Before you read on, what’s the first word that comes to your mind?
Are you thinking like I am?
Energy, right? Most of us are working two jobs whether we work inside or outside the home.
And we’re exhausted.
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According to neuroscientists, when it comes to using energy for mental activities, the brain is considered a greedy organ. Relative to its size, it uses more than its fair share.
And that's why you can feel so exhausted and find yourself trying hard not to reach for another cup of coffee, especially after a morning spent teaching.
But instead of relying on caffeine, there’s something else you can do that would be far better in the long run.
You can work to increase your energy reserve. While coffee tastes delicious, caffeine is addicting, and a habit best avoided. Besides, you’ll feel more energetic and think more clearly when you produce more natural energy than when you artificially pump it up.
The former leads to a lifetime of optimal health, and the latter, if over-relied upon, can lead to health problems as you age.
It’s not just your energy reserve you want to focus on though; you also want to increase the optimal functioning of your brain. So let’s look at five simple lifestyle adjustments you can make to get more energy and function at more optimal levels.
We’ll start with the “ole noodle” as P.G. Wodehouse used to call it.
According to Dr. Daniel Amen, one of the leading experts on brain health, the best thing you can do for your brain is to exercise every day.
Simple daily exercise is even more vital than the mental activities we tend to think of such as learning a new instrument, doing crossword puzzles, or studying a foreign language.
With the role exercise plays in preserving the brain’s health, and with more and more people leading sedentary lives, it makes sense that dementia would be on the rise.
Physical exercise comes first, not mental activities, though you most certainly need both.
Just thirty minutes of daily exercise is sufficient to help keep your brain sharp, healthy, and functioning at optimal performance. Enough regular exercise will also help improve your memory.
What’s even better is if you exercise in nature or at least in areas where there is natural life like trees, flowers, and birds–away from major roads and highways–because this will also lift your spirits, give you hope, and reduce anxiety.
2. Fats and Protein
There are dietary things you can do for the brain too. Because the brain is partly made up of fats and proteins, a diet with a healthy amount of fat and protein is ideal. Aim to have a serving of protein with every meal such as eggs, cottage cheese, fish, chicken, meat, nuts, and avocados. And don’t shy away from fat in your diet either; your body needs fat.
Some fats are harmful to the body like Canola oil (even if it’s organic!) and other vegetable oils. The best forms of fat are ghee, butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. Coconut oil is especially good for the brain. A tablespoon once a day is recommended as a good healthy brain habit.
If you make a fruit smoothie and add coconut oil, it will make the smoothie taste better. It sounds odd, but it’s true! Coconut oil is better for cooking in high heats too.
3. Fish Oil
In addition to cooking with good oils, a high-quality fish oil is a must. Fish oil is high in EPA and DHA, the active parts of the Omega-3 fatty acids that support optimal brain, heart, and bone health and can help prevent disease.
On my list of brain boosters is also a daily practice of meditation because it’s also excellent therapy for the brain. The modern Western world is so removed from these practices which is sad since the health benefits, and other benefits, are so many.
If you don’t already have a daily practice, then I would start slowly. In the beginning, practice for 5 minutes a day. Once you’ve established a daily routine, then you can slowly increase your time, working your way up to 25 - 30 minutes per day.
This practice alone will help you focus more, feel calmer, and be more alert.
5. Maca Root
On the physical side of things, a good general tonic for the body is maca root. Maca root is a Peruvian plant that’s excellent for strengthening the body’s stamina and increasing energy levels.
Years ago I was in the checkout line at Whole Foods, and the man in front of me was buying maca root which I had never heard of before. He was telling the checker that he had MS and that’s why he took it.
Overhearing the conversation, I asked him if he would tell me more about it. He did and one of the things he mentioned is that maca root was the only thing that had helped his energy levels. He had tried a lot of different products, but this was the only one he could swear to.
I should mention that it isn’t the most excellent tasting root, but it isn’t the worst either. It comes in powder form, and, whatever you do, do not add it to a smoothie! It will ruin the taste. The best way to take it is with juice or almond milk which neutralizes the flavor.
6. Foods to Avoid
In addition to adding things into your diet and daily lifestyle, there are a couple of things you want to avoid because they will zap your energy like no other: wheat and sugar.
On the subject of wheat, my friend, Michele Drielick, who’s a brilliant nutritionist, said that most people are gluten-intolerant. She’s not alone in this belief either.
You can download her company’s guide to foods that should be eaten and foods that are better avoided for maintaining optimal health. It’s recommended to do a two-week diet following her guidelines, and then try to stay as close to it as you can.
You’ll be surprised at how easy it is though because so many foods are permissible. It’s not one of those diets where it feels like you can’t eat anything.
The good news is that there are so many substitutes for wheat today that it’s no longer challenging to be wheat-free. You can find just about anything with a substitute ingredient now, so there’s no foods such as pasta or even cakes that you have to give up.
Unless you’re trying to cut down on sugar, the other of our two culprits, and it’s a good idea to cut down. Even the natural substitutes for sugar aren’t great for your health. Stevia is the one exception because it has little effect on the blood sugar levels.
All forms of sugar raise your body’s sugar levels. Too much sugar can make you feel sluggish, and, as you age, it can contribute to the disease process.
Keep in mind too that there are also foods that convert into sugar such as carbohydrates, and there are extra-sweet fruits like dates and bananas that you want to keep to a minimum.
As well as affecting your mood and general health, sugar will deplete your energy. It first gives you an artificial boost and then a crash, so moderating your sugar intake is vital to maintaining a good energy reserve.
7. Celery Juice
But my favorite all-time lifestyle change comes down to one simple ingredient, one time a day: celery juice.
I’m not alone in swearing by this either. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to Whole Foods only to find the celery shelf empty. So many people have caught onto celery juice that stores are having a difficult time supplying it, at least they are in the healthy state of California.
If you’re thinking of starting a business, a celery farm would be a good one. I don’t believe celery juicing will become a fad either because it does work.
That it will give you more energy and clear away brain fog, I can personally testify to. It’s considered the “king” of the juices.
Celery juice is also a good detoxification agent. From contaminants in the water to the air we breathe, taking extra precautions to eliminate toxins is crucial to maintaining good health and energy levels.
According to Chinese medicine, any substance that detoxifies the body will also strengthen the liver, and the liver governs the emotions. What this means is that by detoxifying our bodies, to some degree, we also detoxify our emotional state.
One thing people always say whenever they go on a fast or diet for health benefits is how good they "feel."
A healthy liver is key to good health according to Chinese Medicine which has existed for over 5000 years. It makes sense in Western medicine too because the liver keeps the blood clean.
Not that I want to decrease my chances of finding celery the next time I go to the store, but you might want to put celery juice at the top of your list too!
And one very last thing, a good night’s sleep is a must. It’s wise to keep a regular schedule when you go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. If you have a nine to five job, it's easier to do this.
But for those of us who don’t, we need to exercise some discipline here.
The other helpful habit is not to have caffeine too late in the afternoon and to avoid screen-time before you sleep. Both are known to interfere with a good night’s sleep. Get in the habit of reading a book before you sleep, but not a book too good to put down or that will defeat your objective.
With just these few tips you should be able to kick the drinking habit or at least reduce it to a cup in the morning, and you should feel a whole lot better.
I’m not an advocate for giving up the liquid stuff altogether, as it’s more than just a cup of caffeine.
After all, it is coffee!