We all know that some of the best ways to look after our mental and physical health involve doing exercise, eating healthy food, and keeping our minds busy and purposeful. But in the same breath, staying motivated to actually do those things can sometimes be the hardest part.
If you’ve been struggling to get-up-and-go recently or stay on top of your wellbeing, we hope the following 8 tips will help you find or boost your motivation…
1. Focus on the positives and celebrate the little things
While staying well-informed is important if we are to keep up to date with the latest government guidelines – it can be very helpful to limit the amount of time you spend looking at negative news stories, and dwelling on everything that frustrates you about the current situation.
A few of the team at Rest Less reported feeling their energy draining away whilst reading the news, so some have taken steps to limit their news consumption to 30 minutes in the late afternoon and are reporting great boosts in their mood as a result. Everyone will have their own rhythm but the team here found that reading the news first thing in the morning affected their mood for the rest of the day, whereas doing it just before bed led to challenges switching off and sleeping.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that alongside the negative news, there are also positive stories about coronavirus infections in the UK being at their lowest in 7 months, of people socialising outdoors again, and of course the fact that life is slowly returning to normal. Worldwide, there have also been stories of solidarity and kindness, as people do what they can to help each other through this challenging time. So, if you can’t stay away from the news, then try to extract as many positive stories from the rest as you can. They may offer you some comfort and hope.
It can also be helpful to focus your energy on the good things in your life – however small. This could simply be the fact that you baked a tasty banana bread yesterday, went for a walk in the sunshine today, or that you’re looking forward to finding out what happens next in a book that you’re really enjoying. Positivity can go a long way in helping us to feel motivated.
2. Stay present
It’s almost impossible to predict what the future holds, so ruminating about it is likely to do nothing more than use up precious energy, demotivate you and keep you in a constant state of anxiety. Creating a distinction between the things you can control and the things you can’t control can help with this. For example, by acknowledging that you can’t control virus infection rates or whether people follow government guidelines or not, but that you can control what you decide to do today – whether that involves cleaning and decluttering your home, sharing a picnic with a friend, or watching some TV.
Letting go of what you can’t control and focussing only on what action you can take now, in this moment, can be a liberating feeling – one that brings you a real sense of calm. Generally speaking, the calmer you feel, the easier it will be to move through each day, without carrying around the additional burden of those things that you simply can’t change.
If you’re struggling to focus on what you can control in the here and now, then why not try mindfulness? Our guide will show you how to use a range of techniques designed to help you focus only on what is happening around you in any given moment.
3. Stay connected to the people who make you feel good
If you’re struggling to stay motivated, then consider staying in regular contact with friends and family members who are positive and tend to lift your spirits. If you’re feeling a bit low, it can be tempting to retreat into your shell and avoid social contact altogether, but a chat with a cheerful loved one can really give you a boost.
Staying connected acts not only as a reminder that we’re all in this together – it’s also a great way to share tips with one another on how best to navigate uncertain times. If you’re looking to connect with new people, you might like to have a read of our article, 7 ways to meet people in the current climate.
You may also be able to come up with goals that you can work on together, even from afar. For example, if you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself to exercise, then you could try arranging to do a workout with a friend over at your local park. Or, you could simply agree to text each other a few times a week to remind each other to work out and/or talk about how it’s going.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re finding things a bit tough. Often when we open up to others, we find out that we’re not the only one feeling this way; and a problem shared can often be a problem halved.
4. Find your purpose
One of the key reasons you may be lacking motivation is because you feel that you have nothing to get up for in the morning. You might think “why shouldn’t I lie in bed until midday if I have nothing to do today?” This is why it’s so important that you establish a sense of purpose that motivates us to want to get out of bed and see the day through. If you have goals and things you want to achieve, it’s usually easier to get up and get going.
People gain purpose from taking part in a range of different activities. At present, these could include things like picking up shopping for vulnerable neighbours who cannot get to the supermarket themselves, taking on a series of home improvement projects, or finding something new to learn that you can really sink your teeth into.
When you’re looking to establish your own sense of purpose, consider what sort of activities you genuinely care about that would bring you some level of fulfillment or satisfaction – otherwise you won’t feel motivated to do it. If you’re having trouble pinpointing what you’re passionate about, you might find our article 10 practices for self-exploration useful.
Helping others, for example, offers a sense of purpose to many. Knowing that you have the potential to make a difference to someone else’s life, not wanting to let someone down and the positive feelings you can get from helping someone else, can all make you more likely to keep helping. That feeling of wanting to get up and do it again and make a difference, is one way of describing what a sense of purpose is. Although social distancing measures are still in place, there are still plenty of in-person volunteering opportunities available, as well as opportunities to help others through online volunteering. You could also agree to check in a couple of times a week with someone you know is living alone and missing social interaction. Your call could mean more to them than you realise!
Finally, if you’re really struggling to find your purpose – then sometimes it can help to simply try something. The first steps are often the hardest and by simply signing up to an online learning course, or by calling a vulnerable neighbour, you may well find you start to see your way forward.
If you’re still struggling to find your sense of purpose, have a read of our article 5 ways to find meaning and purpose in your life.
5. Face your fears
Another reason that you might be lacking motivation is if your goals fill you with fear, and make you feel pessimistic about the outcome of trying to reach them. However, while no one enjoys being scared, it’s how we choose to respond to these fearful feelings that will determine how we move forward – or whether we move forward at all.
