In various traditions, energy is called qi. Prana. Life force. Spirit. Pure energy is the essence of who you are. Although there are as many ways to replenish your energy as there are ways to spend it, we've pulled together our best suggestions to benefit body, mind, and spirit, inspired by a range of traditions and disciplines. Try working one or more into your daily routine. Think of it not as first-aid for the weary but as a holistic strategy for creating long-term balance and vitality in your life.
1. Take a Contrast Shower
Hot-cold hydrotherapy, practiced by the Finns for the past 2,000 years, is believed to strengthen immunity, increase circulation, and have a stimulating effect on the body. Although the ancient ritual did not involve a shower -- or modern plumbing for that matter -- you probably don't have immediate access to a sauna and a snowbank, so this will do. After showering, turn the knob to as cold as you can stand it for 30 seconds, switch back to warm, and end on cold. Get your nape, back, and chest. Repeat two or three times.
2. Don't Brew, Squeeze
Start the day with a glass of hot water, the juice of one-quarter to one-half a lemon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper (and a little honey if you want).Why is this a detox staple? Theoretically, says Cathy Wong, N.D., this can increase fat burning and thus the release of fat-soluble toxins from fat cells. Translation: It gets things moving.
3. Pummel Yourself
Borrow this gentle, invigorating exercise from the energy -- cultivating practice of qigong. Gently "drum" the insides and outsides of your arms and down your sides and legs with a loosely closed fist; then drum up the insides of your legs, your abdomen and solar plexus, neck, and lower back. This thumping can stimulate the flow of qi and increase circulation -- plus, it feels really good.
4. Eat Early and Often
If you skip breakfast and scarf a meager lunch, you may hit a wall by mid-afternoon. By the time you get home, you're ravenous, and at that point your body will not be able to "make up" the nutrients it lost all day. Eat a breakfast of complex carbs, protein, and a little fat, and several light but nutritious mini-meals throughout the day.
Taking a moment to stretch each hour or so throughout the day goes a long way toward preventing stiffness, increasing blood circulation, and giving you a shot of energy. Try this right now: Stand up and, taking a deep breath, raise your arms and reach for the sky; hold. Then release the stretch, exhaling and dropping your arms. Beginning with the crown of your head, roll down, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you're hanging forward. Let your arms dangle. Shake and nod your head gently to loosen the neck. Without locking your knees, feel the stretch in the back of your thighs. Enjoy this stretch for a few moments.
6. Make Your Heart Pound
There's a reason you feel so good after exercising. Engaging in vigorous, sweaty exercise for as little as 10 to 30 minutes triggers the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain -- serotonin, adrenaline, and endorphins -- and has been shown to greatly improve mood. Regular exercise has also been shown to do everything from lowering blood pressure to relieving depression -- and no energy regimen would be complete without it. So if you don't exercise regularly, start. And if you already have a steady workout routine, try stepping it up a few days a week by increasing the number of days you do it, or the intensity.
7. Become a Human Sparkler
Don't laugh. Energy isn't a gift -- it's a habit. Try this for a week and see what happens: Become a bright, sparkling source of energy and let it reflect in all that you do. This does not mean "become a big fake" or "act like an insane person," but rather, turn up the volume on what you do best. Set an upbeat pace at the office. Make people laugh. Recognize other people. Do a little more than you have to. Consider it an experiment and watch how others respond to you. Then see how you feel at the end of the week. If you find it unbearable, you can always go back to being grumpy.
8. Find Your Rhythm
One surefire way to free your qi is to pound it out. Skye Alexander, author of "The Care and Feeding of Your Chi," recommends drumming to break down energy blockages, release tension, and improve your mood. Alexander, who participates in a drumming circle twice a week led by a Senegalese shaman and musician, says the group dynamic, paired with the physical act and sound of drumming, makes for a truly holistic and energizing experience.
9. Rediscover Live Theater
Try skipping the movies for a change, and instead treat yourself to a live performance -- whether it's a comedy show, a play, or a band. In a live show, the players and the audience engage one another in an energetic, spontaneous way that just doesn't happen with an edited, pretaped show.
