Need an Emergency Energy Boost? Try These 9 Tips.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday, back by popular demand: Nine tips for an emergency energy boost.

When your energy level is low, everything feels like a chore — even things would ordinarily make you happy.

There are many good habits we should follow to keep our energy levels high, like exercising and getting enough sleep.

In my book about habits, I write a lot about how to use habits to boost energy — but also how to use energy to strengthen habits. In particular, I think we need to make a special effort to foster habits of the “Foundation Four” — the ones that help us to sleep, move, eat and drink right, and unclutter. When we pay attention to these areas, we make sure we have enough energy to use our self-command to keep our good habits.

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 to boost your energy:

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 is an easy, reliable way to get 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. Or, if you feel too silly, run down the stairs.

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 “hangry” 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.

“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?

  • Paige Morrow

    I find closing my eyes for just a minute at my desk is both calming & rejuvenating. It is also a good chance to check whether I’m doing the important stuff or mindlessly passing the time.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Important to remember that energy is not endless and cannot be endlessly ‘pumped up’ to keep you at a dead run. This leads to stress and burn out. I find changing tasks with some frequency helps me to maintain a pretty steady level of energy through the day. I have the luxury to vary between indoors / outdoors, desk / movement, sewing / housework and so forth through the day. Retirement IS great for those of us who are fortunate enough to come to enjoy it. What wears me out and stresses me out are long stretches of unrelievedly doing the same thing.
    Once again, I remind myself and others of my tried and true timer trick. Set your timer for a half hour and do something (declutter, listen to music, go through your finances, scrub a floor, work on a hobby) with all your focus for that half hour. When the bell rings or the half hour is up, change to another activity. I like the timer because it eliminates clock watching. You are committed to whatever activity you’re doing until the time is up. Helps me to focus and not to drift away from my task.

    • Debbie

      I love timers! Now I use the timer on my cell phone which is always next to me anyway. I also use the timer/reminder on my laptop–both to limit time spent on email or internet searching (or solitaire 🙂 ) or to just spend a half hour on a work project I’ve been procrastinating on so I at least get it started/get something done. For things you don’t want to do, it’s amazing how much you can get done in 5 minutes for small jobs (like emptying the dishes, decluttering an area) or 30-60 minutes for a larger task. And it’s also eye opening to see how much time can fly by when you’re doing something like looking on the internet and then find you’ve “wasted” half the day. I get energized from being productive, crossing off an item or 2 on my to-do list, and decluttering/organizing.

    • Anne

      So true! I’ve used a timer, as well, when I have a lot of things to accomplish in a short amount of time. 15 minutes with each task in rotation helped soothe anxiety and energize.

    • Gillian

      I completely agree that we have to remember the finite quality of energy. And I think your timer strategy is brilliant – but it wouldn’t work for me. It is the changing between tasks that slows me down. Once I’m started, I can usually keep at it for quite a long time. Mind you, I can see a timer working for a really horrible job that I don’t want to do at all so that knowing I have to do it only until the timer rings might make it easier to start.

  • Oma Jane

    Enjoy essential oils that invigorate and refresh like peppermint, lemon, lime, or anything citrus. A drop on your hand, rubbed between your palms then inhaled is olfactory energy.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! the sense of smell gives a big jolt of energy. Such a pleasure, so quick and easy.

  • PolarSamovar

    A short nap – 20 or 90 minutes – often boosts my energy to the point that i am more productive on the days that i nap than the days that i don’t. Can be hard to achieve at the office – though i have napped in my car on my lunch break before.

    • gretchenrubin

      Being able to nap is a great boon – my father is an excellent napper, and I wish I could do this.

  • Burning a candle or going out and being in the flower beds doing light weeding among the pretty flowers… even though its work, it makes me feel so good. I draw too and that also makes me feel good, I can do that anywhere. 🙂 and listen to music… never forget my music.. in my car, at my desk, wherever I am, it is with me! 🙂

  • Kathy

    These are great suggestions, and I think I’ve used them all at one time or another. Music is one of my favorites in this list. I also appreciate the point Penelope Schmitt made about remembering that energy is not endless. Sometimes the knowledge that after I complete X I’ll get to take a break is helpful, too, as is not packing my day so full of things to do that I can’t possibly complete them. That contributes to mental fatigue as well as physical fatigue!

  • Ann

    Drinking water is a great energy booster!

  • Lynn

    Take a moment to connect with god/pray/be grateful

  • Lydia

    I found my tip while reading your tip. Something you said made me notice I was
    slouching. I instantly sat up and reset my posture; shoulders up back down and
    in towards the spine. Just being able to breathe better gives me a little boost
    and not slouching resets my brain. “Okay let’s do this!”

  • Amina Islam

    Thanks! This is great

  • colinwbarnes

    let go of the past

  • Brenda_Lee_Nelson

    One thing that gives me an instant energy boost is to add something pampering or fun to my calendar.

  • Getting a tiny bit of sunlight makes all the difference. Thanks Gretchen!