Ten Tips for an Emergency Energy Boost.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Ten tips for an emergency energy boost.

When your energy level is low, everything feels like a chore — even things would ordinarily make you happy. Holiday time can be draining, with lots of shopping, cooking, traveling, decorating, meeting, greeting, etc. to deal with. Or even if you’re not doing these things, other people are, so something like a simple trip to the grocery store becomes a lot more difficult.

There are many things we should on a regular basis to keep our energy levels high, like exercising and getting enough sleep. But what if you need more energy right now? And you don’t want to wait for the reward for your good habits to kick in?

Try one of these strategies:

1. Go outside into the sunlight. Light deprivation is one reason people feel tired. Research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood. For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning. And while you’re outside…

2. Go for a brisk walk. Even a ten-minute walk can give you a surge of energy and decreased tension.

3. Act with energy. We think we ACT because of the way we FEEL, but often we FEEL because of the way we ACT. Trick yourself into feeling energetic by moving more quickly, pacing while you talk on the phone, and putting more energy into your voice.

4. Listen to your favorite zippy song. Hearing stimulating music gives an instant lift.

5. Talk to an energetic friend. Not only do we gain energy from interacting with other people, we also – in what’s called “emotional contagion” — “catch” their emotions. Instead of infecting others with your draggy mood, try to lift yourself by catching the energy of a boisterous friend.

6. Tackle an item on your to-do list. Maybe you need to drive to an out-of-the-way store; or add the last, difficult touches to a homemade gift; or make a phone call to a difficult relative. You’ll be amazed by the huge rush of energy you get when it’s crossed off your list. If you’re having trouble, try doing it first thing in the morning. The night before, decide what you’re going to do, then get up and do it.

7. Clean up. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. If you feel overwhelmed and listless, try tidying up. No heavy scrubbing, just tidy the surfaces. Making your surroundings more pleasant will help to give you energy — plus, making visible improvements is a booster, too.

8. Jump! Yes, jump up and down a few times. I just started doing this, and it’s amazing how energizing it is.

9. Note of caution: people often try to use food to boost their low energy. This obviously helps if you’re actually hungry (and in my house, we constantly monitor people’s hunger levels, because we all get so crabby when we’re hungry), but if you’re not hungry, eating ice cream out of the container — tempting as it is — won’t really help.

10. Cut yourself, and other people, some slack. Didn’t do holiday cards this year? Didn’t cook the usual feast? Let it go. Holiday traditions are wonderful, but they can also be the source of anger, disappointment, and guilt — aimed at ourselves and other people. A few years ago, at Halloween time, I somehow neglected to get us a pumpkin! This counts as Mommy malpractice in my book. But you know what? It was okay.

“Energy is eternal delight,” William Blake wrote, and it’s surprising how much sheer energy level can affect the quality of the happiness of a day.

What am I forgetting? Have you found any good strategies for a quick mood boost?

* In case you need to make a quick homemade holiday gift or card, or just want a moment of fun, check out Wordle. “Beautiful word clouds” — so fun!

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 30,000 people get it)
Pre-order the book for your friends (or yourself) — here’s an e-card to let them know it’s coming
— Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

  • Excellent tips, Gretchen! I really needed these today! 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      So glad that they were helpful!

  • I have taught Amateur Radio classes and proctor tests and a great temporary energy boosters is honey. Honey is almost pure glucose which your brain uses for power. Just before a test or halfway through a long class it allows some extra concentration.

    Sure, you’ll crash out later but that should be about 2 hours after the dose.

    While you have to be careful with food if you use it well it comes in very handy.

  • Music (especially rock played rather loud) works great for me. In fact, I’m listening now as I try to finish some work this evening.

    My preference would be to get out in the sun, but there’s been so little of it lately I appreciate your other ideas.

  • Catica

    Make love – and boost your partner’s mood in the process!

  • Jennifer

    There are a couple of breathing exercises one can do – one is breathing in and out very quickly through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, for 30 seconds or so – that come in handy when one is driving, for example, and can’t do anything else. (Though if you find that you are that tired while driving, it is probably time to pull over. It is amazing how many people who would NEVER drive drunk don’t think twice about driving while exhausted, which studies show is just as dangerous. Especially at this time of year, it is important to remember that getting there a day late is infinitely preferable to not getting there at all.)

  • Hi Gretchen,

    I’m a new visitor here and delighted to have found your blog!

    Love the idea of an emergency energy boost. I notice that sometimes just that “quick” change of thought, activity, or attitude can do wonders. One thing I’ve been working on is paying attention to what ‘gives’ me energy and what ‘drains’ my energy. My gut always knows what is right and best for me.

    The big energy boost that works for me is music! All I have to do is put on Earth, Wind and Fire–or something else that makes me want to dance–and I’m all set!

    Thanks for the wisdom, Gretchen, and I look forward to getting to know you and your writing. 🙂

    Michelle S.

  • Veronica

    Thank you for this very timely post. Just what I needed. It’s as if you knew I’d be frazzled and dragging when I checked in to your blog and just knowing that I’m not the only one in this state right now is a big boost. Now, If you’ll excuse me I’m going to try jumping! and get to some serious cooking. (Got to get one of those mini trampolines)Thanks again and happy holidays.
    Also, 3 deep breathes helps: it calms and feels as if you’ve taken the first step to get the ball rolling.

