Is it possible to improve our motivation?
In my previous post Why is motivation important, we learned what motivation is, and the two main types; intrinsic and extrinsic. In this post we’ll explore little or no motivation, what to do about it, and find out if it’s possible to improve our motivation.
Just to remind you that, in their simplest form, you can think about the two types of motivation as:
- Extrinsic = related to what we have to do.
- Intrinsic = related to what we want to do.
We’re all motivated by different things and at different points in our lives. The same task can have more intrinsic motivators at certain times and more extrinsic motivators at others. And most tasks have a combination of the two. But sometimes, some of us have:
Little or no motivation
My previous post ended quite abruptly because my energy and motivation were flagging, due to ill-health. And I’m pretty sure you’ve all had this happen on occasion? In fact, I think most people have.
Imagine J. K. Rowling thinking one day, “I can’t be bothered telling or writing stories anymore. It’s too much like hard work.” or
Holly Willoughby wakes up one morning, thinking, “nope, I’m not doing this, I just don’t feel like doing anything today.”
At some point, most people will have had thoughts like this. The truth is, we all goes through periods where we have no motivation to do anything. We’ve all struggled to stay motivated when working towards a goal. It’s human nature. In fact, some days we have such a downer that even thinking about making positive changes feels impossible.
So, what can we do about this little or no motivation?
Let’s start off with, it’s not hopeless! We can start our journey down the road to improved motivation — with some small steps.
When shopping, have you seen huge displays of vitamins, herbs, and other supplements like purple dandelion touted as energy boosters? They’re even added to teas, soft drinks and many other foods. However, there’s not much evidence that energy boosters like chamomile, turmeric ginseng, or crushed owls eyes actually work. Fortunately, we have ways to enhance our own natural energy levels and improve our motivation.
Okay, I know you don’t feel like doing anything some days, and you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and in fact I still get stuck in that downward spiral now and again. But I’ve learned some small steps to help me crawl out of that downer, and that’s what we’ll look at in this post.
We all have downers or lows in terms of energy and motivation. We can be stuck and overwhelmed from time to time, which can reduce motivation. It’s at times like this when we need to find that motivation within ourselves. The next time you feel exhausted and unmotivated, try one or several of the following suggestions to get motivated again.
Suggestions for how to improve your motivation
So how can you practice improving your motivation? By doing just that – practicing. I’ve probably bored the pants off you when I say practice, but trust me, that’s what’s needed. Think of motivation as being a muscle, and that you have to keep practicing to strengthen it.
Some of you reading this have, like me, a mental illness which further reduces our energy and motivation to do anything. I get that and can empathise with you, but we all need to start somewhere. Why not here, and now?
We learned in previous posts that action comes first, and motivation comes after. So you……
Want to improve your motivation? Just get started!
Take action. Move. Do something. Get up out of your chair, if you’re physically able. Now, standing, raise your arms and hands up above over your head, as though reaching for the sky. Go on. You need to practice all this, so that when you really need it, you can use it in an instant. Hands up, and stretch……..
Life Hack suggest “letting loose all the body parts, allowing a non-disrupted flow of energy throughout it. This will make the blood flow better, especially coming to your head which needs to focus on demanding cognitive tasks. So stand up from your chair and stretch yourself out because it will make you more energized.” You can also try some simple stretches at work, in college or uni and even in your local park.
After a few minutes of reaching up and stretching, relax. Put your arms down by your sides and as you do so, relax some more. Make sure your shoulders drop down from your ears, unclench your teeth and your jaw, and uncurl your fingers. Relax. And breathe.
I mentioned in my last post that I’d used this technique and followed through with helping to clean my flat. That motivated me further to think about other odd jobs I can tackle. So, the action certainly motivated me.
Control your stress
We all know that stress-induced emotions consume massive amounts of our energy and reduce our motivation. So, know your limits as to how much stress you can realistically take on.
