Everything runs on energy, and so does your creativity. When it comes to creativity, the energy is not the kind of that could be counted in calories, but instead your life force energy, the one that in Eastern philosophy often is called Chi.
You can easily feel when your creative energy is high. You know the days when the sun is shining brighter, your stride is lighter, and you feel like taking on any challenge. Such days your mind is alert, and the thoughts are running lose.
You can also easily recognise the opposite. The days when you are tired or stressed under the pressure of too many things waiting to be done. Everyone around you is pushing for your attention and your mail inbox is filling up faster than you can empty it. On top of that, you may be out of focus due to worries and concerns.
You are both body and mind, yin and yang, and in order to boost and keep your creative energy, you will need to take care of both, or like the old Romans put it; “Mens sana in corpore sano” (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”).
You have been endowed by a body which is an intricate and beautiful piece of machinery, which unlike your car cannot be exchanged for a newer model. Instead you will need to take care of the one human body model you have the best way you can.
The following eight tips will ensure that you will optimise your creative energy, and live a fuller life.
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep is important for restoring your body after an intense day of work (or play). Sleep is also necessary to consolidate your memories and put them in a broader context. Lack of sleep causes slower brainwaves in your prefrontal cerebral cortex, poor attention, anxiety, memory loss and physical and mental fatigue and for a few days without sleep can lead to acute psychosis. In a previous blog post I have written more about the importance of a good night’s sleep.
2. Eat healthy
Modern western diet with a lot of carbohydrates and industry processed food is the main cause of the global obesity epidemic that comes with a number of chronic diseases, notably type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Many natural and non-processed food items are also anti-inflammatory. In a previous blog post I have been writing on how the right food could increase your creativity.
3. Exercise regularly
In order to keep your energy high and at the same time reduce the risk of disease, regular exercise is important. High-intensity training may be addictive (in a positive way) to some individuals due to the regular excretion of endorphins – the body’s own opiates.
But for those who are less interested in intensive training, it may be comforting to know that also light training, such as half an hour’s brisk walk four times a week brings you all the benefits that are related to good health and increased energy levels. The most important thing is to choose a form of exercise that appeals to you, and that you are likely to continue exercising year after year. Exercising regularly has a number of positive effects:
- Your health is improving: Regular exercise has a number of positive health effects. Training reduces blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, lowers the blood pressure, prevents inflammation, reduces cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer, strengthens the skeleton, reduces weight, and increases life expectancy.
- Your sleep is improving: Studies have shown that physical exercise counteracts problems with insomnia.
- You get an energy kick: Low-intensity exercise (walking) reduces fatigue and gives up to 20% energy boost. The effect of a brisk walk on the immediate energy level is greater than a hard work-out.
- Your memory is improving: Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming increases the size of the hippocampus, which regulates memory and learning.
- Improves your self esteem: Regardless of intensity, training has shown to make us find ourselves more attractive.
- Improves the sex life: The sex life can of course be improved by higher energy, weight loss and increased self-esteem. But research has also shown that regular exercise increases the sexual ability of men and the sexual desire of women.
4. Enjoy sex and physical touch
Most forms of soft physical touch (caresses, hugs, massage and sex) feel very enjoyable, and this is partly due to the body secreting the hormone oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”.
In the brain, oxytocin is also involved in processes that relates to our social context, connection with other people, trust, empathy and generosity. It is also stress-reducing and anxiolytic and has an important role during pregnancy and lactation. Intimacy and physical touch is therefore very important to our mental well-being in all stages of our lives.
When we have sex, oxytocin plays a major role for our enjoyment, but it’s not the only hormone that does this. At the orgasm, the second “feel-good-hormone”, dopamine, is also excreted, as well as endorphins. But in addition to the positive oxytocin effects , regular sex also has many other benefits, not least for the health.
Sexual activity improves the immune system by increasing the levels of certain antibodies in the blood. Sex in itself is also a form of physical exercise and regular sex therefore gives all the benefits we have seen in the above section. It has also been shown in different studies that sex reduces the experience of pain – including headaches!
In men, regular ejaculations also protect against prostate cancer, and in both sexes, sexual activity keeps the hormones (estrogen and testosterone) in balance.
Finally, regular sex also improves the sexual experience itself and makes the sex better.
