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Boost your Energy Level

For those living in the northern hemisphere, February, in the middle of winter, is usually the month where peoples’energy level is the lowest. Organizations are however demanding higher performance from their workforces at any time. The usual method of working longer hours is counterproductive in the long term, as people drain themselves. They’re getting exhausted, disengaged, and some even burned out. Longer days at the office don’t work as it creates imbalance and limit our overall energy. To improve productivity, it is more efficient to focus on increasing our energy level. As leaders we should promote living a balanced life, as the additional energy gain will also benefit the bottom line.

Our energetic level depends on the quality of our environment, and of how well our body and mind function. The relationship between our mind and body is very important. Our brain produces neuropeptides according to the quality of our thoughts and feelings. Receptors of neuropeptides have been found throughout the digestive system, the heart, the lungs, the kidneys and in the immune system as well. This indicates that neuropeptides have a powerful effect on all physiological processes including energy production and immunity.

Fatigue comes from blocks or imbalances in the mind/body connection. Blocks develop when balance has been disrupted. Balance means to be in harmony with our own physiological nature, enjoying emotional and physical integration. To restore balance in our mind and body, we all are aware of the importance of many healthy habits like regular physical exercise, healthy eating and living in a non-polluted environment… etc. However few might realize the profound impact digestion, biological rhythms, positive emotions and our personal fulfillment have on our energy level.

By paying more attention on our energy level, the quality of our digestion and of our emotions, as well as the satisfaction of our needs, we can restore our balance and boost our energy and productivity.

The quality of your attention impact your energy

Digestion quality is very important to properly assimilate and metabolize the nutritional value of any food. This is our primary way to obtain the energy we need, though we underestimate the important energy gain associated with an improved digestion. To improve your digestion you shall:

  • Have 100% of your attention on the food when you eat. Always sit down in a quiet atmosphere, do not read, listen or watch TV. Do not eat when you are upset and avoid controversial discussions as it divides your attention.
  • Establish regular mealtimes as digestion will become a routine and occur automatically and thoroughly. Do not eat anything more until your last meal has been completely digested which takes between 3 to 6h and is marked with slight hunger pangs. Eat your main meal at lunch time instead of dinner as we have more active time available to assimilate our food. Avoid snacking and avoid skipping meals.
  • Only eat until you are satisfied, usually up to ¾ of the stomach to leave space for enzymes to function effectively. Eat slowly, as your brain need 20 min to register satiety. Gulping make digestion more difficult which is actually unproductive as the time saved during lunch will be offset by more fatigue. Avoid cold drink as it freeze the digestion fire.

Our Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is an independent network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive that some scientists have nicknamed it our "second brain”. Research shows that it does not only control the digestion but also play a role in our decisions. A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut. This multitude of neurons enables us to "feel" the environment and its contents, and handle 70% of our immune system, being in direct communication with our microbiota, the friendly bacteria microcosm living in our guts. A healthy and balanced microbiota is primordial to ensure a proper digestion. Any change in diet, contaminated food, stress, or antibiotics can disturb our balance.
It is fascinating to realize that we are not only our cells, but actually a living ecosystem relying on bacteria intelligence to metabolize some of our food, to sense and protect us from the environment.

As leaders we do know how our gut feeling can assist decision making, by sensing quickly and clearly whether a person or a situation is positive or not. Our guts is also a brilliant barometer of stress, for instance when we experience “butterflies” in our stomach, a typical physiological stress response.

If we remain aware of the “second brain”, we can not only assist decision making by sensing how our body reacts to people and situations, but also assess the quality of our digestion and our environment. With focus and time you can figure out what food is the most appropriate for your body type and reach your optimal body mass. Read more on the ENS and the microbiota.

Respect your biological clock to rejuvenate

Nature operates in cycles and those have profound effect on our physiology. We have different biological clocks regulating different bodily functions according to precise time cycles. The most important one is the circadian rhythm: This is the 24h cycle that control many important processes like body temperature, hormone production and key nervous system functions like waking and sleeping. As a result there are times where it is appropriate to engage in activity and others where it is likely unproductive. Biological rhythms are like waves to be surfed at the right time to enjoy the full energy.