Talking to family, close friends, or perhaps a counsellor can all help reduce stress and get your mojo back. Relationships play a major part in our lives and are the main source of our happiness. So, one of the best energy boosters is actually meeting up and just having a good time. In the meantime, when you start to feel stressed, stop!
Take a moment, and breathe. I mean really breathe. First, exhale through your mouth, in little puffs – out until you feel you can’t do it anymore. Second, inhale slowly and deeply, in through your nose until your lungs are filled with air. Out again through your mouth, little puffs, slowly. In through your nose. When you’ve done this three times, you can stop, and relax.
Remember that your body cannot be both relaxed and stressed at the same time
You might also want to try other natural stress relievers like mindfulness, hypnosis, yoga, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, relaxation and visualisation. There’s heaps of evidence proving that these techniques help reduce stress and can promote improved motivation. So don’t dismiss them until you’ve tried them.
Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect, Neuroscience News, 2019.
Lighten your load
Overwork is one reason for fatigue i.e. at work or at home, or because of our ever-increasing social commitments. However, you can also be fatigued due to depression or other mental illnesses. Try streamlining your list of ‘have- to-do’ activities. List your priorities in terms of the essential tasks first. Cut back on those that are less important. You might want to try asking people for help, at home, at work or in your role as fundraiser at the kids’ school.
Start by saying “No!” to people who regularly ask favours — you don’t have to tell them why or that you’re too stressed out and overloaded. Say calmly and firmly “No!” and if you must elaborate, try saying “No, not today.” And. Smile. Then don’t suddenly change your mind, like “Oh! Okay, go on then,” even if they persist.
You might also find one of my previous articles Strategies to relieve your stress helpful.
Stay in the moment
Whenever we’re doing something, we’re always thinking about the next thing we’ve got to do. So we’re constantly chasing things in the future, which is never quite here, in the moment. For example:
You’re working on a project at work at the moment, but you can’t stop thinking about the meeting you’ve got in an hour. When you get to the meeting, you’re thinking about picking the kids up and what’s for dinner. During dinner you’re thinking about the call you have to make to mum before you go to bed.
When you finally get into bed, you’re thinking about (nope, not that) putting a wash on before breakfast. On you go, in this never-ending cycle until you’re dizzy, you’re exhausted, out of energy and motivation to do anything. Sound familiar?
Stop! Stay in the moment and enjoy now! We can all try to plan for the future, but I’ve yet to meet someone who can see into the future. So, stop wasting time thinking and worrying about things that might never happen. Living in the moment not only brings energy but saves the energy you’d waste thinking and worrying about everything you’ve got to do next.
Mindfulness is an effective tool you can use to stay, and live in the moment.
I’ve read that the best way to increase motivation is to power up our self-motivation. That’s what we’ll look at in my next post, and I’ll let you have some tried and tested strategies that might help you.
Over to you
Have you tried any of the above ways to improve your motivation? Or, will you give them a go? I look forward to receiving your feedback, any constructive criticism, or your comments and any questions. In the meantime, keep practicing 😉
27 thoughts on “Can we improve our motivation when we’re exhausted?”
It’s nice to see you phrasing it as ‘practicing’ because I feel like most of what I hear about motivation is to ‘just do it’ and make it happen – I’ve been working on motivation for years, and my depression constantly causes setbacks, but that’s why practice is so important. And thank you for the reminder to stay in the moment – we can’t hear that enough! 👏
Bless you Nathan 🙂 I agree, there’s so much
‘stuff’ telling us ‘just do it.’
If it was that easy, we’d all be ‘doing it’ and we’d all be motivated every minute of every day. Only we won’t. Because we’re all different and have different levels of energy and motivation, and have different goals and timeframes.
Some of us even have a mental illness would believe?
I find breathing exercises/techniques to be great for relaxation, I’d not considered using them for motivation. One particular one that I use is to use a finger to close one nostril and breathe in fully through the other, then switch to close that nostril and breathe out fully through the one that was closed first…it really works!
Great advice and useful tips as always Caz, thank you 😊
Caz, simply a great post – correct that, it’s brilliant! In fact, I need this as a daily pop up.
