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15 Ways to Boost Mental Energy Levels

15 Ways to Boost Mental Energy Levels

The mind is one of the biggest contributors to energy levels. The benefits of having high levels of mental energy include happiness, confidence, focus, and increased willpower, motivation, and productivity.

Additionally, the mind has a huge effect on one’s level of physical physical energy. Increased willpower and motivation often lead to healthier eating habits, less procrastination, and more.

The way we think has an astounding effect on the way others perceive us and how we perform. When you feel confident, you look confident, and will also perform more effectively, increasingly the likelihood of success in whatever you are doing.

This article covers 15 ways to boost mental energy levels.

1. Be Grateful

Remind yourself of the things you are grateful or thankful for in your life. Gratitude will make you think more positively and give you more mental energy. If you’re not having fun at work, be grateful that you have work and are earning a salary. If you’re having challenges in any aspect of your life, understand that challenges make you stronger, and be grateful that you don’t have a boring life.

Being grateful reminds you of what’s important. For example, you might be upset about being stuck in traffic. Being grateful for your family will remind you of the traffic’s relative insignificance.

Action item: Write down 5 things you are grateful for in your life.

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2. Practice Negative Visualization

Negative visualization originated in a philosophy called Stoicism. Stoics periodically contemplate,but don’t worry about, “worst-case scenarios.”

Negative visualization is practiced to lessen the impact if these scenarios do come true. In addition, it’s intended to reduce insatiability and force you to appreciate what you do have.

Most of us spend our idle time thinking about the things we want but don’t have. We would be much better off, Stoics believe, to spend this time thinking of all the things we have and reflecting on how much we would miss them if they were not ours.

3. Surround Yourself With Great People

Humans are naturally social people. Building relationships makes us happy and gives us energy. Spend time with people who think positively, and have a lot of energy, and talk in a positive tone. It will make think more positively and give you energy.

Action items: Who in your life is overly negative? Should you be spending as much time with them as you do? What kinds of people would you like to spend more time with? Create a game plan for meeting or spending time with these people.

4. Think Positively

Thinking positive thoughts will make you feel more positive. Feeling more positive and optimistic will boost mental energy.

If you’re feeling sluggish or slightly depressed, forcing yourself to think positively is a great way to start reversing negative momentum. Momentum has a profound effect on our energy levels. Energy builds on itself. If your mental energy levels are declining, gets harder and harder to start improving them. If your mental energy levels are improving, it gets easier and easier to keep building it.

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Focus on the positive in any situation. Take advantage of opportunities present as they present themselves. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, think about what could go right, or go better than expected.

5. Declutter Your Mind

Most people are very busy and have a ton of different things on their mind. We receive information such as emails at a faster pace than ever before. Declutter your mind by delegating, setting reminders, taking notes, and keeping a calendar.

To avoid making mistakes, and to declutter your mind, keep as much as you can outside of your brain. For example, if you set a meeting with someone, put it in your calendar so you no longer have to remember it. Keep a to-do list. It will be enable you to be more present and conscious of what you’re doing in a given moment. Delegate what someone else can do for you.

6. Go Outside

Exposing your skin and eyes to sunlight will give you Vitamin D, which can boost energy.

In addition, our minds and bodies are used to being awake during the daytime and we naturally have more energy during the daytime. Getting exposure to sunlight reminds our body that it’s daytime and that we should have more energy.

Action item: if you’re feeling tired while at the work, take a short break outside in the sun.

7. Have Fun!

Don’t forget to allocate time to friends and family, hobbies, etc. These activities provide excitement and keep you motivated. It seems counter intuitive, however taking a break from work can actually help you get more work done. Having fun stimulates your brain in a way that improves energy levels.

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Action item: Set times out of your week for hobbies or activities you find fun.

8. Stimulate your Mind

Keep your mind stimulated but not overworked. Mental challenge will give you energy, but too much may leave you fatigued. Without enough challenge you may become bored and lethargic. Try learning a new skill to stimulate your mind.

Action item: Make sure your experience some challenge throughout your daily life.

9. Meditate

Many people find meditation to be a great way to boost mental energy.  A basic definition of meditation is simply being conscious of mind and breath. While meditating, the goal is to not think about future or past. It’s to be present. I think of meditation as a time to let my thoughts flow freely and to take notice of my emotions, thoughts, and body.

Action item: Look for a meditation class.

10. Try New Things

If you stick too close to the same routine, your brain can go into “auto-pilot.” You become un-stimulated and don’t have to think as much. As discussed above, mental stimulation is essential for energy.

Try breaking your routine. Learn something new. Go on a spontaneous adventure to give yourself a fresh perspective. Try taking a different route to work. Go into a bookstore and pick out a random book from a genre you don’t normally read.

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Action item: Choose an activity that you do consistently and adjust it in some way.

11. Practice Minimalism

Learn to say “no” and eliminate excess in your life. Throw away what you don’t need. When you have fewer items in your life, there is more space for things you want.

12. Focus on What’s in your Control

Stoics believe in focusing on what’s in our control, and not what’s our of our control. Wanting or hoping for things that are not in our control will disrupt our tranquility. Worrying about or hoping for something that we don’t have an impact on can cause anxiety.

Action item: List what you’re currently worrying about or hoping for and differentiate what is in your control from what is not.

13. Do What You’re Passion About

Taking part in activities, professionally and personally, that you’re passionate about leads to more happiness. Spending time on activities that you don’t enjoy can be exhausting.

Action item: What do you love doing? How can you arrange your career or lifestyle so you can do more of it?

14. Take Responsibility for Your Emotions

Emotions have a strong effect on your energy levels. If you are feeling sad or embarrassed, you will have less energy. If you are feeling proud or confident, you will have more energy.

By taking responsibility for your emotions, you will become less dependent on external validation or circumstances to influence energy levels. When you are responsible for your own emotions, your energy levels will always be high.

15. Be Present

Thinking negatively about the past can cause anxiety. Thinking about the future can give you anxiety. Be in the present moment. Accept the situation you’re in and take the best action you can. Wishing you were in a different situation, or wishing you had done something differently in the past will only cause anxiety. The past is out of our control.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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