Feeling worn down? Constantly exhausted? You aren’t alone. In fact, according to health experts, a ‘lack of energy’ is one of the top five complaints doctors face. And it is a complaint that Western medicine all too often fails to treat.
“I discovered that I couldn’t help about 70 per cent of my patients,” says Dr. Woodson Merrell, author of The Source: Beat Fatigue, Power Up Your Health, and Feel 10 Years Younger. “They weren’t sick, but they weren’t well either.”
Dr. Merrell said there were six steps that can break the fatigue cycle and lead to better heath and improved longevity. These steps draw on both Western medical knowledge and Eastern healing practices.
“There are simple things you can do to increase your energy,” he says. “Much of it isn’t rocket science, and in fact, may remind you of the advice your grandmother gave you. It’s easy to say and understand… but not always easy to incorporate into your life.”
Yet, he says that thousands of his patients who have used this program have experienced incredible changes in mind, body and spirit. Here’s an overview:
Stress can be good because it allows us to respond the emergencies, but prolonged stress can be very damaging to our health and energy level. One way to reduce stress is through meditation, but if it’s not your thing, then it could be as simple as breathing — very slowly.
Deep breathing calms the nervous system and normalizes the heart rate.
Merrell recommends taking ‘breath breaks’ throughout the day, every hour if possible. Using your abdominal muscles (as opposed to chest muscles), take a deep breath in to the count of four, pause for a count, and then exhale slowly to the count of six. Repeat this four times.
“You can even do this in a meeting when someone is yelling at you,” Merrell says.
Load up on power foods
To combat fatigue, Merrell recommends eating mainly a fish and plant-based diet, including such power foods as salmon, trout, almonds, walnuts, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, tea, citrus, garlic, rosemary and olive oil.
Trouble foods include red meat, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, wheat, cow’s milk, coffee and alcohol.
In his book, Merrell writes that at last count, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 148 man-made chemicals in the average American blood sample, including alarmingly high rates of mercury. Simple things you can do to help detoxify your life include avoiding toxic substances as much as possible, including the cleaning products you use in your home, filtering your drinking water and going organic.
Get your exercise
For aerobic exercise, Merrell recommends a minimum of 30 minutes/3 days a week. Even moderate exercise boosts the immune system and leads to better heart and brain health. “When it comes to energizing yourself, exercise is like plugging yourself into a power grid,” he says.
Get enough sleep
If you’re like most of us, the advice when it comes to sleep is simple: Get more! “Before the light bulb was discovered, we got on average 10.2 hours of sleep per night; now we get 6.9,” Merrell says.
So how much sleep do we need? Most of us need 8 hours per night. “During the 8th or 9th hour of sleep, most of the healing happens,” Merrell says. “And in case you’re wondering, the power nap does count — 15 to 20 minutes in the afternoon can make a huge difference to your energy level.”
Ever wake up suddenly at 4:00am and can’t get back to sleep? Try a technique called dream remembrance: “Lock onto the dream you were experiencing,” Merrell says, “and 50 per cent of the time this will take you back to sleep.”
Coming out of ourselves to give to others makes us both happier and healthier. People who are religious or spiritual have a lower rate of heart disease and they experience greater longevity.
And don’t underestimate the power of laughter. A Japanese study found that nursing mothers who laughed while watching the Charlie Chaplin movie, Modern Times , had higher levels of the beneficial hormone melatonin in their breast milk, which reduced their babies’ previously diagnosed allergic skin reactions to latex and dust.
“This small study offers a wonderful window into the mysteries of human nature,” Merrell says. “It’s clear to me that laughter is a built-in healing mechanism.”