It’s the first day of the year. Raise your hand if you could use more energy! That’s everybody, then?
For months, I’ve been researching ways that people can restore and maintain their energy levels. Today begins what we’re calling the 6-Day Energy Challenge, where we will share evidence-based tips and inspiration so you can feel more awake throughout the day. (You can sign up here to follow along.)
Of course, some of the things that drain us are largely beyond our control: Taking care of young kids or older parents, working long hours, or dealing with illness can all be exhausting. But there are small changes anyone can make to feel a little less depleted.
While a good night’s sleep is the gold standard for feeling refreshed and alert, daytime rest has real benefits. Many of us, for example, rush from one activity to the next without stopping. But research suggests that taking microbreaks — small pauses under five minutes — throughout the day can help keep us feeling energized. Even 10 seconds of rest, one study found, can improve our ability to learn.
Of all the tools I learned while researching the challenge, nothing has done more to restore my energy levels than these brief breaks. But everyone is different. Some of us could use more movement — and others might need to address relationships that are sapping their energy.
We identified five realms that are critical for building and maintaining energy: rest, exercise, socializing, eating and finding enjoyment in what you’re doing. Each day of the challenge will focus on one of these aspects.
For today’s installment of the energy challenge, you should find a quiet (or quiet-ish) place in your home or workplace. The setting isn’t important; what’s important is that you take a few minutes for yourself.
Mute your phone and get comfortable. You can sit up, lean against a wall or, if you’re able, lie down with your eyes closed. Then, take a few deep breaths. This isn’t an elaborate meditation; you’re simply breathing and aiming for what our expert calls “wakeful relaxation.” If you have music that puts you at ease, you can listen to it while you take your break.
Doing this for five minutes once or twice a day is long enough to help you feel refreshed, but brief enough that you might actually be able to fit it into your schedule.
I hope you’ll join me — and the neuroscientists, nutritionists and exercise scientists who provided insights — on our quest for more energy this week. (We will also have a few special guests, including Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, who will discuss the sustaining vitality that their 47-year friendship has given them.)
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