough to know that our daily practices will have a positive – or negative – influence on energy and sense of wellbeing. Yes, physical ailments can have their own debilitating impact over which we have less influence however we can still make choices that will have a positive influence.

The three practices that I have found to have the greatest impact on energy are moving my body, moderating my mood and being mindful about my nutrition. These three factors are interrelated and when attended to with intention, create an upward spiral of well-being and more stable energy levels. We’re less apt to make triggered choices that result in spikes and troughs. We’re able to maintain an ebb and flow that is sustaining, not depleting.

Move Your Body

Move and you’ll feel better. Whether your energy levels feel low or frantic, move your body. Sounds counter intuitive however moving shifts your energy. It gets fresh oxygenated blood flowing through your veins. The trick here is to choose an activity level to meet your energy level.

  • If feeling sluggish start off slow. Let your body catch up. Give yourself full permission to take it easy. Override your saboteur by eliminating expectations. Just move. A little stretching or yoga or a walk or a slow jog. Get outside even when the weather is unpleasant. Rain is just water. Snow will melt. The sun provides Vitamin D. Keep it simple. Walk around your yard or around the block. Notice all the beauty – even if you don’t see beauty at first glance. Grass growing in the crack of a sidewalk. The sound of the rain on your hat or the street. Get out of your head and into the space around you. Before you know it your energy will shift and so will your mood.
  • If you’re feeling wound up, do something more active. Dance in the kitchen or yard, play with the dog, run in the rain, play with your kids. Find a fun way to release the pent up energy to bring yourself back to a more moderate energy state.

Moving outside will give you a bonus shift in your energy. I’ve learned that the trick to getting outside is having the right gear. A light weight waterproof jacket with a hood and then adding layers underneath depending on the temperature. And waterproof boots too. In warm weather, it’s mind over matter. Just get out there and very soon you’ll forget it’s raining. If the sun is shining, sunscreen and a hat and away you go. 

Moderate Mood

Feeling anxious or depressed has a lot to do with stuck energy flow in our bodies. We feel stuck in life and it can result in stuck or blocked energy inside. When feeling down and depressed our energy is typically low. We feel lethargic and doing anything seems daunting. When anxious, our energy is scattered. We’re tired from our minds whirring too quickly in too many directions. In either case, our ability to focus and level our energy is challenged. Our mind is drained, emotions are running high and we just want the yucky feeling to go away.

The good news is that we have a built-in mood regulator. Our breath! Whether anxious or depressed, breathing with intention will help you shift your mood. Use the same approach as moving your body and have your breath match your current energy level.

  • If you’re feeling down in the dumps take some long slow inhales filling your lungs right down to your belly then long slow exhales. Put your hand on your belly and feel it rise as you breathe into a count of four and out to a count of four. 
  • If you’re feeling more anxious, try this! Sing e-i-e-i-o. And keep singing. You might eventually crack a smile or even a giggle. Singing this way uses a more active breath to meet your anxious mood and requires long slow exhale as you sing e-i-e-i-o which is calming. And using your voice is also known to be calming. Best of all, it’s simple and easy. Once you start to feel a little more grounded you can switch to breathing in for four counts and out for four counts to aid in moderating your mood.

Our breath is essential for life. In yoga, the breath is referred to as our life force and when we breathe with intention we are able to influence our energy and engagement in our lives. When I went through a tough period in my life, there were days I had trouble getting out of bed. I would sit on the bed and using intentional breathing practices like the ones I’ve shared here, I’d eventually be able to get up and get going with my day. 

Eat Mindfully

You’re probably familiar with the term “emotional eating”. We’re filling a void or stuffing down unpleasant emotions with food – often carbs which give a momentary high and then the inevitable crash – especially if filled with sugar like a bag of cookies or unhealthy fats like a bag of potato chips. We want the food to make us feel better but it’s a fleeting fix that typically results in a layer of guilt on top of whatever was bothering us in the first place. Our energy plummets along with our mood.

Like our breath, food is essential for living. What we have to do is switch our relationship to food back to being fuel. For those of us who live in the parts of the world with over abundance, the consequence is over indulgence. We’ve lost perspective on how much is enough. Too many manufactured choices means we’re not eating enough real food. We’re overfilling our physical ‘tank’ yet our energy and emotional ‘tanks’ are depleted.

  • Most important – drink a lot more water. Water is a must for us to function at our best, prevent junk food cravings and is an effective substitute for when our bad habit triggers occur. Drinking water is how I quit smoking without gaining weight. Whenever the urge for a cigarette came, I drank a glass of water. A double win!
  • Learn about nutrition. Read a book, sign up for an online program or take a course on nutrition. Visit a holistic nutritionist if you prefer help. Learn to cook. There are incredible cookbooks out now that teach us about nutrition and how to fuel for optimal energy. My all time favourites are the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbooks by Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan. 
  • Get active. My athletic activities have influenced me to be mindful about what I eat. I want my energy to last throughout my training activity or race event. I’ve learned which foods will sustain me for the long haul and those that will promote healing from injury as well as help prevent injury in the first place. Being active has motivated me to learn about how I can best fuel my body for peak performance all day everyday.

My Journey (In Brief!!) – From Flopped on The Couch to Activity Filled Days

About 20 years ago I happened to read a book I found in a women’s health library where I learned about the impact of food and especially sugar on energy and mood. I stopped eating candy as a result. I would save my sweet treat for after dinner so I wouldn’t have a sugar crash midday.

Around that same time, I began running and noticed how much better my mood was from running. Soon after I began distance running. ‘Carbo load’ was the mantra of marathon runners at the time. So I carbo loaded about 10 extra pounds onto my hips and thighs and couldn’t figure out how that happened since I was running about 50 miles each week.

A few years later I became interested in yoga as a compliment to my running. Through practicing yoga regularly – influenced by its positive impact on running – I noticed the impact on my overall mood and sense of well-being. I connected to my body in a new way that honoured how it performed for me rather than demanding it to more. Since then I have not had any running injuries and have accomplished athletic goals far beyond my initial expectations. Studying yoga further influenced my eating habits and helped me develop awareness of being satiated. I learned how much was enough.

More recently, discovering new ideas on food as fuel and how to use it for performance meant further shifts in my eating. More healthy fat. I ditched the ‘carbo load’ mantra along with my scale. The extra pounds fell off and my energy increased. My focus is on getting more healthy plant-based protein. I cut out sugar even more by learning how to make ‘treats’ from nutritious ingredients that still taste yummy. Now I eat these snacks earlier in the day when my body needs that type of fuel, and my bedtime snack is protein based to help my muscles repair while I sleep. 

One choice leads to another and another. When done with awareness we can create a positive upward spiral of possibility. At the core of my series of changes was a focus on how to maintain optimal energy levels throughout every day.

Always More

I have discovered I have way more-in-me than I ever imagined. And I know there’s even more! This is my motivation for paying attention to my movement, mood and food practices every day. I’m wildly fascinated to find out what else is possible for me.

What else is possible for you? What are your daily practices that fuel your more-in-me? What new practice have you been thinking of trying to shift your energy levels and find your more? ‘Cuz there’s always more!!   

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We’ll move into possibility together!
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