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Fuzzy, foggy, and nodding off at your desk by 3? We’ve got your fix. Try these six easy, offbeat ways to clear the cobwebs and zap afternoon slumps. You can even do them in the middle of your workday, in 10 minutes or less.
1. Go upside down
If you’re sitting or standing for long periods of time, inversions – positions that place the head below the hips – are a speedy way to restore energy, alertness and drive. Going upside down stimulates blood flow (and thus the supply of oxygen and nutrients) from the lower extremities, and research shows inversions promote the release of neurotransmitters associated with attention, concentration and mood. Plus, countering gravity supports the flow of lymph, encouraging the removal of toxins and enhancing energy.
Inversions range from more challenging postures (like Supported Handstand) to more restorative poses, like Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Even lying on your back and resting your legs vertically against a wall in Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose quickly refreshes and invigorates. And you can add yogic breathing to magnify the effects. Short, shallow breathing is linked with stamina-sapping stress and sleep disruptions, and deep belly breathing has been shown to significantly lower cortisol, ease tension and stimulate snooze-inducing melatonin.
2. Let the sun shine in
Artificial light, poor lighting and fluorescent bulbs impact cortisol, increase anxiety and promote faster fatigue. Natural, full-spectrum light from the sun contains all the colors of the rainbow, including wavelengths and colors we can’t even see; research links exposure to full-spectrum light with stamina, concentration, enhanced mood and better sleep.
If you’re working inside, move your desk close to a window, fling open the curtains, lift the shades and let the sun stream in. If windows aren’t an option, turn off overhead lights and install a full-spectrum lamp. Or, take sun-bathing breaks. Head outside for 10 minutes and soak up the rays for a body-and-brain reset – studies show exposure to sunlight ups production of endorphins, which are associated with pleasure, gratification and motivation.
3. Chew gum
Popping a piece of peppermint gum magnifies energy in a couple of ways. The act of chewing activates the nervous system and boosts blood flow to the brain; in one study, people who chewed gum for 20 minutes were more energized than their non-chewing counterparts. And the scent of peppermint increases alertness, reduces sleepiness and enhances focus and concentration. (Other invigorating scents include rosemary, sweet orange, lemon and cinnamon).
Even better: Take a break from your desk and chew gum while you’re walking. Physical movement promotes alertness and clarity, and some research shows chewing gum while walking increases heart rate, walking speed, distance and calories burned.
Here’s a quick, essential fix for desk jockeys: Get up and jump! The act of jumping fires up circulation, frees up stored energy, lessens fatigue and stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin and other happy brain chemicals. And research suggests jumping on a trampoline (called “rebounding”) improves fitness and stamina more efficiently than running. Plus, rebounding is linked with enhanced immunity, bone mass and fat loss.
Get up from your desk and jump – on a trampoline, with a jump rope, even hopping in place – for 10 minutes to quickly energize your whole body. Or, try vibrating; sitting, standing or working out on a machine with a vibrating platform activates muscles, increases circulation, revs up metabolism and discharges stress. You’ll find vibrating platforms at most fitness clubs, or check online for affordable at-home options (many under $100).
5. Crank up the volume
For instant inspiration, turn up the tunes – and make it loud. High-volume music is proven to sharpen focus and elevate mood. Upbeat sounds are key; lively selections enhance stamina, and in one study, helped runners significantly increase their speed.
To amplify the effects, move your body and sing along. Interacting with a spirited song is shown to mitigate fatigue better than static listening. Singing also discharges stress hormones, boosts serotonin and other feel-good brain chemicals. You can also get up and dance. Physical movement offsets hours of sitting, amps up circulation and infuses vitality.
Other studies link high frequency binaural beats – listening to two different tones, one in each ear – with measurable improvements in alertness, concentration and motivation. Look for selections online, and listen through headphones to optimize the effectiveness.
6. Go dark
Starting at a computer for hours at a time and obsessively monitoring your inbox is overall exhausting. Research shows frequently checking emails and social media increases stamina-sapping stress. And blue light from computers, phones and other electronics interferes with melatonin production, decreasing restorative REM, disrupting the body’s natural cycles and leading to next-day slumps.
Minimize the impact of this light by installing a filter over computer screens, wearing orange-colored glasses to block blue light and avoiding electronics close to bedtime. Limit visits to your inbox and social media throughout the day, and respond to messages in chunks, instead of every few minutes. Even better, go completely dark: Set a timer for 10 minutes, shut off devices, put on noise-cancelling earphones and turn off the lights. Eliminating sensory input allows the brain to reboot, enhancing mental energy, focus and clarity.