Aaawww, how lovely of you to say this Sean, I really appreciate it. Caz
Practicing is a good way of putting things. And, I know what they say about not being relaxed and stressed at same time?! I don’t think I agree tho! I can be relaxed and very anxious all at once.
Wow, now that is unusual. Perhaps trying and practising some of the suggestions will alleviate this.
Hey, I’m delighted to see that you haven’t left our blogging community. Did I read you were taking a break 😉
I am taking a break. I am easing my way into it.
“So, one of the best energy boosters is actually meeting up and just having a good time.”
And I think that’s one of the reasons that COVID19 has affected me so much… this simple act is now something we’re being told not to do, and if we do, we have to be extremely careful to the point of being distrustful.
Yes, I dare say it’s create more problems, not only for those of us with mental illness. But I dare say if someone didn’t have anxiety pre-Covid, they might have it now.
We’re lucky, we can go out now, even tho’ we have to wear masks!
great post and great ideas to boost motivation and mood for everyone!!!
Really great advice! I’ve been told to do breathing exercises and find them really useful for anxiety but haven’t used them to motivate me before – will try it next time I’m in a slump! I’m also really bad at staying present on the task I’m working on at the moment, and I think you’re right that this can increase stress and make you less motivated for the next thing because you’ve been half thinking about it for so long already – I hadn’t thought of that before either 🙂
Thank you. It’s great that you use breathing techniques already and yes, please try the motivation exercise. I’d be interested to hear how you get on.
Well done to you for recognising the impact of staying in the moment, rather than your thoughts about future things.
I’ll be writing an article on the various breathing techniques and how they can help with both physical and mental health. Keep a look out for it. Caz x
Thank you 🙂 Will do, looking forward to reading it 🙂
These are really great tips! What helps me most with improving my motivation is planning my day/week out and breaking everything that needs to be done into smaller doable tasks. And of course squeezing in some positive reinforcements helps too!
Thank you Pooja. Yes, you’re right, that’s a great tip — breaking everything down to smaller doable tasks. I always used to do the hardest/toughest things first, them I’m able to sail through my days knowing I have lighter tasks ahead 😉
Yes that’s a good way too- get the tough stuff done first!
I read a few things about motivation and I enjoyed reading your perspective. There are a lot of ways to try and help us move past our slumps. 🦋
Thank you. And I agree, there are many ways, and I know it’s not always easy – we can but try x
THere have been times when I haven’t felt like studying. Not a word. Then I start by fragmenting my targets. Like sometimes I say, I will read just one paragraph in half and hour. Watching myself do a little boosts me and I am slowly able to get into flow.
Very relevant and helpful post. I am glad to know that everyone experiences such lows and that it’s possible to climb out of such mood by practice
Thank you for your lovely comments. And you’re right, you’re not along 🙂 And it’s great that you’re able to boost motivation, small steps at a time. Caz x
quite interesting and informative
Stay safe happy wealthy and healthy
That streamlining strategy has been a hard one for me to implement, but it’s been so helpful. A to-do list with a hundred things on it is so intimidating compared to a few high-priority goals. I’ve often got caught in the trap of believing I had to do every single task before I could rest. That attitude usually backfired because I would call procrastination “preparing myself” and do absolutely nothing. It’s much more helpful to allow myself to postpone or drop the things that don’t need to be done right now in favor of completing a manageable number of tasks per day.
Procrastination is awful. My son experienced this and actually went to see his counsellor to discuss it as it was leading him to depression. He’s worked it out now, but will still go to his counsellor when he’s struggling with ‘stuff’.
As a MH nurse, my diary always had a daily to do list and whatever I couldn’t get done that day, it would go top of my list the next day. It was easier to keep on top of things. And that’s where I get all my reflection from 🙂
So glad I did that, and now I can look back and see how much I accomplished 🙂
Good ideas. (Sorrrry, but my browser won’t let me “like” this post.)