3 Sneaky Habits That Can Drain Your Energy + How To Fix It
If you're feeling drained as of late, you're not alone. After all, there are so many different types of energy out there—emotional energy, physical energy, spiritual energy—each with its own set of barriers and promoters. "Energy comes from fuel or food, energy comes from emotion, energy comes from movement, energy comes from sleep," says clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. Navigating all of these unique factors can be, well, draining—that's why Breus offers an easy-to-understand, personalized program in his book, Energize!: Go From Dragging Ass to Kicking It in 30 Days.
But to help get you started, he mentions a few sneaky habits that can easily zap your energy on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. See below for how you can reclaim your vitality.
1. Not following your chronotype.
According to Breus, everyone has a unique "sleep type," and it depends on your DNA. "So it's not like you get to choose to be an early bird or choose to be a night owl," he notes. "There is a genetic propensity here…and so I try to follow as closely to my genes as humanly possible."
We explain the four chronotypes in full here (and here's a helpful quiz to help you find out yours), but here's the gist: "Bears" wake up and go to sleep with the sun, waking relatively early and taking no issue with an earlier bedtime. "Wolves" are your night owls, as they naturally experience a boost of energy in the late afternoon to early evening but may face grogginess early in the morning. "Lions" are your quintessential morning people, waking up naturally with ease but can hit a slump as the day goes on and are ready to get to bed on the early side. Finally, we have "dolphins," who have a hard time both waking up and falling asleep. They may struggle to follow a consistent sleep schedule and often feel tired during the day.
So let's say you have a Wolf chronotype (aka, you're a night owl), and you're tasked with something in the early morning—you might not give it your full energy. "You can see the differences that happen in terms of the hormone flow and that ability to have attention and to focus," Breus notes. The same scenario can happen for lion chronotypes: They may be humming on all gears at the crack of dawn, but have them work in the late afternoon, and they can really hit a slump.
"Knowing and understanding your genetic chronotype is the biggest secret weapon you could possibly have," says Breus. "Once you know what times of the day you're going to have [the most] energy, you're going to know when to go to bed, when to drink coffee, when to have sex—all of these things actually have perfect times throughout your timeline. You've just got to know what setting your clock is on, if you will."
2. Negative people.
Yes, negativity can actually drain your emotional and physical energy. "I call them energy vampires," says Breus. "We all have somebody in our lives that's probably not as positive as we would like them to be, and spending a lot of time with those people can really start to bring you down."
To identify the energy vampires in your life, take stock of how you feel: Do you feel down, angry, or just mentally exhausted after spending ample time with this person? There are a variety of ways you can stay positive after dealing with negativity (like gratitude practices, mindful alone time, etc.), but if you continuously find yourself in this position, the relationship may be turning toxic.
3. Refined sugar.
Sure, refined sugar can perk you up for a bit, but as Breus notes, "that is a very temporary thing." Welcome, folks, to the blood sugar roller coaster: You feel happy as can be for about 90 minutes, then you experience a blood sugar crash, leaving you exhausted, irritable, and hangry—so you reach for another sweet treat, and the cycle continues.
"With processed sugar, you're actually causing inflammation, which is going to slow down your energy," Breus notes. "There's a real dichotomy here of eating a Snickers bar and having more energy." (Remember those hangry Snickers commercials?) "And the fact is it's really not the best idea." Of course, a sweet treat every once in a while is not going to zap your energy—it's just not the right fix for when you're feeling drained in the moment.
Ways to supercharge your energy.
Just as sneaky factors can drain your energy, a few underrated habits can help increase it. "One of my favorite ones is laughter," says Breus. Think about it: Don't you feel energized after a big belly laugh? Research backs it up, too, as one study found that just 10 to 15 minutes of genuine laughter per day could increase energy expenditure. "If you're not somebody that has a tendency to laugh a whole lot, it's OK to watch a comedy show to put yourself in a better mood or listen to some funny jokes," Breus continues. Just make sure it's genuine laughter, not a forced chuckle.
"Another big energy booster is music," he notes. We've discussed the healing power of sound in our 2022 Wellness Trends, highlighting how music can affect your attention, mood, and emotional energy. And in terms of physical energy, research has even shown that high-tempo music has the ability to enhance exercise performance. So finding music that makes you feel uplifted is important, says Breus.
The first step to reclaiming your energy is to identify the sneaky habits that could hinder your progress, "whether it's people, whether it's doing certain activities, or even the food you ingest," says Breus. When you know what to avoid, your energizing habits can make even more of an impact.
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