Most fear is linked to the unknown, and to feeling that we can’t predict the outcome of what’s going to happen – and because of this, we often catastrophise and assume the worst. Then, to avoid our fears becoming a reality, we either take no action, or we take an action that is considered ‘safe’, even if it won’t help us to get closer to our goals.
Often, one of the most effective ways to boost your motivation and move past a debilitating fear is to tackle it head-on. Many times, we try to suppress feelings of fear, or we get annoyed at ourselves for feeling fear in the first place. But, by acknowledging and accepting how we feel, and choosing to do what scares us anyway, not only do we feel a huge sense of reward, but we also increase our resilience, and feel more confident in our ability to tackle whatever challenge comes our way next.
For tips on how to turn fear and indecision into confidence, it’s worth reading Susan Jefffers’ book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. Our article 18 ways to step outside of your comfort zone will also explain more about what comfort zones are, and how stepping outside of yours can lead to growth and adventure.
There’s also a lot of power in challenging negative thoughts and visualising a positive outcome. You can find out more about how to develop the skill of optimism by having a read of our article here.
6. Create small, realistic goals each day and week - but don’t be afraid to go with the flow too!
You may have heard this one a few times already, but that’s only because having a routine during a period of uncertainty can help to give you some stability, reassurance and a sense of control. As humans, we are creatures of habit and so take comfort from some sort of routine, no matter how flexible and changeable that routine may be! Often if we wake up and then spend time contemplating all the things we could do with our day, it’s easy to find it too hard to choose from your ideas, or to overthink each idea and end up not doing anything at all.
To avoid this happening, try sitting down with your diary or a notepad every Sunday and mapping out some sort of plan for your week. This doesn’t have to mean writing down what you’re going to do every hour, everyday of the week. But it could mean deciding that on Monday, you’re going to give your living room a fresh coat of paint, on Tuesday you will bake something you’ve never baked before, and on Wednesday you will do some training with your dog and teach him/or her a new trick…and so on. If you’re in employment, then you could also plan your work tasks in advance, so that you feel more prepared heading into the week.
Try to stick to your routine as much as possible, but allow yourself some breathing space too. If you feel exhausted come Wednesday and want to take an afternoon nap, then let yourself, or if you’re not feeling up to that 5K run that you committed yourself to earlier in the week, then try just going for a walk instead or just running a short distance to get some fresh air – with a view to running a little further next time. Even if you can’t bear the idea of a full on run, you’re usually better off getting out for a short while, than not at all.
We’re humans, not robots, so although routine can be a really motivational tool, it’s important not to punish yourself if you don’t stick to your schedule religiously – because that can eventually become just as demotivating as having no routine at all. Small steps can offer big rewards, so only take on what you think you can realistically manage!
7. Explore what really motivates you
If you’re experiencing a loss of purpose and motivation at the moment, then whilst this can be a real challenge to work through, it can also offer a great opportunity. When was the last time that you had this much time to reflect, to focus on what’s really important to you, and to consider what really makes you happy? Many of us will be feeling particularly grateful for our health and the health of our families and friends right now, and perhaps certain things that seemed important before this all began no longer do.
We’ve read many stories and heard from our members about how the pandemic has forced them to reevaluate what’s important, reignite old passions or discover new ones, and develop skills such as resilience and optimism. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what really motivates you. Maybe you’ve really enjoyed being at home with your pet(s), which has prompted you to consider whether you could move into a role working with animals when this is all over. Or maybe you’ve rediscovered your love of painting and are wondering whether you could start selling your work. Whatever it is that makes you tick, now could be a really valuable time to explore it and how you might get started. Self-discovery is a journey that we may go on several times throughout our lives, and the results can sometimes be surprising – in a good way!
If you’ve been considering a career change for a while but are looking for some inspiration, then you may want to try browsing the career ideas section of our site, or reading some of the personal stories from a number of our members who have taken the leap to a new career in their 50s, 60s or beyond.
8. Get excited
Feelings of motivation will come much more naturally if you can get excited about the things that you want to accomplish. This is easier with larger goals that have life-changing potential, such as making a career change or moving house, but it can extend to smaller goals too…
For example, if you have a boring task to complete at work, or inspiring chores to complete around your home, then rather focusing on how unexciting the task itself is, why not get excited about how good you’ll feel when it’s over? Why not even decide how you’ll celebrate when it’s over? Rewarding yourself for tasks is a great way to give yourself an incentive to do them. For example, by watching a movie you love or treating yourself to your favourite food, or a glass of wine at the end of the day.
To get yourself more excited about larger goals and achievements, and to keep your dreams and motivation alive, you could also think about creating a vision board. Having a tangible reminder of your goals to look at every day can help to keep you on track, and remind you why you’re taking the steps that you are.
It can be easy to see people all over the internet doing all sorts of different things and in turn, feel like you have to do the same. Try not to compare yourself to others none of us are the same, and different things motivate different people. Some people may find it easier to completely block their week out with activities hour by hour, whilst others may be happier planning a few things here, and there and perhaps even putting aside a whole day to snuggle into the sofa and catch up on their favourite shows.
What motivates you may be of no interest to someone else and vice versa, so it’s crucial that you listen to your own mind and body and focus on things that will help you and make you happy. We all have good and bad days so if you find yourself having a bad day, then try to think of every day as a fresh start with a new blank canvas to start from, and a new opportunity to find what works for you.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share with others? Join the discussion on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.