3 Ways to Replenish Your Energy
and boost your mood
And I say that as someone who really looks forward to getting back into a routine and doubling down on goals and intentions after the fun, chaos, and self-indulgence that mark the last six weeks of the year. It’s a relief (for me, at least) to leave that behind and return to focus and productivity. Getting stuff done feels GOOD. But it can also be hard.
And for many, the transition back to reality can suck the joy right out of life. I’ve heard January described as “one tough, long Monday” and January 24th has officially been designated the most depressing day of the year. Lovely.
Why is this month so hard? Three reasons:
First, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably facing dark, cold, dreary days without the festivities that lighten things up. Seasonal Affective Disorder can easily set in between the lack of sunlight/vitamin D and the natural desire to hibernate—i.e., you want to move around and deal with people as little as possible.
Second, you’re dealing with the effects of last month. Maybe you spent too much or ate too much. Maybe you’re missing family or remembering difficult moments. Bills roll in. Tax prep starts. Policies change in the office. There’s a lot to deal with this month.
Third, you might be feeling a lot of pressure to change or do better or be perfect. It’s a new year, after all! Live your best life. Be your best self. (Reminder: no one is their “best self” all the time.)
Any way you slice it, even though it may be fun, December takes a ton of energy. I don’t even celebrate the holidays, and yet there’s still shopping and crowds and parties and guests and cooking and baking and coming and going simply because everyone has time off. And energy doesn’t come out of nowhere. There’s a finite amount of energy in the universe—which means if you use some, you have to replenish it. You don’t have an endless supply within you.
So, if you’re not naturally energized by the return to reality and structure that January provides (like some of us weirdos are), what can you do to replenish your energy stores? And is there a way to do so without adding a bunch of extra stuff to your To Do list? Because between catching up from last month and what’s piling up in the new yar, I’m betting you don’t need me giving you any more To Do’s.
Here are three ways you can replenish your energy throughout your day by simply noticing and using what is already around you. Bonus: They work year-round, not just in January!
1) Use Color & Light
On Earth, we get all our energy from the Sun. We call it Light. We see light as brightness or as color. (You didn’t know there’d be so much heavy duty science in this article, did you?) A simple way to increase your energy is to increase your light and color intake.
You can do that literally, by opening your windows, going outside to get sunlight (“rainlight,” here in the Northwest), or buying a full-spectrum “happy” light. However, even light that isn’t full-spectrum can boost your mood and provide you with mental and emotional energy. Light some candles or lamps instead of sitting in the dark with only the glow of your screen for illumination. Unless you need a break from too much light, you’ll feel better if you do.
Also, find and notice color. As Ingrid Fetell Lee suggests in her book Joyful, colorful clothes on a drab day are like a gift to others. You know what? They’re a gift to yourself, too. And there are plenty of other ways to add color to your day: buy flowers, use a brightly colored mug, add some colorful accents to your office, revisit the 80’s with some neon leg warmers, get a houseplant (it can be fake if you’re worried you’ll kill it—I get it), use fun office supplies… Or simply start noticing what’s already in front of you.
By adding more color and light to your life, you combat the natural doldrums that come in winter and increase your energy.
2) Enjoy Pockets of Peace
All day long, you come across little gaps of time. I define a “Pocket of Peace” as somewhere between ten seconds and five minutes of quiet time. You might think you never get even a single second of quiet time to yourself over the course of the day, let alone ten! I promise you that if you start paying attention, you’ll find little pockets all over your day. They may only be ten seconds long, but that’s long enough to take one, full deep breath—and sometimes that’s all you need to rejuvenate yourself, especially if they happen frequently throughout the day.
The key to getting the benefit of these Pockets of Peace is to fill them with something that actually nourishes and replenishes you, preferably … nothing. Yep, nothing. Fill them by simply taking a nice deep breath. Or five. Or listening to the sounds of traffic outside the window. Or stretching your neck. Or smelling the roses. Don’t think. Don’t do. Don’t scroll. Just be.
Taking just a minute or so—I’m not asking you to add a 30-minute yoga routine to your day!—to unplug several times throughout the day will reenergize you like you wouldn’t believe. In addition, you combat the pressure and anxiety that can build up this time of year as bills come in and you do your taxes and you step on the scale and all that stuff. Right now, close your eyes and take two deep breaths. It’s like the fountain of life. (Maybe because you do actually need oxygen and rest to live?)
3) Accept Gifts from Others
Beautiful, wonderful things happen to you every single day. The people around you are occasionally kind or generous or funny. For real! But when you’re busy, stressed, or feeling low, it’s easy to brush them off or maybe not even notice those little gifts. Especially if you’re feeling anxious, you might find the lens you view the world through skewed toward a negativity bias—and that just makes everything harder and crappier.
Start noticing, accepting, and soaking up the positive moments others give you. Maybe someone held the door open, brought you a cup of coffee, or actually got their work done on time for once. Maybe someone paid you a compliment, gave you props during a meeting, or said “Thank you.” In my blog, “7 Ways to Spread Hope & Health,” written at the beginning of the pandemic, five of the seven tips include things you can give to and receive from others. When someone smiles at you, makes you laugh, or otherwise lifts your spirits, take it to heart. This refills your cup and helps you combat stress.
Whether you love the beginning of the year or you hate it, you will always face times when your energy is depleted and you feel like you’re running on empty. Start by simply noticing what you already have in your day: color & light, pockets of peace, and gifts from others. Acknowledge them. Accept them. Use them. Marinate in them. You will rebuild your physical, mental, and emotional energy and find what you need to face another day. Even a day as long as January.