Written By Jill Simonsen – Natural Health Consultant

Do you feel that you have lost your sparkle? Do you barely remember what it feels like to be bursting with energy and the drive to achieve your goals?

I have been feeling this way lately and it is time I got myself sorted. I know that I need to reclaim my energy and I understand the simple steps needed to achieve this renaissance. The hard part is overcoming the apathy that comes with loss of energy. Some of us really don’t know how good we can feel so this article may serve to enlighten those who have yet to conquer this mountain while reminding me of my own pathway back to vibrant wellness. Here I will share eight ways to reclaim vitality.

1. The Sunlight Hormone

Sunlight is vital to enable your body to produce vitamin D and vitamin D is crucial to your health. Vitamin D was misnamed. It is not actually a vitamin but rather a steroid hormone. In fact, it is the most powerful hormone in your body - active in quantities as small as 1,000,000,000,000 of a gram. It supports proper digestion and food absorption and optimises your body’s utilisation of sugar, helping to maintain insulin balance – key to sustaining your energy levels. It’s responsible for the regulation of over 2,000 genes and plays a part in weight management, including carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation and pain which, in itself, will elevate your sense of wellbeing. It promotes a strong skeleton, heart and muscles, and improves immunity, helping to protect you from a variety of cancers.

Researcher, Dr Ingrid van der Mei, suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common in winter and spring throughout Australia (including sunny Queensland). Many experts now worry that skin-cancer-based public health messages have gone overboard in getting people to cover up and seek shade. A study led by Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University, found that far more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much. Other recent studies show a substantial increase in heart disease in those with low vitamin D levels… enough said!

Try to get out in sunlight for at least 20 minutes every day, without sunscreen or sunglasses. UV light, registered through your eyes, promotes serotonin release (which lifts your mood and regulates your appetite) and heightens melatonin production – a potent antioxidant needed for quality sleep, mood stability, adrenal health and healthy immunity – all imperative to restoring your vitality!
Those who need even more time in the sun, or should consider supplementation, include:

Pregnant women - research suggests that vitamin D during pregnancy is critically important for both mother and baby. Pregnant women with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, and their babies are more prone to bone weakness, according to a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Professor Peter Ebeling of the University of Melbourne and Western Health says “Evidence has accumulated linking vitamin D deficiency to adverse outcomes in pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, hypertension, higher rates of caesarean section and pre-term delivery.”

The elderly - as we age, our skin loses the ability to generate vitamin D (plus the elderly tend to spend more time indoors). Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults, and has been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders. In one study, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were eleven times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.

Overweight people - researchers speculate that, because vitamin D is fat soluble, increased body fat stores the vitamin, removing it from the bloodstream where it is usually available for use.

Dark-skinned people - higher melanin levels in dark skin block UVB, limiting the ability to make vitamin D. 

2. Oxygen - The Energiser
oxygen - energy

Oxygen, that gas that sustains us all, is also a great energiser and detoxifier. The more oxygen in your body, the more energy you create. Air your home, car and workplace daily. Plant trees around your house, and keep houseplants indoors. Practise deep breathing, yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi and maintain daily aerobic exercise (any activity that gets your heart pumping for more than 10 minutes) to boost oxygen levels.

Increase blood circulation (and associated oxygen) by adding cayenne pepper, chillies, paprika, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, curry, thyme, dill, oregano, peppermint, parsley, celery, onion, garlic and ginger to your diet. These natural blood thinners will enable the blood to circulate more freely. Ensure a high intake of essential fatty acids (oily fish, nuts and seeds, and leafy vegies), to improve the ability of your blood to carry oxygen. Loaded with omega 3, fish oils, oily fish, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts and pumpkin seeds are also natural blood thinners. Lycopene-rich watermelons, guava, pink grapefruit and tomatoes help prevent a build-up of arterial plaque, so may also ease blood flow. Vitamin C-rich foods such as asparagus, avocados, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, capsicum, radishes, tomatoes, onions, green peas, watercress, parsley, kiwifruit, strawberries, blackcurrants, pineapple, rosehips and citrus fruit help circulation by strengthening capillary walls (the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports a study showing a 36% increase in the circulation of Diabetics after supplementing vitamin C).

Niacin (vitamin B3), involved in energy production, cholesterol management and insulin metabolism, also relaxes blood vessels so they can open wider, thus improving circulation. Niacin is found in nuts, legumes (including peanuts), asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, alfalfa, parsley, dates, eggs, crimini mushrooms, chicken breast, venison and oily fish such as salmon and tuna. Green tea, cranberry juice, grape juice and red wine contain catechins which improve circulation, as do apples, berries, cherries, apricots, peaches and beans. As an added tip: up to 80% of the catechins in green tea are never absorbed - a simple solution to boost absorption is to add fresh lemon juice to green tea.

Magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation (tense muscles impede circulation)… if you are living a stressful life consider magnesium supplementation to rapidly boost levels. Also increase magnesium-rich foods such as seafood, legumes, kiwifruit, apples, apricots, peaches, avocado, corn, green peas, dark green leafy veges, watercress, carrot juice, nuts and seeds, kelp, garlic, cinnamon, oats and brown rice. Magnesium is needed for energy production and is always deficient in people under stress.

Drinking alcohol excessively reduces blood circulation… junk food, sugar and food additives deplete oxygen levels… and smoking robs you of 50% of the oxygen your body needs… so don’t go there! Fear, worry and anxiety all interfere with free breathing and these will reduce your oxygen uptake – look for healthy ways to reduce stress (see Methods below). Increase oxygenation and you increase stamina!

3. Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Sleep is fundamental to life. Sufficient sound sleep will see you springing out of bed refreshed, restored and revitalised. Sleep is not only a time for your body to rest and rebuild, but also for your brain to process information received, and lessons learnt that day (often as dreams). Keep your bedroom as dark as possible (wear a sleeping mask if it’s not pitch black) and try to keep to a regular bedtime. Irregular sleep patterns negatively impact your quality of sleep, which in turn affects your wellbeing, immunity, physical and mental performance and mood.

Alcohol and smoking reduce REM and the deeper, restorative stages of sleep that are vital for your body to repair and regenerate. Caffeine before bed will also disrupt your sleep quality and may just keep you awake all night! New research shows that lack of sleep disrupts hormones that regulate appetite – sleep deprivation leads to increased hunger (which can contribute to obesity). Always try to get to sleep before 11pm and aim at 8-9 hours. I know, its 1/3 of your life spent asleep, but this profoundly affects the other 2/3 of your life! You’ll feel absolutely fantastic for it.

I read recently of one health guru who had been functioning on minimal sleep for a long time and was starting to feel exhausted and depressed. After studying the myriad of ways that poor sleep diminishes your health he decided to experiment on himself and ensured he went to bed early every night, having at least eight hours sleep. After only a week he reported feeling ridiculously happy, he couldn’t take the smile off his face, and minor health niggles had started to vanish. The extra time given to his body to perform detoxification, repair and regeneration not only positively affected him physically, but mentally and emotionally too. I’m sure some types of depression could simply be relieved by increased sleep, improved nutrition and more sunshine and exercise!

4. Insulin, Hydration and Superfoods

Blood sugar level highs and lows cause unstable insulin levels, which drain your energy, leading to fatigue, brain fog and hunger. Cut out all that processed crap and eat only real food and raw food. Keep your insulin levels stable by slowing the glycemic response (the speed sugars are liberated from foods) and learn about the glycemic index (GI) of food. Raw foods liberate sugars more slowly than cooked and the glycemic response is also slower when you eat real food rather than refined, processed foods. Never skip meals, and eat smaller meals more often – the slower and more regularly you eat (e.g. every 3 hours), the slower the glycemic response. Eat fibre, protein and essential fats with each meal – the rougher the texture, the slower the response, eg a baked potato has a lower GI than a mashed potato. Have one low GI food with every meal to balance the effect of high GI foods. Reduce alcohol, sugar, soft drinks, white flour products, caffeine and dairy products, and avoid MSG (flavour enhancer 621), aspartame (found in Diet drinks and foods), and trans fats, which all cause unstable insulin levels, reducing your vitality. Chia seed can be a highly effective tool to lower the GI of sugar spiking foods like potatoes. Chia seed or gel is a tasteless addition that can halve the GI of food due to it’s exceptionally high content of soluble fibre.

Water is the elixir of life - drink 8 glasses of pure, filtered water every day. Dehydration zaps your energy and causes lethargy. If you’re feeling lack-lustre have two big glasses of water, rather than a tea or coffee (which will only dehydrate you further)…particularly important in Australia’s hot climate where increased body temperature and perspiration make it very easy to become dehydrated.

Remember that fluid is needed to transport nutrients and oxygen to your body’s cells – so there’s more reason to have another glass of water! Hydrating fluids also come from foods with a high water content, so increase fruit and vegetables, and herbal teas and juices too.                                                                                                              
Increase antioxidant foods - include as many natural colours in your meals as you can – make your plate a rainbow! Berries, grapes, apples, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, beans, carrots, kale, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, capsicum, walnuts, Brazil nuts, chia seeds, kelp, chlorella, spirulina, aloe vera gel, olive oil, oats, organic eggs – theses antioxidant-rich superfoods will all help you get your spark back. Try some of the new superfoods such as acai, goji, pomegranate, noni and mangosteen and see how different you feel. Add herbs to your meals too, to give you more verve. Always keep high-energy snacks, such as nuts, seeds, dried or fresh fruit on hand so you won’t be tempted to snack on empty, energy-draining junk food. Eat organic foods where possible - the fewer chemicals you ingest, the more vitality you will have!  Take a daily multivitamin and mineral complex to boost your energy levels.

