3. Learn the art of self-observation. This is such a key skill that Thayer teaches an entire course on self-observation and behavior change at Cal State Long Beach. It's human nature that what happens immediately after an action tends to reinforce that action, he says. Eating always feels good immediately after, though not necessarily for long (guilt and anxiety often come into play, for example), whereas the energy surge from exercise may take a while to become apparent. "What's really important is to look not only at how something makes you feel immediately, but also at how it makes you feel an hour later," Thayer says. So try your own self-study: What effect does caffeine have on you in the morning, afternoon and evening? How about exercise, including intensity, time of day and type of activity? Once you understand your own highly individual responses, you can use your knowledge to overcome your impulses — especially your "tense tired" impulses, those that beg for the immediate comfort of sweets and the couch rather than for the more lasting benefits of a good workout or a conversation with a close friend.

4. Listen to music. Music is second only to exercise in raising energy and reducing tension, according to Thayer, though younger people tend to use this method a lot more than older people. Thayer feels that music is underused as a highly efficient method of lifting mood. Try a gorgeous aria, jazz riff, or even hard rock — any music you like works.

5. Take a nap — but not for long! "Many people don't know how to nap properly, so they say that napping makes them feel worse," Thayer says. The trick is to limit the nap to 10–30 minutes. Any longer will leave you feeling groggy and also keep you from getting a good night's sleep. You will feel low in energy when you first arise from a nap, Thayer cautions, but that will soon dissipate and leave you feeling refreshed.

In fact, not getting enough sleep is a primary reason for our nationwide energy slump; we now average less than seven hours a night, and all the sleep science we have recommends a minimum of eight. "Our whole society has been speeding up — we're working more, sleeping less," Thayer says, "and that ends up making us eat more and exercise less."

6. Socialize. When people in Thayer's study were asked what they do to raise their spirits (and consequently their energy level), women overwhelmingly said they look for social contact — they call or see a friend, or they initiate social interactions. This can be extremely effective, according to Thayer. So the next time you feel your energy sagging, instead of reaching for chocolate, make a date with friends. Your mood (and your waistline) will thank you.

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