If you feel exhausted from time to time, well, you’re not alone: On average, American adults feel tired three days a week, according to a survey of more than 1,000 people. And while healthy habits — like staying active, eating well, and getting enough sleep — are the most meaningful ways to boost your energy, it is possible to feel refreshed in a matter of minutes. And, no, we don’t mean by reaching for the nearest energy drink.
Giggle at Cats
Seriously. Nodding off at your desk? Take a few minutes to indulge in whatever goofy of-the-moment online meme or video trend you’re currently obsessed with. Cat videos? Go for it. Watermelon dresses? Enjoy. A study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that the exposure to humor doesn’t just make you feel better, it actually has replenishing and energizing effects. Laughter can also increase how much oxygen-rich air your body takes in, and give you an endorphin bump.
Down a Glass of Water
In addition to benefiting your muscles, joints, and heart health, water is imperative to keep you alert and energized during the day, says Lori Zanini, RD, a nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. “Your fluid intake can benefit your body immediately,” in part because it may help protect against high blood sugar, she says.
And even mild dehydration can leave you dragging. A 2018 meta-analysis found that dehydration is associated with a decline in cognitive function and attention span. And the more complex the cognitive task is, the more dehydration impairs performance. Feeling a little sluggish? Drink up!
Take a Sniff
Here’s a weird one: The aroma of lavender, researchers found, may alleviate stress and enhance cognitive performance. And other studies have linked both the aroma and ingestion of rosemary to a better mood and improved cognitive function. And other studies have linked peppermint oil to greater physical performance as well. Put a few drops of essential rosemary oil on a diffuser, then let the energizing aroma do its thing!
Climb the Stairs
You might think movement would sap your energy, not replenish it, but a new study by researchers at the University of Georgia found that office workers who took the stairs at a comfortable, low-intensity pace felt more energized. In fact, stair climbers were more recharged than participants who downed 50 milligrams of caffeine, which is about the amount in a standard cup of coffee or soda. Don’t have stairs nearby? Other short bursts of cardio may provide the same effect. Try doing some jumping jacks, or heading outside for a walk.
Sip a Cup of Joe
Speaking of coffee: For most people, there’s no need to feel guilty about getting a quick pick-me-up from a cup of joe. Two separate 2017 studies found that drinkers of coffee — which is full of good stuff like antioxidants — may actually have longer lives than non-drinkers. Just be mindful of the clock when you’re drinking caffeine, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet. “Having coffee in the late afternoon or evening can interfere with your sleep later on.” So this is an energy boost best used in the morning.
Upgrade Your Snack
If you’ve been munching chips all afternoon or are feeling ravenous, your energy slump might be crashing blood sugar, says Zanini. For an energy boost that won’t leave you bottomed out in an hour, reach for a snack that includes fiber and protein, she says. Both digest slowly, which means your blood sugar won’t spike (and then plummet), and they’ll leave you feeling sated longer.
Hummus and whole-wheat crackers or carrots is Batayneh’s energizing snack of choice, or a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds. If you can sneak in some extra water, more energy to you. “Cucumbers and watermelon are mostly water,” says Zahini, “so they deliver an extra hydration boost as well.”
Researchers have found that simply being outside and in nature can boost vitality. The sights and sounds of nature, it seems, have a calming impact on our bodies and minds. (Not to mention, an extra small dose of Vitamin D may be a welcome bonus.)
The benefits of nature can even help your energy levels if you’re stuck in the house or at your desk all day. In 2015, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that playing natural sounds — a flowing stream, for example — in an inside environment can lead to increased productivity.