How to Increase Mental Energy

A mentally alert brain is critical to health and to productivity. Here's how to beat sluggishness and enhance your mental energy.

By Dr. Paul Nussbaum from

Everyone experiences moments when we feel sluggish or perhaps hyperactive. Sometimes our brains feel like they are stuck in mud while other times we can solve almost any problem we confront. Interestingly, these cycles of mental energy or arousal may occur within a 24 hour time period, our circadian rhythm.

Some of us have our creative time or the time we perform best mentally in the morning hours; others in the evening hours. There is no right or wrong, simply different. Some people who work after midnight or in a mine shaft that has no natural light can experience a different circadian rhythm than those who work during the day and have exposure to natural sunlight. Sleep disorders, depression, and cognitive problems can result from altered sleep/wake cycles.

There is no clear explanation for when arousal is highest in some and lowest for others. Some factors that can enhance or reduce mental energy or arousal include the following:

•     Amount of daily exercise

•     Amount of sleep in 24 hours

•     Types of foods consumed

•     Water intake and hydration

•     Exposure to sunlight

•     Prescribed medication and substance abuse

•     Mental challenge during the day

One of the best methods to increase mental energy is to increase blood flow to the brain through movement. This can include a brisk walk, aerobics, brain games, swimming, and even dancing. Fresh air can also rejuvenate a sluggish brain, as can increased water intake to remain hydrated during the day. Sugar can put the brain to sleep in some cases or make it feel like a good nap is needed. Caffeine can provide a quick boost, but may result in a type of mental crash later in the day.

It is a good idea to first identify what periods of the day your brain is alert and productive and when it is sluggish. Try to identify what factors might be causing the onset of sluggishness and consider the brain tips suggested above.

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