As the winter **hopefully** approaches a turning point, I have been thrilled with the slightly longer days as opposed to pitch darkness starting around 4:00 PM. I find it amazing the extent to which exposure to light has been shown to impact our moods – something which certainly rings true for me. In a cross-cultural study of participants from four different countries at varying distances from the equator, Kuller et al., found that those subjects which were located furthest north experienced “significant variation in psychological mood over the year that did not occur in the countries closer to the equator… [and] the light and color of the workplace itself also had an influence on the mood of persons working there…[with the lowest moods experienced] when the lighting was experienced as much too dark.” Their work demonstrated that light impacted not only the subjective wellbeing of these subjects, but also their productivity and ability to concentrate. And other research shows that natural lighting can help us to feel peaceful and calm and also that daylight can lead to increased serotonin levels which makes us happier, more optimistic, more altruistic, and more energized. Alas arranging a move closer to the sun is not in the cards for me at the moment, but I have found another very effective means of giving myself a little boost. One of my Happiness Project resolutions for the month of February is to “tackle nagging tasks” and I have been amazed by how energizing it is to cross something off the list.
Gretchen Rubin conjectures in her book Better Than Before, “nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started,” and she proposes a solution for addressing her own “lengthy list of small, mildly unpleasant tasks that [she’d] kept putting off – in many cases, for months. Maybe years [because they] weren’t urgent (which is why they didn’t get done), but they weighed on [her] mind and sapped [her energy].” She points out that the little, tedious chores which could be done at any time were in reality never getting done and as their accumulation made them feel disproportionately overwhelming. The solution was to schedule a dedicated time each week to what she calls “Power Hour.” She started with a compiling a list of those nagging tasks which don’t have a specific deadline like dropping of donations of old clothes and books, filing or shredding a pile of documents, building a photo album, or sorting through a drawer of miscellaneous cables and cords and then each week during her Power Hour worked through them one by one.
Over the past month, I have adopted her methodology and have become more conscious of these type of dreaded or nagging tasks in my own life and have been working to address at least one per day. Sometimes it is cleaning out a cupboard, sometimes it’s following up on an email, and sometimes it’s been scheduling an annual doctor’s appointment. I am trying to address these things as they pop into my head without further procrastinating or delaying if it is possible to do right away and if not, I add it to my “Power Hour” list for another day in the very near future. And it is shocking how satisfying it has been! Rubin cites studies which show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in our brains which increase feelings of pleasure, so she encourages readers “if you’re feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you don’t feel like doing, push yourself. You’ll get a big lift from it.” And she is right, it does feel so good to just “eat the frog” and incredibly energizing to close out one of the those nagging tasks.
Aside from building self-efficacy and tying up messy loose ends in my life, I also attribute a lot of my enduring energy to what I eat. By choosing to eat real foods which fuel our bodies adequately and naturally, we maintain the proper hormonal, digestive, and immune function and balance needed to support vitality and vivacity. Although anyone who knows me knows, enthusiasm and energy have never necessarily been in short supply for me, I can definitely say that cleaning up my diet has only furthered my drive and vigor. And it’s been far better than propping myself up with yet another coffee and some sugary vending machine snack at 2:00 PM daily, which led to only a momentary spike and subsequent crash. Relying on minimally processed foods and regular meals provides a consistent stream of nutrients required for stamina and enthusiasm. And one said meal ,that is absolutely packed with zest, is this delicious Whole30 and Paleo Swordfish with Pistachio Gremolata. I served mine over the fish and some simple sautéed spinach, although it goes great over chicken, white fish, or even eggs too. It’s packed with invigorating citrusy flavor which just feels uplifting and energy with each bite!
- Swordfish Steaks 2 each
- Coconut Oil 1 TBSP
- Unsalted Shelled Pistachios .5 cup (50 g)
- Fresh Parsley, Loosely Packed .33 cup (20 g)
- Fresh Mint, Loosely Packed .25 cup (10 g)
- Sea Salt .5 TSP
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes .5 TSP
- Black Pepper .25 TSP
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 TBSP
- Garlic Cloves Minced, 2 Each
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C
- Heat a cast iron skillet (or alternative oven safe pan) over medium high heat and melt the coconut oil.
- Lightly season the swordfish steaks on both sides with salt and pepper to taste and then add to the pan once heated. You should only cook about 1 - 2 minutes per side just to sear.
- Once both sides have been seared, move the pan with the fish to the oven and bake for an additional 8 - 10 minutes or until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, add all ingredients remaining ingredients for the Pistachio Gremolata into a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to combine. I like to leave mine somewhat chunky.
- Spoon the gremolata over the fish or other protein of your choice. It's a zesty topping so I recommend a simple side. You will likely have leftover which you can throw over your next meal or spice up your eggs for breakfast! Keep covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.