Motivation can be a tricky thing to maintain, but here at Medical News Today, we have done some research and can now bring you our top five ways to stay motivated across several aspects of life.
Motivation can be a problematic part of modern life for many of us.
There are all kinds of aspects of our work and personal lives that we feel require motivation, and it is common for people to struggle to maintain the momentum of motivation.
Feeling unmotivated can come with unpleasant feelings of guilt, stagnation, or laziness. On the other hand, feeling motivated might create a sense of energy, purpose, and well-being.
In this article, we look at how staying motivated can help with five health-related aspects of modern life: exercise, eating well, being sociable, dealing with negativity, and coping during the winter months.
1. How to stay motivated to exercise
A good way to stay motivated to exercise is to not rely too heavily on one certain exercise regimen. By varying your training styles you will be able to stay focused for longer, which may help you to achieve your exercise goals faster.
In addition, introducing a wider variety of training programs into your exercise routine will boost your overall fitness; your body will be unable to adapt to the training intensity of one particular program.
See exercise as a luxury, not a chore. If your mindset interprets exercise as a chore, you will find it difficult to have anything other than negative associations with it.
Try to make exercise a part of your daily routine; if exercise is simply another thing that you have to accomplish during your day, then this may help to relieve those negative, chore-like impressions.
Remember that exercise is pleasurable and rewarding. When we exercise, our bodies produce chemicals called endorphins that both dampen down feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. Some athletes even report feeling a "high" after long periods of exercise.
Working out does not have to be a punishing, solitary exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have the same health goals — be it working out with friends or joining a class.
Seeing how committed other people are to exercising can be inspiring, and by exercising socially, you can help to motivate each other.
2. How to stay motivated during winter
Staying motivated at anything during the cold season can be challenging. It is harder to exercise, eat healthfully, socialize, and keep your spirits up.
These tips from the National Athletic Trainers' Association on how to stay motivated during winter might give you that much-needed little boost to get going in winter.
Before exercising, use stretches to warm up your muscles. This is important because cold weather constricts muscles. For best results, hold your leg, arm, and calf stretches for 30 seconds each.
If running or walking is your favored method of exercise, remember that you can still do this during winter, but you have to make sure that you wear winter-appropriate clothing.
Even shoveling snow can be a great winter workout — if you live in an area that snows heavily this time of year, at least. To avoid injuring your back, neck, or shoulders, ensure that you stand with your feet and shoulders facing the shovel. Start slowly at first and then work on building up endurance.
3. How to stay motivated to eat well
Anybody attempting to lose weight knows that sticking to a diet can be hellishly difficult, but there are some simple tips that make it easier to stay motivated. The CDC, for instance, suggest an approach that they refer to as "Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce."
In this model, the CDC suggest creating a food diary that includes notes reflecting on how you felt when you decided to eat. Highlight any habits on your list that could lead you to overeat, such as feeling tired or stressed, but also note any good eating habits, such as eating fruit for dessert or drinking fat-free milk.
By having a list of reasons other than hunger that trigger you to overeat, you can begin to work on avoiding these situations or replacing unhealthful habits with new, healthful ones.
For instance, if you find that you eat when you feel bored or anxious, you might try to replace this behavior by eating only when you are truly hungry.
The final step in "Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce" is to work everyday at reinforcing these habits. This takes time, so do not be too hard on yourself. Remember: this is simply a tactic to motivate yourself rather than to change all of your eating habits overnight.
4. How to stay motivated to be more sociable
As well as helping to maintain good mental health, being sociable has some less obvious benefits. For instance, a 2011 study found that the "odds of surviving stroke appear to be much better for seniors" living in sociable neighborhoods.
Plus, even the most gregarious of us can often struggle to make that extra effort to socialize if we have fallen into a comfortable habit of spending time at home.
At this time of year, it is common to feel "burnt out" following the holiday season. However, as we explained in our article on seasonal affective disorder last November, keeping your social skills sharp in these cold months might help to safeguard against the winter blues.
The Improve Your Social Skills Blog has some great tips for staying motivated to be sociable. The writers outline a simple trick that you can perform yourself: "If you have a choice to be social or non-social, instead make it a choice between two social options."
"In other words, instead of asking 'Should I go to that party on Friday night?' find another social opportunity for Friday night, and choose between those two."
So, for example, by choosing between seeing a new movie or going to a party, you have subtly removed the "stay home and do not socialize" option from the table.
Let's say you go to the party. Perhaps the fear has kicked in a little and you begin to feel anxious about talking to people — especially new people. The same trick can be applied here. Instead of thinking, "Do I start a conversation or not?" rephrase it to, "Who do I start a conversation with?"
Sometimes, of course, you need to give yourself some alone time to recharge, but this is a neat trick to motivate yourself to be more sociable.
5. How to stay motivated in difficult times
For all kinds of reasons, sometimes we find ourselves in negative situations, and those situations breed negative thinking that, if left unchecked, can be difficult to overcome, putting our mental health and stability at risk in the process.
Overcoming negative thinking in hard times requires a constant effort to readdress your mindset. If you find yourself in an adverse situation, in order to rebalance the negativity you are experiencing, try to read and listen to only positive information. Find things that inspire and uplift you, and gorge yourself on them.
Surround yourself with positive people and try not to engage in negative conversations. Try to say positive affirmations out loud or write them down as a daily reminder of your goals and where your focus should be.
Make a big deal of your accomplishments. Take the time to celebrate or reward yourself every time you reach a goal. Train yourself to attach value to objects that symbolize your achievements and refer back to these to keep you motivated when you are going through difficult times.
For those of us who live in places that are cold and dark at this time of year, these motivational techniques may be especially useful.
Whether it's keeping moving, eating healthfully, or conquering stressful feelings, anxiety, and depression, we hope that this article provided you with some new ideas to stay motivated.