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10 Ways to Get Instant Energy

1. Laugh Out Loud
Every time you giggle, chortle, or chuckle, your brain releases endorphins. "These feel-good chemicals flood your brain -- helping you feel awake and refreshed," says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, in Baltimore. "They also boost your immune system, ward off heart disease, and actually reduce your risk of depression." Need a quick laugh? Check out the hilarious (and totally fake) news stories at www.theonion.com, or sign up at www.thedailydose.com to get a G-rated joke e-mailed to you each day.

2. Bust a Move
Exercise helps increase your circulation, relieves muscle tension (which can wear you down physically), and causes your brain to release endorphins. That's not all -- it also helps you take in more oxygen and fires up your metabolism. While you should aim for a 30-minute workout several days a week, try for five or ten minutes anytime you need energy. Here are seven quick pick-me-ups.
1. March in place
2. Jump rope
3. Power walk
4. Climb stairs
5. Run around the yard with your kids
6. Do lunges and squats
7. Dance with your baby in your arms

3. Use a Little Pressure
"Massage stimulates your nerve endings, which increases blood flow and gets your circulation pumping," explains Maureen Moon, past president of the American Massage Therapy Association. Try any of these easy, do-it-yourself moves.
1. Using your fingertips, rub your scalp or temples in a gentle, circular motion for two minutes.
2. Vigorously rub each earlobe between your thumb and forefinger for one minute.
3. Place your forefingers behind your ears (where the base of your skull meets the top of your neck), press for ten seconds, release, and repeat.

4. Sniff Stuff
Feeling sluggish? Get a whiff of this: Certain scents may increase your attention span and help you focus. To recharge fast, inhale deeply as you cut into or squeeze a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit. If you're in the mood for something more exotic, try breaking off a fresh leaf of mint or rosemary, or sipping a cup of peppermint tea -- these aromas can also invigorate the senses.

5. Drink Up
Surprise -- the most common reason people feel tired is because they're dehydrated. Why? The less water there is in your system, the less oxygen is circulating in your bloodstream. The cure: Drink eight glasses of water throughout the day -- or chug a glass of the refreshing stuff whenever your energy lags.

6. Try Tai Chi
This ancient art form is a great way to clear your mind, rev up your circulation, and calm your spirit. Susan Gold, a practitioner at Wholistic Health & Healing, in Bonita, California, recommends this super-easy move called "The Beginning."
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, and eyes gazing forward, rest your arms at your sides. Keeping relaxed -- and breathing normally throughout -- slowly raise your arms out in front of you, letting your wrists and fingers hang limply. As your wrists reach shoulder height, slowly extend your fingers as you bend your elbows and draw your arms back towards your body, with wrists at shoulder height. Lower your arms until they again rest comfortably at your sides. Repeat five times.

7. Snack Smart
Noshing on a healthy mix of carbohydrates and protein can provide a prolonged boost to your blood-sugar level, giving you energy for hours. Here, Connie Diekman, R.D., director of nutrition at Washington University, in St. Louis, suggests snacks to pep you up.
1. Half a bagel with peanut butter
2. One cup of whole-grain cereal with skim milk and fresh fruit
3. Half a cup of trail mix containing nuts and dried fruit

8. Turn on the Tunes
One of the easiest ways to bust out of a slump is to listen to music you like. The beat and rhythm of the song stimulates your brain, making you feel more alert. Suzanne Hanser, Ed.D., chair of the music-therapy department at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, suggests picking tunes that start off slow and gradually build in tempo. A bonus: Bouncing to the beat -- even if it's just tapping your toes -- revs up your circulation.

9. Stand Tall
For an energy boost that takes no time at all, make your posture perfect. "When you slouch over, your ribs compress, making it harder for your lungs to expand and reducing the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain," explains Patrice Winter, a physical therapist in Fairfax, Virginia. "This lack of air can actually cause you to move more slowly."

10. Strike a Pose
A yoga pose, that is. Judy Fuhrer, a yoga instructor at Dance Emotions Studio, in Chappaqua, New York, suggests two simple positions that'll improve your circulation and relieve tension.

  • Eagle Arms. While you're sitting or standing, cross your arms in front of you so that your left elbow is resting in the crook of your right elbow. As you bend your elbows, your hands should be back-to-back and resting in front of your face. Now rotate your hands so that your palms are facing each other. Hold for two or three deep breaths and release. Repeat with your right arm above your left.
  • Leg Stretch. Lie flat on your back with your butt and legs straight up against a wall. Take several deep breaths. Now create a diamond with your legs by turning your ankles and knees out and sliding your feet halfway down the wall. Making sure the soles of your feet are touching, take several more breaths.

Beware of These Energy Zappers!

SUGAR Sweets give an immediate surge in blood sugar -- and a temporary burst of energy. But soon after, blood-sugar levels plummet, leaving you tired and cranky.

OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDS Certain drugs can make you feel as if you're asleep standing up. If one product in particular seems to wear you out, talk with your pharmacist about a drowse-free alternative.

ALCOHOL Not only does booze act as a sedative, it also dehydrates you and makes it harder to fall -- and stay -- asleep.

BEING INSIDE It's true! Staying indoors can sap your energy and your spirit. Half an hour of exposure to natural sunlight each day charges your brain's production of the mood-boosting chemical serotonin.

Copyright © Ruth Hannon. Reprinted with permission of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.