There is therefore an optimal time to be active and to rest to be in tune with nature’s cycle. We underestimate the impact unregular sleeping patterns have on our energy level. Going to bed early and waking up early in alignment with the sun has a profound effect. To maximize your rest and energy you shall:

  • Go to sleep at 22-23h00 and wake up at 06-07h00, the optimal time to maximize rest
  • Eat a light dinner at least 3h before you go to bed so you can digest it fully
  • Perform relaxed activities in the evening; avoid focused work or watching TV as it overstimulates the nervous system. At least stop working or watching TV one hour before going to bed
  • Avoid working, reading and watching TV in the bedroom which should be exclusively for sleeping
  • If you cannot fall asleep immediately adopt a not minding attitude. Your body is anyhow getting some valuable rest

Boost the energy flow by cultivating positive emotions

Stress is undue pressure felt when we are subject to events we are not prepared to handle in a balanced way. Our body goes into fight or flight response; our heart rate increase, digestion shut down, oxygen and blood goes to our muscles preparing us to react to the situation. This is a huge energy drain for our body, even weakening our immune system. Physical exercise, relaxation and meditation are proven techniques to reduce stress. Recent studies have also found that when you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s negative response to stress. If you keep in mind that the flight and fight response is a survival function which is actually very useful to improve your performance you can be less anxious, more confident, and effectively change your physical response. Studies show that blood vessels stay relaxed (not constricted) when people view their stress response as helpful. Their heart is still pounding, but with a much healthier cardiovascular profile, that look a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage.

In a previous newsletter we discussed neuroplasticity- the ability we have to rewire our brain and transform our experience (see Transform your mind). Our focus was directed at how to dissolve or transmute negative emotions, by being conscious of the emotion, accepting it, and feeling it without judgment. By being conscious of the emotion we stop projecting it onto the other or the situation. Once we stop to entertain an emotion, it appeases and quickly transmute into dynamic energy. (See the exercise Change your mood)

Before we manage to decrease our emotional charge, we invest a large amount of energy in sedating and controlling the discomfort that emanates from our negative emotions. Investing in fear, anger, and grief on any level is exhausting. Holding grudges, seeking revenge is also draining. Attempting to control the future so the past does not reoccur tires us. Once we start to transmute our old emotional charges, we feel energized by tasks that previously drained us. It is because a lot of our attention was actually involved in the unconscious conflicts that used to take place within us.

Neuroplasticity naturally works for both positive and negative emotions though we tend to focus a lot on negative emotions and quickly move on from positive ones. When we remain positive, when we are having a good day, energy is flowing. To improve our energy level, we have to cultivate positive emotions. To rewire our brain for the better, repetition is the key: you need to have more moment of positive emotions. Make sure to notice any positive experience, feel it, and stay with it for a few seconds. If you manage to experience it for 20s then your brain starts building new neural pathways. Try to sustain the good feeling as much as possible. Positive emotions are resources to build inner strengths. Sustain your happiness by taking advantage of any positive situations. How often are you feeling satisfaction after a good day of work? Why not making it a regular habit and remember to enjoy our satisfaction every evening after work? Use any occasion: appreciate the time with your family, the love for your kids, the joy of being present, and grateful for what you have, for who you are.

By cultivating positive emotions we improve our ability to deal with the negative. Once we drop a negative feeling/habit, it takes as little as 3 weeks for your brain to disassemble the old neuronal connections. To enrich the experience use whatever will make it more intense, more emotional, novel, and personally relevant as it assist to rewire your brain much quicker. Sensitize the experience, and enjoy the warmth of the experience as long as possible. You cannot do anything better for your own resilience, happiness and therefore positive energy level.

Fulfill your needs to keep motivation high

Fulfilling our needs keep us motivated, happy and therefore energized. In another previous newsletter we discussed how human needs drive our motivation (see Understand peoples true drivers). Having a sense of progress (growth) and directions (purpose) in our life foster the creation of neurochemicals that can energize and vitalize our mind body system. We can use these same drivers when we focalize on cultivating positive emotions and creating energy:

  • Satisfy your need for significance: do what is really important for you. At work critically evaluate your daily activities and consider what you should focus on, delegate to others, and stop doing. Why not doing the same in your private life?
  • Satisfy your need for love/connection: ensure you give appreciation to others. Getting positive feedback provides a motivational boost which fully energize. Experience the wonderful positive feedback exercise by telling a colleague: what I really appreciate in you is….
  • Satisfy your need for the unknown and for growth: Do something new. Learn a new language, a new skill, like cultivating positive emotions and energy. Take upon yourself a very big challenge. Variety makes us feel alive and engaged.
  • Satisfy your need for contribution: identify your “sweet spot” activities—those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and flow.

Research shows that when people live lives that are align with their true nature and capabilities, they are more happy and energized. This is the fulfilled life of self-actualizers, characterized by creativity, inner freedom and spontaneity, a life with unlimited joy and energy.

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