4. Minimise the stress factors
The now living generations are probably the most stressed out in history. The work-life balance is getting increasingly difficult. Living both the physical life and a 24/7 online virtual one adds rather than decreases the stress. An eternal strive to earn more money to buy more things is the frosting on the stress cake.
From time to time it could therefore be good to sit down and see what are the stress factors in your life, all the things you do that drain more energy from you than they give you. If possible then try to eliminate as many of them as you can.
If you are really honest with yourself, there are probably a lot of things you do because you feel obliged to, and not because you really want to do them. Life is too short to always try to please others, especially when no one is thanking you. Learn to say NO more often.
In the end who is really grateful for the extra hours you spend at work instead of playing with your children or spending with your friends. You may also do things to please your ego. The kick of feeling indispensible could be very powerful. Realise you aren’t. None of us is.
Just as you can choose what to do, you can also choose how to do it. Of all the hundreds of different small activities that you have to do every day, it is important to put on a reasonable level of ambition.
When you go for lunch on a regular weekday, it is important to go to a restaurant where the food is good enough, but you do not have to spend hours finding the absolute best lunch spot. Same thing when you clean the house. It should be good enough for you to feel satisfied, but every piece of dust under the cupboards need not be gone. And honestly, do you really need that new car, when your old still takes you where you want to go?
The Nobel laureate Herbert Simon has coined the concept of satisficing or the art of living your life at the optimum rather than perfection. Always going for the perfect and choosing between a large number of fairly equivalent alternatives creates stress and fatigue in the form of information overload.
In all aspects of our lives we are overloaded with different alternatives, and all the time choosing between a large number of fairly equivalent options creates stress and fatigue in the form of information overload. Each active decision requires mental energy and modern neuropsychology research has shown that we as humans are only able to make a certain number of considered decisions per day. Then it will stop regardless of how important the decision is.
By instead going for the optimum, you can avoid a lot of stress while you have enough time to invest your full energy on the things that really matter.
In the end, the happiest people are not the ones who have the most but the ones who are happy with what they have and can spend their time on what they are passionate about.
5. Manage your time
This brings us to time management. Let us assume that you now have cut out a lot of things that you no longer spend time on, but what about the rest?
We believe that we are able to multitask, but that’s an illusion. Every time you shift your attention to a new task, energy is required; less for the small tasks and more for the larger, but any shift does have an energy cost.
Therefore always try to get as much uninterrupted time for what you’ll need to do. Turn off the alert signals on your computer and smart phone, put a busy sign on your door, and try to avoid any other distraction.
Also have in mind the pareto principle that 80% of the benefits comes from 20% of the efforts. Therefore, try to identify and focus on the important 20% and if possible cut down on the rest.
6. Look for inspiration
Things and experiences that intrigue you and tickle your mind and fantasy are not only fuel for your creative abilities but also energy boosters. Even though we are creatures of habits, try to challenge yourself at least once every day by doing something out of the ordinary.
Read books that give you new dimensions. Watch a documentary on TV rather than a soap. Visit an art gallery. Go to a poetry slam. Or take a walk in the nature.
7. Find your passion
To live a complete and full life we will need to find a deeper purpose. This may sound grand and overwhelming, but need not to be. You don’t need to find the cure for cancer or become a buddhist monk, but in order to live fully, you would need something that would ignite your passion and give meaning to your life.
What this woul be, will be different to different people, and often something simple, but still of great importance to you. Maybe it is to devote yourself to your grandchildren in a way you did not have time for with your own children, or following your favourite sports team, or solving difficult crossword puzzles.
Your passion may very well change over time, but when you’ve found it in the life where you are right now, stick to it and seize the opportunities to endulge in it. Your surrounding may not always understand or appreciate it, but in the end they will also benefit from you being a more complete person to be around.
8. Strive for happiness
The final tip concerns your happiness. That does not mean that it is the least important, rather the opposite. Dalai Lama and other wise people claim that the real purpose of our lives is to find happiness. In recent years, happiness research has shown how we can change our lives ourselves to become happier. In a previous blog post, I wrote about twelve strategies to incraese your happiness.
If you want to read more about how to increase your life energy, I can also recommend Sanna Ehdin’s excellent book on increasing your energy! Höj din energi! Nyckeln till ett starkt, friskt och lyckligt liv. (available in Swedish).