  • Julia

    Thank you Gretchen!

    The one I find that I use a lot during the holidays, which is related to acting as if, is to just push through it. I find that if I can’t rest even when I feel like I need to, or eat as soon as I’m hungry, if I keep working I usually get a second wind and feel very energized.

    And, after giving up caffeine most of the time, I find a well timed coke gives me a huge boost, especially when it’s time to be social.

  • Dear Gretchen:

    These are all great tips! I have found myself feeling down many times and I needed a good way get myself back up in a short period of time. Couple of things I have discovered really work!

    For example, cleaning up and doing a small item of my to do list seems to have worked the best for me! After performing those small tasks, I would get the energy and motivation needed to keep going and continue doing the things that I had planned.

    Key is to just start doing something small, once we get that done, a small switch in our brain get flipped and we are full of energy again!

    I have used other tips on your list to improve my mood as well, however, they had a much lesser impact on increasing my energy.

    Just sharing my personal experience!

    Thanks for writing and sharing your knowledge!


  • Alison

    Comedy is a great upper for me — if I just feel like doing nothing at all and am just in a daze, I try to find something that I know will make me laugh out loud. Examples: thisisphotobomb.com , a clip from the Colbert Report or the Daily Show, The Onion’s paper or website.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great suggestion! It’s good to have an emergency source that always works
      for you.

  • Great tips! Needed this today. All holiday preps have led to only 5-hour sleeps every day. Tsk tsk.

    Happy Christmas to you and your family!


  • Maureen Ryan

    Gretchen, have a merry christmas holiday. I have followed your blog for a year now, though I rarely comment. In the spirit of the season, thank you for the changes you have inspired me to make. My New Year resolution in 2009 was ‘Do’- as in stop aiming for perfection and get something done. (does that sound like you??)
    Thanks for your referrals to other inspiring blog people. Some of the tips I have started to use include ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ and ‘act the way you want to feel’.
    I’m sure you have been referred to Flylady before but I find useful her maxim that it takes about 28 days for us to establish a new habit.
    Best of luck in 2010- maybe you could aim for world domination and your book tour would bring to Ireland?! I would SO be there! Maureen

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much for those nice words! So glad that the blog has resonated
      with you. Flylady is wonderful–“baby steps.”

      I would love to go to Ireland — maybe at some point! That would make me
      very HAPPY.

  • MoonliteMuse

    Hi Gretchen,

    I am very glad to have come across your blog today! I feel much better just reading the thoughtful and helpful advice you have here. From what I’ve read so far, you’ve covered quite a wide range of topics. I am definitely looking forward to reading your book as soon as I get my hands on a copy. I really appreciate what your doing here, and I can’t wait to try out some of your happiness tips. Finding this blog has just brightened up my day. Thank you! 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much! I’m so happy to hear that the blog resonates with you!

  • nageshtamale

    EAT PROTEIN! And watch sugar intake. Drink lots of H2O and exercise! Breathe love!

  • Megan

    Ms. Rubin – Why do you ask us to follow you on twitter when you don’t make any posts? Perhaps I am following the wrong “Happiness Project?”

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, maybe! I’m @gretchenrubin, tweeting away.

  • This is a great list. I like the sunlight one, I’ll often step outside just to get a feeling of spaciousness as well, to feel open sky above me rather than the constricting feeling of being underneath a ceiling for too long.

    We also have a mini trampoline outside the back door–whenever our 3 year old son starts going bananas we take him out for a few minutes of jumping to let all the energy out and he always ends up feeling happier. I’ve also been known to have a jump, Iit’s pretty difficult to be depressed while your jumping on a trampoline.

  • mary o.

    I didn’t get holiday cards out this year, and reading this made me feel a little better, thanks!

  • Christine H.

    One of my favorite ways to get more energy and cheer myself up is to skip. You’d be surprised how much better that makes you feel. You can’t feel draggy or grumpy when you skip. It is as if your skipping muscles are directly connected to your smiling muscles. I think it has to do with not taking yourself or the world too seriously.

  • Nicole Larsen

    I share your tips to all of my facebook friends every day! Does this count as word-of-mouth? Or maybe word of finger? That doesn’t sound happy, though! 🙂 hehe

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s fantastic! Thanks! That counts, whatever it’s called!

  • Great tips! It’s good to have an emergency source that always works for you.

  • Larry Ely

    You are a wonderful writer, and I took in the important stuff from the above, which I’ve promised myself to put into action tomorrow in my 10 minute morning walk.

  • I like the brisk walk idea. Definitely, exercise will give you energy. If it is raining, you can do it in a shopping mall (not window shopping, but you have to walk briskly).

    Sometimes I drink coffee (with caffiene) or I take B12 vitamin (but you can only take that at most once a day). As for coffee, I can not drink more than one cup a day of that either.

  • jz

    Snacks are a good idea, but only if it’s protein!  Sugar, carbs will only make you more tired.  Try a few nuts!