10. Seek Out Energy in Other People
Warning: Not everyone you love functions as an energy support in your life (as if this hadn't already occurred to you).There are a few stars, however, whose enthusiasm is contagious. These people are emotional supplements. Ensure regular doses by building time with them into your busy schedule, and you'll leave your visits feeling more alive and more energized.
11. Find the Four Elements
Reset your energetic rhythms by tuning in to nature. Find a place where you can experience all four elements: earth, air, water, and fire (sun).That could mean the ocean, a pond, or a man-made fountain. Let all four elements create a symphony of sensations around you, replenish your energy, and help you return to your flow.
12. Take in Some Art
Art has an energy all its own. Try not to overintellectualize -- rather, absorb it, letting the color, shape, and other sensual aspects of the art stimulate your own creativity. Immerse yourself in -- and don't just observe -- a work of art, and you'll feel your senses awaken.
13. Energize the Olfactory Way
Essential oils can calm, center, and energize you by reducing the effects of stress and mental fatigue. Rosemary, juniper berry, clary sage, and peppermint revive the senses while citrus oils like lemon, orange, or pink grapefruit balance emotions and energize. Add a few drops to a warm bath or diffuser or light a candle that has been scented with essential oils. When selecting aromatherapy products, look for pure essential oils derived from plants, not "fragrances," which may be chemically produced.
14. Try a Flower Essence
Unlike herbal medicine, which causes a biochemical reaction in the body, flower essences, developed by the late Dr. Edward Bach, work solely on a subtle level, restoring balance in our "vibrational" energy and emotional states. Bach recommended walnut for creating a buffer zone against negativity, hornbeam for banishing that Monday morning feeling, and star of Bethlehem or honeysuckle for healing emotional wounds. Flower essences can be taken internally, used as a linen or room mist, or added to the bath for an emotionally energizing experience.
15. Allow Yourself to be More Sexual
Our sexuality is an undeniable part of who we are. True sexuality is how we live our lives: how we carry ourselves, how we connect with others, and what kind of energy we exude -- not simply an event-driven experience. Do something today that makes you comfortably aware of your more sensual side; appreciate your body for what it is, not what you wish it were. Skip the starched shirt and slip into something softer. Try a new scent.
16. Bust Your Rut
Falling into a routine is only steps away from falling into a rut. The former, when performed mindlessly, can lead to the latter. Expose yourself to new things. Try a new restaurant. Listen to music you've never heard before. When you free blocked energy by letting it roam and play a bit, you begin to feel more connected and alive.
It doesn't matter what higher power or particular religion you adhere to. The power of prayer combines meditation with a connection to a larger source. Call it God, nature, the universe -- the point is that praying in its many forms (while chanting, singing, walking, or sitting) not only gives you a few moments of peace but some perspective as well.
18. Manage Your Relationship With Your Television
The real danger with TV is in letting it consume all of your free time. When you aren't selective about what you watch, you end up watching everything. So like the smart shopper who makes a list in advance and sticks to it without lingering in the aisles, check the listings first and figure out what specific programs you want to watch. The more premeditated and limited your TV time and the more mindful your program choices, the better off you'll be.
19. Stop Multitasking
This highly prized corporate virtue may not be helping you "get ahead" at all. "When you're not at least 80 percent present with what you're doing, you are creating more work for yourself because you're not focused," says Nikki de Carteret, author of "Soul Power." Also, when you're not fully engaged in your work, you may not derive as much satisfaction from it. Do one thing at a time and you'll get more done -- with energy to spare.
20. Give Everything You Do a Personal Touch
You don't have to be a gifted artist to live a creative and inspired life. True creativity reflects your uniqueness, something only you can put into the world. Considered the "mother of all energies," creativity is a blend of intuitive imagination, heart, and intellect that arises from your life force, says Judith Orloff, M.D., a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and author of "Positive Energy." Start simply: Buy a blank card. Give a homemade gift. Cook without a recipe. Redecorate a room in your home.