OPINION: Why energy is the key to leading a happy life

Simple changes to your lifestyle and diet could do wonders for your energy levels

Simple changes to your lifestyle and diet could do wonders for your energy levels - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Energy is everything. Is this true? Pretty much, I think.

Look at the example of someone like Sir Stephen Hawking. For decades he struggled with all the disability associated with Motor Neurone Disease and though, far too quickly, he was unable to use much physical energy, his mental energy sustained him through a most celebrated career in physics.

I met him in the early days of his illness. Beforehand, in preparation for the interview we were going to have, someone in the MND organisation referred to the professor as the ‘greatest brain since Einstein’. I have every reason to believe it. Certainly, he was phenomenal, spirited, determined and, yes, energetic.

People with energy get things done. They don’t just moan about problems they act upon them and seek solutions.

It does of course help if you are naturally energetic. I have said before in this column that some individuals are born happier and more naturally optimistic than others. 

The same is undoubtedly true of energy. Some individuals seem to emerge from the womb with more get- up-and-go than the rest of us. But, just as with happiness, we can all work on becoming more energetic. And a good reason for doing so, is that life becomes smoother if you have greater reserves of energy.

Also, energy often goes hand in hand with enthusiasm – and when we are enthusiastic, we enjoy life more and tend to make it more pleasurable for those around us too.

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So, let’s think about how to increase both our mental and physical energy.

Mental Energy

I believe the key to mental energy is a sense of purpose. Obviously when we are younger our purpose is governed by having to make enough money to feed, clothe and house our families. And there is usually a job in the mix and a need to prioritise it, get there on time and so on.

Often as we age, we’ve dealt with all that early stuff and moved beyond those original purposes. But sometimes we fail to adequately replace them with other important reasons for living.

Every anti-ageing expert I’ve encountered has maintained that having a sense of purpose is essential to living a full, vibrant and viable older age.

So, if you don’t feel very useful or purposeful, this could be a cause of your lack of mental energy.

It would certainly be true to say that most of us feel more purposeful if we have high spots in our day that guarantee enjoyment. If my case, I know that if I go to a choir rehearsal, I will come away re-energised and with a spring in my step, no matter how tired I felt before it.

What could you do more of, that would help you feel upbeat and energised?

Lots of people feel better for playing music in a band, orchestra or folk group. Others feel perked up by going to a talk at the library, or attending a foreign language conversation class, or a book group. Do you have enough mood-lifters in your life?

Physical energy

Physical energy is greatly influenced by mental energy. Our minds can make us do the most extraordinarily challenging activities and keep us going when we flag. But we can also

improve physical energy by being fitter. We should always remember that when we do something energetic, we tend, over time, to increase our levels of energy.

As I have said repeatedly in this column, we all need to exercise, and usually rather more than we think. But to ensure that we stick at it, it’s wise to pick activities that we like.

I’m a hopeless runner. And I hate step classes. So, they wouldn’t help me. But there are masses of other types of exercise I like, and that is true of most of us.

What could you do?

Energy-boosting foods

Some foods are generally accepted as being better than others for increasing energy. I’ve just done a trawl through a number of reputable health websites to find out more, so you don’t have to!

Here’s my list of the energy boosters that get mentioned time and time again.

Banana, beans, eggs, Greek yoghurt, nuts and seeds, oats, salmon, sweet potato and coconut water. And, on the subject of water, all experts say that often when we lack energy, we’re actually thirsty and dehydrated. More fluid can help to increase energy, so the best pick-me-up may be as simple as a glass of tap water.

Finally, I know that everything I’ve outlined here takes effort. And I appreciate that so many people at the moment feel depleted in energy. I’ve lost count of the individuals who have said to me: "I don’t seem to have any energy, is it to do with the pandemic?"

Well, it may be - especially in the case of those with Long Covid. But it’s going to be decades before we know what the full impact – physically and mentally – has been of the corona virus. Meantime, I suggest that each and every one of us commits to doing what we can to improve such energy levels as we have. 
It’ll be a step in the right direction!