5. Relax and Revitalise
meditation and yoga

Stress reduction strategies like music, meditation, massage, martial arts, & medicine (herbal of course!) are critical in the quest to get back your mojo. Increased relaxation will raise your vitality and help you regain your love of life. (Conversely, if you’re lethargic and tired because you’re stuck in a rut, add some challenge to your life to energise yourself!) Be aware that adrenaline raises blood sugar levels, so keeping stress to a minimum will support insulin stability. Music can promote relaxation or excitement, depending on the style you choose. Either way, be it chilling out, or dancing ‘til you drop, stress reduction will be achieved! Singing out loud elicits emotions and raises vitality – so let rip, karaoke king!

Meditation exercises increase oxygenation (which boosts energy levels), and improve sleep quality. Visualisation can help too - If you’re feeling flat, try this ancient yoga technique: close your eyes and picture a vibrant, energising light shining down from the heavens and making its way through your head and into your body, down to the tips of your toes. Or else, stand up straight and imagine drawing every conceivable colour up from the ground, through the soles of your feet, flowing throughout your body and out through the top of your head to the sky. Channelling light and colour lifts your vitality.

Massage, with therapeutic grade essential oils, will provide exquisite relaxation, and the oils give an extremely high energy frequency. Martial Arts such as Qi Gong enhance immunity and promote increased energy. Improved posture and oxygenation, such as gained from Tai Chi, will improve the flow of chi (energy) throughout your body, revitalising every cell. Acupuncture, acupressure, and reflexology also enhance chi, your life force.

Address emotional trauma with a practise such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – the emotional baggage that we carry around weighs us down and diminishes our joy in life. Drop the baggage now! There are many interesting EFT masters on YouTube to learn from, and you can also download a free manual from www.eftuniverse.com. This is an incredibly useful, easy-to-learn tool that you may find to be quite life-changing. I recently taught EFT to a young woman who had arrived in Auckland fresh from the devastating Christchurch earthquake. She was tearful, fearful, jittery and shaken (literally!). She jumped at every movement around her, even trees swaying in the breeze and she was too frightened to walk down Auckland CBD streets for the terror of the shop facades falling on her. She couldn’ t even bear to walk onto the deck of her friend’s home because it moved under her feet. I emailed her later that night and she said the EFT she had been practising, combined with the Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy I had given her, had changed everything. She had gone into town & walked under highrises with confidence, she could now go out onto the deck, and she had gone to a party that night and been able to hold conversations without bursting into tears. She has now gone back to Christchurch to teach this simple method to others… pass it forward!

Herbal medicine can enhance relaxation – a simple chamomile or peppermint tea may help you sleep well, liquorice tea can boost your energy levels, lemon balm can relax you and lift your spirits, and passionflower, lime blossom, skullcap and oat seed will all help to induce peace of mind. Flower essences such as Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy, as mentioned above, are very supportive too. Try Rescue Sleep if you have repetitive worrying thoughts – or a mind so full of amazing ideas that you just can’t sleep! This is Rescue Remedy with one extra Bach Flower which gives the added dimension of allowing your mind to get off the treadmill… you can take this during the daytime too – it won’t make you sleepy, just more chilled out…

6. Fertilise with Positive Thoughts
positive thoughts

Positive thoughts and attitudes create more sparkle. They alter your chemistry, generating alkalising chemicals which boost your health and sense of wellbeing. Try to view your world from the glass half full perspective. Emotions such as resentment, jealousy, anger, etc, create chemical responses in your body which are acidifying, toxic and undermine your health. Surround yourself with energising positive people, avoid those who zap your energy and bring you down. Negativity is draining and contagious!

It is said that positive thinking and daily meditation are the two basic techniques of enlightenment. It can’t hurt to try these and see if you feel more uplifted. Your body is physiologically tied to your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. To be healthy, you have to recognise the connection that exists between your mind, body and spirit. Positive thinking is a first step in raising your personal vibration. When you choose a thought, your brain cells are affected. They vibrate and send off electromagnetic waves, and the more you concentrate on those thoughts, the greater the amplitude of vibration of those cells. The electric waves, in turn, become stronger. Late, Bruce Tainio, of Tainio Technology in Washington, whose company has developed equipment to measure the bio-frequency of humans and foods, discovered that positive thinking can raise your vibration up to 10 hertz (Hz), whereas negative thinking can lower your vibration by as much as 15 Hz.

Are you telling yourself that you are a great person and can do anything you put your mind to? Or, are you constantly putting yourself down, sabotaging yourself and creating negative energy within?

