It's cold, it's dark, and it's generally a bit miserable, so it's no surprise many of us feel out of energy this winter. But you can dial up your va-va-voom during the colder months with our expert tips.
Your mornings can dictate your energy levels for the rest of the day, so it’s important you start it right. Follow these five steps to feeling fresh first thing:
Love your alarm (yes, really!)
Most of us hate the sound of our morning alarm. To avoid that dreaded ring, set your top tune as your alarm tone. Studies published in Nature Neuroscience found that when you hear your favourite song, your brain releases significant amounts of dopamine. Plus, music causes the entire brain to light up on 3D scans, which means it makes you feel more alert. Or why not try the Snoozle app (free), where you can wake up to a message from your loved ones?
Feeling dreadful first thing? Do some yoga
Then drag yourself out of bed and bend into a Downward Dog. Place your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders and push up into an inverted V – you’ll feel full of zing in no time. “The Downward Dog is a great morning yoga exercise, as it’s an inversion (done upside down!),” explains yoga expert Caroline Sandry (carolinesandry.com). “It sends blood to your brain, lifting your energy and helping you focus, while also stretching out the whole back of your body.”
Be a sunseeker
The “shine” is key in your “rise and shine” routine, as exposing yourself to daylight first thing will send a memo to your body’s internal clock that it’s time to feel wide awake and get moving. Simply eating your breakfast by a bright window can do the trick.
Get a (citrus) burst of energy
The scent of oranges, lemons and grapefruit boosts your body’s production of happy hormone serotonin, reduces stress hormone norepinephrine and has a powerful effect on mental fog and irritability. For an instant pick-me-up first thing, shower with a citrus-scented body wash. For an all-natural shot of motivation, try Neom Energy Burst Body & Hand Wash, £16.
Go green with your morning drink
Who said you can’t bottle energy? Ditch the usual morning coffee and turn over for our revitalising smoothie. “It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals,” says dietitian Emer Delaney. “Plus, the avocado and spinach will release a continued source of energy throughout the day, to keep you feeling alert.”
Boost your energy with some mindful breathing
We do it from the moment we’re born, so you’d think we’d know how to do it right by now. Yet, despite inhaling and exhaling over 20,000 times a day, we’ve lost our natural ability to breathe fully. Why? From an early age, we’re taught how to control our feelings and emotions, and as a result, our muscles tighten and our breathing patterns become restricted.
“A lot of people breathe into their chest muscles, rather than fully using their diaphragm, external intercostals and the scalene muscles (in the neck), and relaxing their lower abdomen,” says Rebecca Dennis, breath expert and author of And Breathe.
This can worsen when we’re stressed, and our breathing can become shallow and rapid, which saps our energy. But breathing deeply allows our diaphragm to drop downwards and our ribcage to expand, creating more space for our lungs to inflate. This increase in oxygen will reduce our heart rate, help calm nerves, release toxins and ramp up our energy.
Even if you’d describe yourself as “in your element” at this time of year – your Christmas food delivery slot was booked back in October, you’ve already wrapped and labelled all your family’s presents (including one for your husband’s cousin’s dog), and your winter wardrobe is full of sparkle – bursting with energy, you probably are not. Short days, dark nights, battered immune systems and a lengthy to-do list mean our batteries are drained. But there are actions you can take to maximise your energy. Try these!
Five fast energy fixes
Feeling sleepy? Make your brain work faster. A study carried out at Princeton University in the States found that when people read written statements quicker, it made them feel more energetic and boosted their mood.
Perfect your posture
Women spend the equivalent of 74 days a year sitting. And we’re often not doing it well. Sitting in a slumped position increases your chance of lower back pain by 50%. So, sit up tall, engage your core, keep your ribcage lifted and legs uncrossed. This will allow you to inhale more oxygen and increase circulation.
Buy some houseplants
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and fatigue-inducing pollutants. Plus, they’ve also been shown to improve concentration and productivity by 47%.
Turn up the heat
You might think a cold blast will jolt you awake, but in fact lower body temperatures indicate that it’s time to sleep. Throw on a jumper to fight that drowsy feeling and keep warm.
Your brain associates this vibrant colour with action, and looking at it can cause a temporary increase in speed and strength. Wear a scarlet nail polish before an interview or meeting.
Eat more magnesium
This mineral helps your body turn food into energy. You need 320mg a day so try incorporating some of these into your daily diet…
✢ Cheddar cheese = 27mg*
✢ Cooked salmon = 30mg
✢ Cooked brown rice = 39mg
✢ Raw spinach = 79mg
✢ Dark chocolate = 176mg
✢ Raw cashew nuts = 292mg
✢ Pumpkin seeds = 592mg
Make sure you’re not getting too much sleep
Are you sleep drunk? Struggle to recall what day it is when you wake up? You might be sleeping too much – there really is such a thing. Having a lie-in can disrupt your body clock, making you feel hung-over. Try and get up at a regular time each day, even on weekends.
A quick fix for an immediate lift
17-18 hours after going to bed is the time most people feel a lull in their energy – that’s between 3 and 5pm every day. If you’re feeling like you need a mid-afternoon pick-up, Rebecca’s Kundalini breath exercise will give a boost. First, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with knees softly bent.
Then, raise both arms above your head as you inhale through your mouth. Exhale, then quickly inhale through your mouth as you bring your arms down to shoulder height. Exhale, then inhale immediately as you raise your arms. Repeat for 2mins at a moderate pace, then increase your time and intensity.
Words Natalia Lubomirski