Observe your self-talk carefully because you can tell yourself you might catch a cold, and you will; or you will probably fail an exam, and you will; or you might be the next one to lose your job, and you will. It’s very easy to put yourself down and deplete your much needed energy. Stop that constant loop of can’ts, don’ts, won’ts, should haves, shouldn’t haves and only ifs. They help you create only negative energy and thoughts, which creates negative results. Be determined to lift yourself up, be kind to yourself and turn all those negative remarks into positives. I can, I will, I do, I did and If I do... will transform your life. By building your own self-confidence and self-esteem in this way, you will start to glow. Your positive energy will attract other positive people to you. See your life as the most amazing, precious opportunity that it is... Gratitude yields energy. Be thankful, every day, for the gifts life has given you. There are very few happy people who are not grateful people. Gratitude is a law of the universe.

7. Savour Love and Laughter

Spend quality time with someone you love - be it your lover, pet, friend or grandma – giving and receiving love are fundamental human needs which can sometimes be overlooked in our busy lives. Even a loving phone call or email will lift your spirits. A plant in your workplace will increase your energy – not only with extra oxygen, but just having other life around you enhances your vitality. One study, reported in Human Communication Research, found that just putting your affectionate feelings down on paper can lower your cholesterol level! For a period of 5 weeks, volunteers wrote about their feelings for loved ones in 20-minute sessions three times a day. Afterwards, they were found to have significantly lower cholesterol levels than their peers.

Renowned cardiologist, Dean Ornish MD, (the first to prove the reversal of heart disease by changing lifestyle) states, in his new book “Love and Survival: the Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy”, …“Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing... I am not aware of any other factor in medicine - not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery - that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes." He goes on to say…”When I talk about intimacy, I don't just mean sexual or romantic intimacy, although those are nice forms of intimacy. Intimacy is anything that takes us out of the experience of feeling separate. Someone or something other than ourselves. It could be a lover, a friend, a relative, a community member; it could be a pet. It could be a spiritual or transcendent experience - feeling like a part of everything as opposed to feeling apart from everything. There are many pathways to intimacy…”

Laughter can transform an ordinary moment into something extraordinary; it can energise us and optimise us. Extensive medical research concludes that it is possible for all 600 muscles of the body to move during laughter - so see it as a form of internal aerobics! There is an old saying, "Your day goes the way the corners of your mouth turn"! Laughter is an impulse that beckons us to balance rush with rest, work with play, seriousness with fun, heavy with light.  It has been called social glue because it bonds us to the people we laugh with. The psychologist and mystic, Alan Watts, once wrote, "The whole art of life is in knowing how to transform anxiety into laughter". We don't stop laughing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop laughing. If it feels good to laugh then laugh to feel good. Whole-hearted laughter teaches love, inspires hope, preaches tolerance and encourages contact and communication. True humour inspires true humanity. The actor Alan Alda put it another way: "when people are laughing, they're generally not killing one another!"

So have a laugh or three whenever you can. Watch a comedy, go see a comedian, tell some funny stories yourself – look for humour in your everyday life… Laughing reduces your stress hormone levels, boosts your immune system and lowers blood pressure. Those who love and laugh out loud live longest!

8. Excercise, The Great Rejuvenator

Exercise is energizing and essential to a healthy lifestyle. It stimulates your circulation and oxygenation and improves elimination. Constipation or a sluggish digestion will always make you feel less than wonderful. It’s vital to keep toxins and waste moving out of our bodies on at least a daily basis. If this isn’t happening for you then consider a change to a healthier high fibre diet, increase your water consumption and exercise, exercise, exercise. Any exercise at all is better than none, so get out there and move that body around! Dance, skip, get on the trampoline, play chasing games with the kids… having a long walk and a chat with a loved one gives you the chance for some quality time together, away from all the usual distractions…

Exercise elevates your mood, increasing endorphins and enkephalins, which make you feel good. You may have heard of ‘Runner’s high’ – the state of euphoria reached by those who perform long-duration, rhythmic-type exercise, such as marathon running. You can experience a taste of that sense of well-being just by walking vigorously round the block! Many people even experience similar feelings of euphoria from exercises such as pilates and yoga.

Exercise stabilises blood sugar levels, increases your immunity and aids weight management. Try to have at least 30 minutes exercise a day – do something that raises your heart rate and increases your breathing – even if it is just that brisk walk. Regular stretching relieves muscle tension, improves circulation and increases energy levels – so even when you’re office bound you can still find ways to revitalise yourself! 

Well, it’s a beautiful day – I’m off for a long beach walk and swim with my man. I’ve packed a water bottle, a nutritious picnic lunch, and our favourite music to listen to in the car on the way. I know we’ll have a great day hanging out together, having a laugh. Then home for a damned good sleep…

Ahh, it’s so simple, really…

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